Even if your child has mastered daytime potty training, they might not be developmentally ready to wear underwear at night. These expert-approved tips can help combat bedwetting.

By Nicole Harris
Updated September 23, 2020
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Lots of parents think nighttime dryness should go hand-in-hand with daytime dryness, but anyone who's been through the potty training process knows that the two don't always happen simultaneously. In fact, with their small bladder and sound sleeping habits, it's not unusual for children to wet the bed until age 7, according to Ari Brown, M.D., a Parents advisor and co-author of Baby 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice For Your Baby's First Year. We spoke with experts to learn why nighttime potty training often takes longer, with tips for introducing the milestone to your child.

Why Does Nighttime Potty Training Take Longer?

Roughly 15 percent of healthy 5-year-olds are not dry at night, and 10 percent of 6-year-olds still need overnight protection. For nighttime success, your child's bladder size must be large enough to hold the urine produced all night long, or their brain must be mature enough to awaken with the urge to go. Those milestones can happen months or years after daytime training. 

It’s also important to note that while delayed nighttime potty training is completely normal, a medical evaluation is in order when a 7-year-old child is still incontinent at night. Chances are, they simply aren’t developmentally ready for nighttime potty training yet, but it’s better to get the all-clear from a professional.

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Is My Child Ready for Nighttime Potty Training?

So how do you know when it’s time to ditch the overnight diapers? It really comes down to developmental readiness, which happens at different times for each child (although boys generally wet the bed longer than girls). Here's one promising sign of readiness: Your child uses potty regularly during the day, and they stay dry for a few nights in a row.

You'll also want your child to go to the bathroom independently, so make sure they have transitioned out of the crib and into a big-kid bed. "Kids need access to a potty 24/7 if they're potty training so they can reach it on their own when they need it," says Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., a pediatrician at Seattle Children's Hospital. Of course, if you think you're child isn't ready for a big-kid bed (or, let's face it, if you're not ready), there's no harm in keeping them in diapers or at night for a while longer. 

Tips for Nighttime Potty Training Success

Want to increase the chances of nighttime potty training success? Try implementing the following tips and tricks.

1. Buy disposable sheet protectors, or layer multiple fitted sheets for easier changes if your child has an accident.

2. Limit drinks one hour before your child's bedtime.

3. Help them use the potty a half-hour before they goes to bed—and again right before bedtime.

4. Wake up your child to use potty before you go to sleep.

5. Tell them to go to bathroom any time they wake up during the night.

6. Keep a well-lit path to the bathroom so your child feels safe and comfortable walking there during the night.

Remember, your child can’t always control whether they wet the bed, so it’s important to stay positive. Patience and preparedness will go a long way toward your child’s nighttime potty training success.

Comments (3)

Anonymous
February 29, 2020
Anonymous... I understand for new born children not to wake or deny them something to drink. As for my 3yo boy, I wake him up every night about 3 hours after he is asleep to go potty and no drinks 1.5 hr before bed. If I don't deny him a full sippy cup of milk before sleep the bed is wet and we are up between 2 and 5am changing sheets and clothes. I have no idea where he got it from but the kid is one hell of a negotiator..
Anonymous
February 29, 2020
Anonymous... I understand for new born children not to wake or deny them something to drink. As for my 3yo boy, I wake him up every night about 3 hours after he is asleep to go potty and no drinks 1.5 hr before bed. If I don't deny him a full sippy cup of milk before sleep the bed is wet and we are up between 2 and 5am changing sheets and clothes. I have no idea where he got it from but the kid is one hell of a negotiator..
Anonymous
September 12, 2019
Absolutely not! You never deny a child fluids, ever. And you do not wake them purposefully once they're asleep! That only stresses them out and creates a negative association with toileting. These are not expert tips, I have been reading articles from experts and have been talking to nurses and pediatricians, and their tips are NEVER refuse a child to drink fluids, and NEVER wake a sleeping child for toileting purposes.