I recently did a podcast with Holly Ryan about all things daytime potty training and night time potty training. On the podcast I talked about my own experiences from having my own daughters (now 5 and 7). Holly and I talked about our own struggles and touched upon things we would have done differently ‘next time.’ 

Before the podcast, Holly asked her followers on her Instagram page what questions they would like to answer on night time toilet training and how to nighttime potty train so in this article I wanted to cover off some of the key questions on night time potty training as simply as possible. 

How do you potty train at night?

One of the key questions people ask is - ‘How do you even potty train your child at night'. I even think the term "night time toilet training" or "night time potty training" can be a little miss leading and may confuse parents. The term suggests you are actively doing something at night to train your child to stay dry.

‘Daytime potty training’ can incorporate rewards for the child and although it is recommended the child should be ready for daytime potty training, it is something that can be "trained" with certain strategies. 

‘Night time’ on the other hand, is a little different and is more about helping and motivating your child to adopt good toileting, bladder and bowel health as well as focusing on drinking habits so that the chance of night time dryness is increased. 

Here are somethings you can do to help your child stay dry through the night.

  1. Ensure your child has a wee before bed. Boys should also sit down. You might even try a double void where your child empties their bladder twice before bed. They can do this - once before getting their PJ's on and then again right before sleep to ensure their bladder is fully empty. 
  2. Ensure they stop drinking at least one hour before they go to sleep. A child's bladder capacity is smaller than an adults and children also sleep for longer than we do (an average 4 year old sleeps for 11.5 hours compared to an adult which sleeps for just 8). 
  3. Ensure they are drinking enough through the day -  I was reading a book the other day called "Stop washing the sheets" written by a very experienced doctor – ‘Dr. Lane Robson’ and in the book he talked about how during the night we become dehydrated so upon waking it's important that we drink to rehydrate.
  4. What can sometimes happen, is kids realise they are thirsty later in the day and into the evening and they try and ‘catch up.’ However, in the book Dr. Lane Robson uses a great quote - 'Wake up, catch up and Keep Up" meaning – we wake up, catch up on the fluids we did not have through the night and keep up drinking throughout the day. (stopping an hour before bed ideally because if done right your child will not be thirsty at that point)
  1. Drinking enough liquids in the day - Ideally 50% of a child’s daily liquid should be consumed before lunch. Filling up and then emptying the bladder will improve bladder health and strengthen the bladder. Improving bladder and bowel health could also help to reduce the likelihood of constipation which can also cause bedwetting at night.

However, there are elements that we are not in control of and cannot be 'trained' - as such!

With night time potty training, whilst you can implement the above strategies to help your child stay dry through the night - there are also aspects to do with your child’s development which are not always in your control.        

Elements which are more developmental.

  1. ‘Vasopressin’ which is the hormone that tells your kidneys to produce less urine in the night. This is all to do with the maturity of the nervous system. By the age of 5, levels of Vasopressin should be enough. But there are other things that might be at play.
  2. Bladder Size - As we grow, so does our bladder. So, a child’s bladder needs to be large enough to hold the urine that is being produced at night.
  3. The Connection between needing a wee and being able to wake up – the child’s nervous system should be mature enough to assist with this recognition when they are asleep.
  4. Genetics - sometimes genetics can plan a part in bedwetting. If you as a child experienced bedwetting, it is more likely that your child will also. This factor is not in the child’s control and may need more help to address this.
  5. Other medical issues - other medical issues such as an overactive bladder might also impact your child’s ability to stay dry through the night. If you think your child is experiencing an overactive bladder its recommended to visit your GP.

When should child be dry at night?

    You might be thinking - when to start overnight potty training because you are wondering if there is a certain age in which your child should be dry at night? With nighttime potty training – many kids might start shortly after daytime potty training but for others it might be months or even years down the line.

    I will give you a couple of pointers of things to look out for with your child, which will help you to decide when to ditch those night time nappies.

    1. Firstly, you need to make sure that your child has fully established day time potty training and is going on their own in the day without being asked. You do not need to rush potty training at night so get daytime potty training done and ticked off first.

    2. You might find that your child has started to become dry upon waking in the morning. Ideally wait until the child is dry over consecutive nights before getting rid of the night time nappies.

    3. Your child might start getting up to go to the toilet in the night. This is a clear sign your child is ready to ditch the night time nappies and try going without.

