When it came time to potty train my children, I was very nervous. I kept putting the process off because I was afraid of how time-consuming it would be and of the imminent accidents that would occur. When the time finally came, I blocked off a four day weekend to focus solely on potty training—no traveling, no events, no errands–just me, the kids, and the potty. I was prepared for weeks of cleaning up pee from the floor and a mounting frustration on my part.
To my surprise, the potty training went better than expected. There were a few accidents, yes, but my well-planned positivity and patience—along with my kid’s enthusiasm—was the key to their success.
Potty training during the day was a success, but what about overnight potty training? How do you potty train children who are, you know, not awake?
What I’ve learned is that you can’t really train your kids not to potty during the night and that you have to wait for them to be developmentally ready. After all, it’s their unconscious brain that needs to inhibit bladder release—which is no small feat.
Some moms suggested that I awaken my kids at night to allow them a “midnight pee.” I quickly decided against this advice because 1) I don’t want to wake up midnight, and 2) once my kids are awake, they are awake, and it would take them forever to get back to bed.
Now that my children sleep through the night successfully without wetting the bed, I’ve rounded up six things that have helped us through the process. It took significantly longer than potty training during the day (like close to a year), but we’ve come out the other end dry and happy.
1. Consistent daytime potty breaks
Setting up good habits for daytime potty breaks greatly helps during the nighttime hours. My kids are notorious for waiting until the last minute to go potty, so I’ve been adamant about asking them every so often if they need to use the potty. This is especially important when they’re playing as they will often ignore their bodies’ cues and would rather continue to play than to take a break and go potty.
We still have accidents every now and then, but for the most part, they know how to listen to their bodies and go potty right away instead of waiting. The better they are at understand this, the better they will do at going potty during the night.
2. Use Pull-Ups
Both of my kids relied on Pull-Ups for a while until they were ready to sleep in regular underwear. Even though they would wear Pull-Ups, I encouraged them to use the potty before bed and still use the potty when they felt like they needed to, not just pee in their Pull-Ups because it’s there.
I created a reward chart, and every morning that they would wake up with dry Pull-Ups, they would get a sticker. After two weeks of waking up dry, they got a small toy of their choice, and we were able to transition to underwear soon after.
3. Limit liquids
Between dinner and bedtime, I limit the amount of water my kids will drink. If they do ask for water, I give them the smallest cup we have in our cupboard. I try to discourage them from drinking any water an hour before bed, but this is tough during the summer months when it is still hot outside. I just try to make sure that they are well hydrated throughout the day so that they aren’t so thirsty later that night.
4. Potty before bed
Our bedtime routine always includes going potty before we settle down for a book. After books are read and cuddles have been given, I will ask them one more time if they need to go potty.
There have been a few nights (like nights when we’ve stayed up way too late due to holidays or special events) when bedtime was rushed and I forgot to remind them to go potty before bed. Of course, these are the nights when accidents happen.
5. Follow your child’s cues
My daughter was ready to sleep without her Pull-Ups way before my son was. She even asked to not use them anymore. My son expressed concern and was nervous to stop using them, so I didn’t push it on him. I waited until he became more confident and was eager to try sleeping without them. When he was finally ready, he successfully started waking up dry.
6. Prepare for accidents
Accidents will happen, and you need to be patient when they occur. The first few nights of sleeping without Pull-ups, I had my kids sleep on an air mattress with the rubber side up. If they had an accident, it was easy to wipe off.
As we transitioned back into the bed, I placed water-resistant pads under their sheets and just made sure to have fresh sheets always ready to switch out. I’m not going to lie, there were a few weeks where it felt like all I was doing was cleaning soiled sheets, but it quickly passed, and we’ve been accident-free for a while.