Potty training during the day is challenge enough but taking away night nappies is another ball game altogether. If you make your child go night-nappy-free too soon, then you will have to deal with wet bed sheets, disturbed sleep and lots (and lots) of washing. On the other hand, let them go too long in night nappies and you worry that they’ll never be fully potty trained.
So how do you know when your child is ready for night time potty training, and what’s the best way to go about it?
When is my child ready to go nappy free at night?
Even if your child has managed toilet training during the day, night time potty training can take longer to master, so it can help to think of it as a separate stage of potty training.
It can take some children years to get the hang of, so don’t despair if your child does not seem ready yet. Even if every other child that you know seems to have managed it.
Daytime potty training tends to be done when children are around 2-3 years old. Night time nappies on the other hand often stay on until 3 or 4 years old. It’s not unusual for children to wet the bed up until they are 5 years old.
Learning to wake up to empty a full bladder can take a while to get the hang of, especially if your little one is a heavy sleeper.
Signs your child is ready to go through the night nappy-free
It’s best to leave it until your child is ready before you take away night nappies. There are a few signs to look out for:
- Your child wakes up with a dry nappy. If your child always wakes up with a wet nappy it’s a good sign that they are not quite ready for you to ditch the night nappies. Wait until they always (or almost always) have a dry nappy when they wake up in the morning before you take them away.
- Your child wakes up with a wet nappy but it’s still warm. The exception to the above rule, is if you start to notice that your child pees just before they wake up. You can tell that this has happened if their nappy is soaked but still warm. It might mean that they have gone the whole night without needing to urinate, in which case they are probably ready to go nappy free. You just need to pop them on the potty or the toilet first thing when they wake up.
- Your child wakes in the night, asking to go to the toilet. They might also be more reluctant to wear a nappy. This is another good sign that they are ready to go nappy free at nighttime.
Your 6 step plan for taking away night nappies
Wait until your child is ready
To recap, here are some of the signs that your child is ready for you to take away night time nappies:
- They wake up with a dry nappy each morning
- They wake up with a recently wet nappy each morning
- They call out to ask to go to the loo at night
Plan night time toilet trips
Talk to your child about what to do if they wake up and need the toilet. You might want to suggest that they call for you, or come and get you so that you can help them.
If they can go by themselves, make sure that they can pull their pyjama bottoms down and up again and that there’s a clearly lit path to the bathroom.
Pee before you sleep and wake to wee
Always ensure your child has gone to the toilet as the very last thing they do before they settle down to sleep.
When they wake up, again make a trip to the loo the first thing you do.
Cut down on drinks before bedtime
Your child might have been used to a big drink before bedtime or with supper, but to maximise your chances of a dry night it’s important to avoid large drinks 2 hours before bedtime.
You can offer them their usual bedtime drink at another time, like after lunch or in the morning. Give your child plenty of drinks and fluids during the day but cut down on those big drinks as you head towards bedtime.
Be prepared for little accidents
Accidents will happen as you take away the night nappies. So be prepared. Pop spare sheets and pyjamas close to the bed for easier night time changes.
Buy a waterproof mattress protector. And keep towels or absorbant ‘piddle pads’ (you can buy these especially for toilet training) by your child’s bed so that you can cover any little wet patches in the night, and deal with the wet sheets in the morning.
Praise any successes
It’s harder to master staying dry at night so never make your child feel ashamed if they don’t manage at first. Deal with any accidents calmly and with reassurance.
When your child goes to the toilet in the night try to give lots of praise. And when they wake up in the morning with a dry nappy, make a big song and dance about it to let them know what they’ve achieved.
If your child starts getting anxious – try again later
Remember it can take years for your child to master staying dry at night.
If they keep wetting the bed and start getting anxious and worried then go back to nappies or pull-ups and try again in a few months’ time.
To lift or not to lift? – that is the question
Some parents lift their child from their sleep and pop them on the toilet for a wee while still drowsy. Parents usually do this just before they go to sleep themselves so that they know their child has an empty bladder. For some this ‘lifting’ can cut down on accidents in the night, especially if your child is a really deep sleeper.
But some experts also believe that it encourages your child to get used to weeing while they are half asleep and that this in turn can lead to even more accidents. They argue that lifting your child to wee is not teaching them to recognize and react to the feeling of a full bladder.
ERIC (The Children’s Bowel and Bladder Charity) suggest that:
‘Lifting’ can be helpful when a child first stops wearing nappies at night, however; if you do lift, make sure you put the light on and the child is fully awake.
For night time potty training stay calm, do it when your child seems ready and try not to worry about it. Your child will get the hang of it in their own time and at their own pace. If that’s much later than all their peers, it doesn’t matter. They will get there.
If you can stay positive then it can make all the difference. Night time training will happen when your child is good and ready.
When to seek help
Bed wetting is not usually a problem in under 5’s. Children tend to overcome it in their own time and learn to stay dry until morning.
It really only becomes a problem if it starts to bother either you or your child.
It’s worth talking to your doctor or health visitor if your child starts wetting the bed after being dry for a while, if they get constipated and start wetting the bed more or if they have any pain or fever when they urinate.
If your older child wets the bed occasionally and they worry about sleepovers or staying overnight on school trips, then it’s worth seeking advice too to get further help as to how to handle it.