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Nighttime Potty Training: 9 Tips For Success

baby sleeping

You’ve climbed the potty-training mountain, ready to plant your parental flag: success! Only to see another larger one looming right behind: the long, dry night. Why is nighttime potty training such a challenge? What’s the difference? And how can you and your little one succeed?

This article will help you scale the heights of nighttime potty training by explaining what to expect and how to prepare and then offering a few tips to help. First, we’ll look at why success during the day doesn’t immediately equal success at night.

Table Of Contents

Potty Training Vs. Nighttime Potty Training

nighttime potty training

While they might seem quite similar because of the ultimate objective (learning to use the potty), daytime and nighttime potty training are actually quite different for three basic reasons: capacity, consciousness (or lack of it), and the limits of training.

A growing child’s bladder has to reach a certain size to have the capacity to hold a night’s worth of urine. Too small, and your little one literally cannot make it through the night.

Bladders will catch up, growing large enough in the months or, in some cases, years after daytime potty use has become a cinch.

A second limitation is sleep. Part of a child’s mastery of potty training is awareness of their body’s signals that it’s time to go. Recognizing those signals while awake takes time. But expecting an unconscious child to feel the alarm go off? Now that’s a much taller task.

Closely related to this is the third difference. You can teach and train your little one through repetition, patient encouragement, and direct assistance during the day. But you can’t teach or train a sleeping mind.

So while a child’s success at daytime potty training is a good precursor for nighttime success, it’s not automatic. Nighttime potty use and the ability to stay dry all night always come later.

How do you know when your child is ready for the nighttime push?

Colorful night sky

When To Start Nighttime Potty Training

As with preparing for daytime potty training, each child differs. It’s impossible to set a specific age at which you can start nighttime potty training or expect success. Remember, all potty training relies on developmental progress, not just an advance in chronological age.

This applies doubly to success at night. As we’ve seen, additional physical and cognitive factors have to come together to give your little one the basic tools to make it through the night in a nice dry state.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • How are they doing with daytime potty training? If they’ve mastered it already, think about what aspects they took to easily and which may have been more challenging.
  • Did they read clues that it was time to go easily? Or are they a “just in time” kid?
  • When they recognize it’s time for potty, can they find their way easily and handle the pants off/pants back on ritual with ease?

Remember, this can be far more challenging in the dead of night when they awake from a deep sleep.

How Long Will Nighttime Potty Training Take?

How long should it take for your child to be ready for nighttime potty training?

It depends on the child. It’s impossible to see developmental changes happening internally (like bladder capacity), and the cognitive development necessary to sense and respond at night varies by child.

Some children progress from daytime potty use to staying dry all night in a matter of weeks. Others take longer. But it’s not uncommon for a child to take a year or two to leave nighttime accidents behind.

To help you along the way, here are nine tips for nighttime potty training.

Young girl doing nighttime potty training with a stuffed animal

9 Tips For Successful Nighttime Potty Training

Have Your Daytime Plan In Place

It might seem obvious that you can’t expect nighttime control if your child hasn’t mastered the potty during the day. But this tip is more about having a really good routine for daily potty use to establish a solid learning foundation.

The more it becomes the norm for your child to sense when it’s potty time, use the potty, stay dry, and prefer that feeling, the more those same skills and preferences will be applied during the night.

Watch Your Little One’s Liquid Intake

As we mentioned above, your child’s bladder needs to increase capacity if it’s going to handle a full night’s load. You can’t speed up this growth, but you can make it a little easier on the bladder by limiting how much your child drinks before bedtime.

Consider forgoing unlimited cup refills at dinner and beyond. Try using smaller cups that your child loves. To a little one, a full cup is what matters, not total ounces. Cool, smaller cups may make limiting liquids that much easier.

Family reading together before bed

A Bath, A Book, And A Trip To The Potty

A bedtime ritual can ease children from the hyper-excited end of the day to a more peaceful, sleep-friendly zone. The potty should be an integral part of this ritual.

In addition to doing things like brushing their teeth, going to the potty gives them a far better chance of making it through the night without an accident. But even if they don’t quite make it, they’re being prepped for what should happen when.

Prepare For The Oops!

We know that accidents happen during nighttime potty training. The best approach — and one that will help you remain calm and as unaffected as possible — is to prepare your child’s bed and bedding.

Many parents use pull-ups until there’s a solid streak of dry mornings to justify an attempt at sleeping with big kid undies. If you choose this approach, be ready to go back to pull-ups if the first stab at big kid undies doesn’t pan out.

Washable mattress for nighttime potty training

Also, if you haven’t already, consider investing in a washable mattress, such as the Newton Baby 100% Washable Kids’ Mattress.

Decide On A Waking Strategy

Although you can’t train your child while they’re sleeping, you can wake them up to use the potty in the middle of the night and then put them back to sleep.

This approach can work well if you put your little one to bed early and then retire much later yourself. You can easily make a routine of waking them when you are ready for bed. But there are a few things to consider:

The first is the “getting back to sleep” part. Some children are notoriously tough to lull back to sleep. So you’ll want to make sure this time doesn’t become a back-to-sleep battleground.

Second, waking your child in the middle of the night to use the potty may become part of their routine, and they may not master the complete through-the-night control they’ll eventually need as quickly.

There are no right or wrong answers here. Each family, like each child, is different. Consider your little one and your normal family routines. Then, decide what approach may work best. There’s nothing wrong with trying one approach and shifting if it isn’t working well.

Mom playing with son on bed

Clear And Light The Way

Part of mastering the night is not just holding it in but knowing when you need to get up and use the potty. It will help your child if you make that middle-of-the-night journey as easy and safe as possible.

Make sure the potty is positioned where it’s easy to get at and there’s sufficient light for them to see where to go and how to return to their bed.

Another consideration: It’s easier to get in and out of a big kid’s bed, so having them comfortable in one might be a good precursor for nighttime pottying.

Know Your Child

In addition to the obvious — looking for signs your child is ready — this also includes looking into your past.

What’s your family history of learning to stay dry all night? There seems to be a genetic component to bedwetting, so knowing how you and your predecessors did may help set the right expectations for your little one.

Celebrate

As with daytime potty training, celebrating strings of achievement — first dry night; a week; two weeks; a month — can be good. Just don’t overemphasize hiccups along the way.

Keep Your Expectations Reasonable

The most important tip? Support your child. You’re a coach providing the right tools, environment, and encouragement for them to succeed. Patience and positivity will serve you both well.

When Should I Be Concerned?

As we've seen, all children develop differently. But, generally speaking, many children will be able to sleep through the night without wetting themselves by five or six years old. Some may take until seven to master the ability.

However, if your child is still having difficulty after age seven, or if there are other associated circumstances (such as chronic illness) that worry you, consult your pediatrician.

Success At Last!

Apply these tips, and you’ll set the stage for successful nighttime potty training. And do yourself a favor by having a good waterproof mattress, like our 100% Washable Kids’ Mattress, because accidents will happen.

No matter what, support your child, and you’ll see them master the potty in no time!