"Nighttime potty training is a completely different animal than daytime training," Dr. Wittenberg says. "You might get 100 percent day training and zero percent night training -- for years. This has everything to do with anatomy and very little to do with parenting (or your child's efforts). It's physical and developmental." Here's what you'll need to make it through those long (and likely wet) nights.
Nighttime Training Underpants: Regular training pants are often not absorbent enough to handle an 8- to-10-hour overnight stretch. Nighttime training underpants are more absorbent than their daytime counterparts and are available in both disposable and reusable/washable styles. They're a useful transition item as your child works on mastering daytime potty training because they can substitute for diapers.
Protective Mattress Cover: Sheets can be washed and accidents taken care of, but a soiled mattress is no easy cleanup task. Prevent this problem by purchasing a waterproof mattress cover; some are vinyl and some have a soft cotton top and a waterproof bottom layer. Mattress covers can fit securely over the corners like a fitted sheet or wrap around the center of the mattress like a saddle. Consider investing in at least two covers to have on hand for quickly dealing with nighttime accidents.
Extra Sheets: Stock up on two to three fitted sheets. Take a tip from experienced parents and make the bed with at least two layers of sheets and waterproof mattress protectors. This way, if there's an accident in the middle of the night, you can simply strip off the soiled sheet and protector top layer and tuck your tot back into bed with the dry bottom layer. Accidents happen, but you'll save yourself from middle-of-the-night bed remaking.
Other Must-Have Items
If you've got the basics down, check off this list of other items.
Cleaning Supplies: Prepare for accidents by making sure you have a well-stocked supply of paper towels or rags and disinfecting spray for the inevitable cleanups.
Rewards: New habits may be helped along by giving a reward for accomplishments. There's no need to break the bank, though. Start small with stickers, kid-safe candy or all-natural fruit snacks, or another small treat for making potty progress. Brand-new potty trainers may need an incentive with every small victory (we're talking multiple times a day), but once your child has mastered the basics, set long-term goals (five days with no accidents, peeing in the potty 25 times, etc.) to reward with a prize.
Special Potty-Only Activities: If your child is having trouble understanding the basic idea of going potty, is afraid of the potty, is or struggling to spend adequate time on the toilet, there is a wide variety of books, movies, and toys to help the potty process seem more normal and less scary. Set aside one or two books or toys your kid will love, or consider motivational books (that feature beloved characters potty training) and dolls (that go potty or sing silly songs about going number two). If you decide to hand over your smartphone or tablet to your toilet trainer (which is not recommended as a regular practice), be sure to have a kid-proof case and waterproof screen protector like the new iPotty, a stand-alone potty with a built-in iPad holder and screen protector. Be sure to follow media guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends no screen time for kids under 2 and limiting screen time to two hours a day for older kids.
Potty Watch/Timer: At the onset of potty training, you'll need to give your child frequent potty breaks, both to provide lots of practice opportunities and to prevent accidents. A potty watch or timer set at 20-minute intervals can deliver easy reminders to go to the toilet.
Toilet Targets: Many parents choose to start boys off in the sitting position, but if you decide to teach your son to urinate while standing, a specialty toilet target can be a handy tool. These go inside the potty to make sure a little boy aims for the toilet bowl and not the walls. You can also opt for a cheaper solution. "A simple scrap of toilet paper can provide an entertaining target when laid in the bottom of the potty for boys who may need some incentive to aim," Dr. Hill suggests.
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