Prev Next
Alpha Mom logo in blue and raspberry

Nighttime Potty Training

By Amalah

Hi Amy-

You’ve helped me before when we were potty training our daughter and about to head out on a trip (Potty Training and Travel).  Now that our daughter has been potty trained for about a year, she is STILL peeing in pull ups during naps and nighttime.  It’s driving me insane.  In the last week, four nights in a row the overnight pull up exploded and all those stupid gross gel crystals were EVERYWHERE.  Its creating way too much laundry and cleanup, and that gel crap irritates my daughter’s skin.

So how how how in the world do we get her to stop peeing overnight?  During naps?

She is occasionally dry when she wakes up from a nap, but usually that’s when I have to actually go in there and wake her up for some reason.  Which is telling me that when she wakes up on her own, she’s peeing then.  I’ve considered putting her back in cloth diapers (which we used when she was small) for naps, but that requires me to have to actually dig out the box they are in.  Plus I’m wary that she’d be annoyed by the wetness and just not sleep, and I need that naptime!

Her bedtime is 8pm, so should we stop allowing drinks at 7pm? 6pm?  I have no idea. Do we wake her in the middle of the night to go pee on the toilet? Cloth diapers overnight?

Do I just wait this whole thing out?  And in the meantime do tons of laundry and keep throwing my money away on stupid pull ups?

Thank you!

You don’t mention how old your daughter is right now — doing some rough math from the column you mentioned would put her at two and a half? ish? — but for the record, I have read statistics about kids and overnight bladder control and…well, they aren’t the most encouraging thing for those currently in the waiting-to-ditch-the-pull-ups trenches. Basically, it can take until age five or even six, for some kids. (Thank you, Google, for here it is: 66 percent of children under three can control their bladders at night; approximately 85 percent of children under six can do so, which means about 15% of five-year-olds will still have accidents in bed and that’s perfectly normal — their bodies just haven’t yet developed the necessary link between bladder and brain that will wake them up when they have to go.)

So a year after daytime potty training, at still under three years old, sounds pretty normal to me. Noah didn’t overnight potty train until closer to three and a half. It happened much earlier with Ezra, at just under three, but I don’t think it was because of anything we *did.* His body and brain were ready — not to mention he VERY QUICKLY figured out that potty breaks were an acceptable stalling technique at bedtime and would come out of his room over and over again to go and go and go so once he went to sleep, there was NOTHING left. And then Noah would wake up and climb out of bed to use the bathroom and Ezra figured out he should follow suit.

BUT. Since you suspect your daughter is actually staying dry while she sleeps but is waiting until she wakes up to go, perhaps it is worth seeing if you can gently encourage her to break that habit. Personally, I would definitely ditch the pull-ups. They aren’t serving their intended purpose here, which is to mimic underwear that can contain the occasional accident but still allow the child to, you know, pull them up and down by themselves. Your daughter is using it as a straight-up diaper, and they aren’t diapers. Obviously. They explode and leak and cost a ton more money than your average disposable diaper, so you’re basically throwing money at something that’s not at all appropriate for what it’s being used for. The marketing has us all trained to think that all potty-training kids should wear pull-ups, when really, they serve a specific purpose for a specific segment of potty-training kids, and that’s it. (They’re great for a kid who consistently pees in the potty but is maybe delaying the pooping part, for example, or as a back-up during long car rides.) But if your kid isn’t actually treating them like underwear at least some of the time, why bother?

There are two possible approaches here:

1. Go cold turkey and see what happens. Is she going after she wakes up simply because she can go in pull-ups? If she realizes that oh no, there’s nothing to prevent a full-on bedwetting disaster, will she get up at use the potty? I’m on the fence about this one for you since it doesn’t sound like the exploding leaky pull-up disasters bother her all that much, but I offer it up because that is what worked for us with Ezra, who was pulling a similar my-bed-is-cozy-I-don’t-feel-like-getting-up routine in the morning. Once we removed the safety net, so to speak, he figured it out real quick.

2. Put her back in the cloth diapers and see what happens. Noah night-trained fairly soon after I got fed up with pull-ups and started putting him in the one-size cloth diapers (but of course that could have just been a coincidence given his age). Your daughter might object to the “babyishness” of them and make a concentrated effort to prove she doesn’t need them. (I’d implement a sticker chart or token system at the same time, giving her a goal of keeping the diaper dry for a certain number of naps, then nighttime.) She might not notice the difference until she goes and be bothered by the wetness, as you fear, but which will bother you more — a temporary nap interruption for a few days? Or continuing on your current course of leaks and laundry?

If absolutely neither of those things happen, then you have your sign that she most likely just isn’t physiologically ready to night potty train. Which is fine! Put her in something that won’t leak at night for your sanity’s sake and revisit the topic in a month or two.

No matter what, it IS a good idea to limit liquid intake before bed — at least an hour, maybe two. Always make her use the potty as close to bedtime as possible, and then strictly enforce the no-drinks policy after that, since it will give her the best chance at success. If she has a consistent waking time, set your alarm for about 10 or 15 minutes before and wake her up and escort her to the potty, to help her break that going-after-waking habit. Lots of praise and encouragement. Remember: Nighttime potty training is a COMPLETELY different animal than daytime potty training, since you’re relying on an important physiological development instead of just your child’s temperament and interest in being a big kid. It WILL happen, I promise.

More on Potty Training From Alpha Mom:

  1. Potty Training Wars: The 4 Year Old Holdout 
  2. Nighttime Potty Training Check-Ins
  3. How to Get Your Potty Training Toddler Back to Sleep

Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon