While there’s some debate over what age to potty train, there’s tons of research that shows staying dry at night doesn’t come as early or easily, for that matter.
What age should my toddler be dry at night?
Every child is different, but research shows that most kids aren’t ready to hold it for 10-12 hours at night until they’re 3 or even 4. Some experts say it’s normal for girls to not have the ability to do this until age 5 and 6 for boys.
Is night potty training necessary?
Yes and no–sometimes, before age 3 or 4 your child might naturally stop being wet at night. However, for some kids, this milestone never comes. Holding out on your child to develop the ability to hold their bladder might never come, and can lead to bedwetting when the child is older.
Because some toddlers will naturally have the ability to hold their bladder overnight as they master daytime bowel control, it’s not advised to intervene with night potty training until they’re older than 3.
How do I know when it’s time to start night time potty training?
Just like with starting potty training in the first place, age is a good indicator as to whether or not it’s time to start potty training at night.
Your kid may pleasantly surprise you and wake up dry several mornings in a row, if this ever happens, go with it! Get rid of the diapers and don’t look back! Of course you want to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered (by waterproofing the bed), because typically kids will at some point wet the bed, but regardless, be overjoyed!
Besides the fact that some toddlers will just naturally stop peeing in their diaper overnight, if that doesn’t happen for your kid, you can know it’s time by picking up on a few other cues.
First things first, you cannot expect to night potty train or even notice dry diapers in the morning until you notice your toddler is consolidating day time bathroom breaks.
When my daughter first started potty training she often peed multiple times a hour. It took quite a while for her to develop the muscles to hold and consolidate her pee. And this is often the case for most kids.
Toddlers need to be holding their pee at least 2 hours routinely during the day before night training should even be considered.
Also, they really need to master day training, too. So if they’re still having accidents, it’s probably not time to train them at night, too.
Night time potty training tips
Potty training can be hard for some kids to master. I know it was for my daughter! Night time potty training may be harder for some toddlers to “get,” too. Just remember not to compare your kid to others.
Before you stress about having to wake up your toddler in the middle of the night to help them empty their bladder, there’s a few simple things you can do that may avoid that altogether.
Step 1: Regulate fluids
Now before you think I’m advocating for your toddler to drink less than they need to stay healthy, I’m not–I simply want you to asses your child’s fluid intake first.
Two and three year olds need about a liter (4 cups) of water or milk a day. You’ll have the most success when you limit fluids the last two hours before bedtime.
This might mean you need to move up dinner time. Or if that can’t be achieved, offer more fluids at a mid day snack and just a small amount of fluids at dinner.
Toddlers will gulp just about anything if they drink it through a straw, so it’s a good idea to move to a cup–this way they’ll learn to drink to their natural thirst.
When they start the bed time delay game that they love to play and ask for water, give them sips from a small cup so that they perceive they are getting a good amount.
Step 2: Get in one good pee before bed
This step seems obvious, but you’d be surprised. You’ve got to get in one really good last pee. You want to make sure your toddler empties her bladder completely.
Sometimes it helps to have children rest their feet on a stool while they use the potty so they can fully empty their bladder. Other times you can ask them to blow bubbles to help relax those muscles. Whatever works, do it!
Step 3: Go bottomless
I firmly believe going bottomless works the best when potty training for the first time, and because of this, I recommend going bottomless those first several nights while you are making the transition away from pull ups at night.
You can use doggie pads or even a thick fleece blanket under the sheet, to protect the mattress.
Step 4: Set the stage
Here’s the thing, it’s going to be pretty hard to potty train at night unless your toddler is out of the crib. If you haven’t already started the process on transitioning your toddler to a big kid bed, don’t be worried…it’s not too painful at all!
Master the switch to the big kid bed first, before you night time train. Let your kid feel comfortable and confident with that before you introduce something else.
If you don’t want to go bottomless, at least drop the footed pjs in favor of something your toddler can easily push down so they can get to the bathroom without your help if they need to.
I’m in favor of putting the small potty you used in the beginning of the potty training journey in your toddlers room for a bit while they get used to the idea.
Sometimes I find that kids can make it all night but then when they get up they’ll pee. Letting them know that they can use the potty in their room as soon as they wake might help.
You might also find that you can keep your toddler dry by waking them up about 30 mintues before they typically get up and helping them to the bathroom.
Putting it all together: the keys to successfully potty training your toddler at night
Remember, attempting to night potty train before your toddler is 3 and possibly even 3.5 is not completely necessary. At this age, children can still naturally wake up dry on their own.
Potty training at night won’t be successful until your toddler has fully mastered daytime potty training. Not only do they need to have mastered it, but they need to consistently be holding it for 2 to 3 hours.
Watching fluids will be one of the easiest ways to win at night. Remember try to limit fluids about 2 hours before bed. Avoid sugary drinks after lunch time. If they must have a sip of water before bed give them just an ounce or so in a small cup so they feel like they’re having a lot.
Don’t forget to get in one last bathroom break right before lights out!
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