    4. Your child may decide on their own that they do not want to wear night time nappies anymore. This should be taken with cation because you might be all too aware that your child isn’t ready, and you just have a very independent child on your hands…. If your child is adamant on trying without, you can give it a shot and let them know that if it doesn’t work out...then that is ok, and they can await their “superpowers” being ready. Download our eBook to help with this stage.

    How do you potty train at night?

    When it comes to night potty training, and you have worked out that your child is ready to ditch wearing nappies at night - there are a few things that you might want to get ready. Below is a list if things you might need to help you with the question of “how to night time potty train.”

    Things you will need.

    1. A decent mattress protector – this prevents your mattress getting wet and ruined. Mattresses can be expensive, so you want to protect these to prevent them smelling overtime. Hygge Sheets have a range of bed pads for bed wetting in fun designs perfect for your little ones.
    2. Spare PJs – These are necessary and it’s recommended that you try and get these out the night before and have them ready. The last thing you want to be doing is rooting through the washing basket at 2am in the morning…trying to find clean PJs.
    3. Nightlight - These are great for night toilet training. Often kids can get scared in the night and if they need to get up to go to the toilet and it is dark – this can prevent them going for a wee. The child then goes back to sleep, their bladder becomes full which causes them to wet at night. Having a night light in their room can add that sense of security.
    4. Potty in the bedroom - often it might be easier for your child to get up in the night and use a potty in their room. Rather than venture out to the bathroom they may feel happier using a potty in their own bedroom, especially to start with.
    5. Baby Wipes / Damp Cloths - This is something I liked to have handy when I was going through this phase with my eldest daughter. She struggles with eczema and so I was finding that when she had an accident in the night, the wee would irritate her skin so I found that a damp cloth or baby wipes could sometimes help. I would give her a quick wipe down in the night and a more thorough clean in the morning.
    6. Reassurance – Make sure you reassure your child that it is ok to ask for help if they need it in the night. You do not want them needing a wee in the night and being too scared to come and tell you or to visit the bathroom.
    7. Our Book - “it’s ok said bed” written by me! – this book has been written as an aid for parents and children going through night time potty training to help with the transition and prepare them for accidents at night if they do happen. Because let’s face it…this will happen.
    8. NO star charts - please refrain from negative comments about wet nappies, being too old to wear nappies, comparing to babies and star charts as this will only upset the child, cause unnecessary anxiety as often becoming dry at night is not in the child’s control.

    Night time potty training 4 year old?

    The questions we get asked a lot are specifically age related. For example, “Night time potty training 4 year old” or “night time potty training 3.5 year old” and “night time potty training a 5 year old”

    When it comes to potty training through the night, I think parents (and I did too!) get a little worried as they think that everyone else’s child is dry through the night already. If you asked around - you will probably find this is not the case and only now I commonly speak to parents who’s children bed wet at age 7, 8, 9 and that it’s actually more common that you realise (just to add - obviously at this age whilst it’s common there are still things that can be done). Bedwetting is not a commonly talked about subject like daytime potty training is, so you presume no one is in the same boat.

    In addition to this, the age in which a child becomes or can become dry at night can vary and so it’s really important not to compare. Due to developmental factors that happen at various times for different children – it’s essential not to compare with other children. Therefore, potty training at night cannot be linked to a specific age.

    So… coming back to the question “when should a child be dry at night” here are 4 night time potty training tips, which might help answer the question…

    4 night time potty training tips

    1. Night time training should be only started once the child is successfully dry in the day.
    2. A child will only be dry at night once a) their bladder is large enough to hold the urine it produces at night b) their body reduces the amount of urine produced at night c) their body is able to recognise the signs when their bladder is full when asleep.
    3. A hormone called “Vasopressin” is what tells the kidneys to reduce the amount of urine produced at night. As this hormone increases your child will produce less urine at night. It is said that by the age of 5, your child should be able to produce enough ‘Vasopressin’ hormone to stay dry through the night. However, age 5 is just a guide and there might be other things at play such as bladder size, sleep, or constipation to contend with.
    4. The NICE guidelines also suggest that if your child is not dry by the age of 5, you may if you wish visit the GP. This is not to say your child will not later become dry on their own, but the GP can help you check that you are doing all the right things to make sure your child is practising good bladder and bowl health and rule out anything else such as constipation.

    This article has covers a lot and there is a lot to digest however the podcast I did with Holly is also worth a listen too and goes into details on everything about how to toilet train at night and the key differences between night time training and daytime.

    We hope this helps!

    Take Care




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