How to Make Nighttime Potty Training Easier

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

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., 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?

Learning to stay dry overnight can take longer than potty training during the day. Roughly 15% of healthy 5-year-olds are not dry at night, and 10% 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, older children may need some additional help. A medical evaluation may be 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.

Girl with mouth open sitting on potty in room at home
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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 comes down to developmental readiness, which happens at different times for each child (although males generally wet the bed longer than females). Here's one promising sign of readiness: Your child uses the potty regularly during the day, and they stay dry for a few nights in a row. Or, they can keep dry at naptime and may express an interest in wearing underwear at night.

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 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.

  • Buy disposable sheet protectors, or layer multiple fitted sheets for easier changes if your child has an accident.
  • Limit drinks one hour before your child's bedtime.
  • Help them use the potty a half-hour before they go to bed—and again right before bedtime.
  • Wake up your child to use the potty before you go to sleep.
  • Tell them to go to the bathroom any time they wake up during the night.
  • Keep a well-lit path to the bathroom so your child feels safe and comfortable walking there during the night.

At the beginning of attempting nighttime potty training, it may also be helpful to set an alarm yourself and take your child potty in the middle of the night. This isn't a habit you want to instill forever, but it may help both of you get adjusted in the morning.

And 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.

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