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Toddler Bedtime Questions Answered

Is a Bedtime Sippy Cup a Big Deal?

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

First off, I loved your Pregnancy Calendar. Since I didn’t discover you until after my first pregnancy, it was nice to have something new during the second pregnancy. Also, so much less hokey than the one I followed for my first pregnancy.

This is something that I haven’t really seen addressed by you. How do you wean the bedtime sippy cup? Everything I’ve read seems to suggests that leaving a child to sleep with a sippy cup is bad for their oral health. My son (22 months) recently started wanting water before he goes to sleep (both naps and bedtime). Because I thought that it might be a delaying tactic, I just gave it (in a sippy cup) to him. He’d just gulp at it, so it seems that he was thirsty. Also, we have a newborn, and I just didn’t have the energy for that fight. Especially before nap-/bed-time (mommy wants some time to herself!). And, I dunno, maybe I’m stuck in the “if he’s asking for water, he must need it” mindset but maybe that has changed and I’m dealing with toddler power struggles. So, I’d just give it to him and let him keep it in bed with him.

In addition to the potential oral health issues, I worry about nighttime potty training issues and, more importantly, he frequently pees through his nighttime diaper. It is not to the point where we need to change sheets, but who wants to deal with a pee soaked toddler at 6am? I have a hard time believing that it is just “I didn’t drink during the day” because he has at least 5-6 wet daytime diapers. Some of which are also soaked (it is not uncommon for him to need two pairs of pants during the day).

So, is this a phase that I don’t need to worry about? Toddler power struggle? Something else?

Thank you,
No more sippy cup bouncing on the bed!

Ok, so let me get your first concern out of the way: A sippy cup of water poses little to no danger to your son’s teeth. The warnings about letting babies/toddlers fall asleep with a bottle or cup are talking about milk or formula (or juice or oh God soda you know somebody out there does it) — liquids with sugars in them that will stay on teeth overnight and cause decay. Bottles and soft-spouted cups that the child might mouth on like a pacifier make the problem even worse because the liquid isn’t being rapidly swallowed, but rather staying in the mouth and on the teeth. Water poses no such threat to his teeth, and in fact swapping the milk or formula with water is generally the top recommendation for parents trying to break the bottle-in-bed habit. And I found several articles on the bottle/sippy-cup-in-bed topic that specifically state that offering water is A-OK.

I mean, I sleep with a giant 34-ounce monster cup of water on my nightstand. I get PATHOLOGICALLY thirsty at night. I wake up completely parched, and regularly have dreams that center around a desperate search for water. I don’t know why — I drink lots of water during the day, but then can’t seem to go long stretches at night without getting all dehydrated. I would be absolutely miserable if someone took away my access to water during the night.

So. In the grand scheme of things, this is So Not A Big Deal. A toddler battle I would personally not deal with. The whole “I NEED A DRINK OF WATER” is of course a super common bedtime-delaying tactic, but mostly because it’s an excuse to 1) get out of bed and get the water themselves, or 2) trick you into bringing it to them so they get a little more attention. Your son is not getting the satisfaction of either of those scenarios, since you’re just handing the cup off and being done with it. So it sounds like yeah, he just gets extra thirsty at night, rather than trying to substantially delay bedtime.

Of all your concerns, the potty training one is really the only one worth worrying about. But probably not yet. I would worry about that later, once you actually start day training him. Which, at 22 months, could happen in a couple months…or not for another six months, or a year. And night training can take even longer. And since right NOW you’re dealing with a toddler and a newborn, I would focus more on what helps you make life easier right NOW. And if right NOW, a small sippy cup of water keeps him happy and in bed, just roll with it.

And maybe this will help ease the potty training concern: My toddlers never took bottles or cups to bed with them, but OH DEAR LORD THE NIGHTTIME DIAPERS. Completely soaked and saturated by morning, like they’d been saving it up all day just to unleash at night. So the sippy cup might not even be to blame here. As babies turn into toddlers, they pee a lot more and have massive man-sized poops and it’s disgusting and probably nature’s way to ensure that we parents will remember to potty train our young because DUDE.

(And toddler diapers get magically a million times worse the second you go back to the newborn stage and have a frame of reference. My newborn would poop and then suddenly dealing with a 3 year old who insisted on only going in a pull-up became U-N-A-C-C-E-P-T-A-B-L-E.)

Once potty training starts, he’ll likely still wear a regular diaper at night. Spring for the overnight kind. Have him pee right before bed, and keep the bedtime sippy cup super small, or not filled all the way. Remind him that he CAN get up and pee at night if he needs to. Obviously he’ll need to be out of a crib for that. Maybe get him a little nightstand as well, and tell him to keep his water there, so he has to sit up to drink rather than mouthing the cup all night. Remember that night training requires a specific physiologically leap to happen before his brain and bladder can sync up and wake him up to go, so don’t get immediately discouraged if he continues to wake up soaking after staying dry during the day.

But again, in the grand scheme of things a small sippy cup of water at nap and bedtime isn’t that horrible of a sleep crutch. Probably better than thumb sucking, which my middle son did all night, every night (and naps!) for at least the first five years of his life.  (His teeth are fine btw.) If you are still concerned about the cup possibly causing oral health issues, talk to his dentist about it. Consider switching to a straw style cup, which have been found to be better for speech development than spouts. If you do a post-bedtime check and find him asleep with the cup still in his mouth, gently remove it and set it aside. But don’t feel like this is a battle you need to fight. He’ll be fine.

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

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.

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  • Carolyn Allen Russell

    May 13, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Yup, exactly what Amalah said! When my toddler was waking up at night asking for water I decided it’d just be easier to give it to him at bedtime than in the middle of the night. We got a little kid water bottle and for a while it was this awesome novelty and he’d drink all the water all the time. Once it wasn’t so special (it’s ALWAYS on the little table by his bed so there’s no big production over requesting it or stalling for bed by my having to go get it) then I think he really only drinks from it if he wakes up thirsty in the middle of the night. When we were doing nighttime potty training I was frequently torn about giving him the water, but since by that time we’d established it wasn’t a stalling technique I thought how miserable I’D be if I woke up thirsty at night and nobody would let me have a drink. So I just didn’t put much water in the cup and hoped it’d be enough to slack his thirst but not so much that he’d drink a gallon and then pee ever more than usual. None of our nighttime potty struggles ever seemed affected by that small amount of water in the sippy cup. We recently started giving our youngest toddler a water bottle to keep by her bed when she started getting jealous of her brother’s, and same thing all over again: the first few nights she was SUPER EXCITED about it, and now I don’t think she’s had any of it to drink all week 😉 So I’d let him have it but just make sure it’s present before bedtime so it’s not a stalling ritual. And then after that I’d just let go of the worry 🙂 

  • Kendra

    May 13, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    Amalah is spot on as usual. My daughter would ask for a sippy cup before bed too so we would give her one every night. Once she started potty training we would limit the amount in the cup to about an ounce or two. And then we started only giving it to her when she asked and she eventually stopped asking and that was that. Now when she wants a drink she gets a small regular cup and tastes a couple sips before bed but doesn’t ask to take any to bed. Kind of just took care of itself without any drama.

  • IrishCream

    May 13, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Overnight potty training depends on the body’s ability to wake itself up when it needs to pee. Even if you cut back on fluids hours before bedtime, you can’t control for kidney function and the body’s fluctuations in fluid retention–no matter what parents do, kids will have to pee at night sometimes!

    Both my kids sleep with water bottles. It’s never been a problem for my four-year-old, she never wets the bed. My almost-three-year-old is in a similar position to your son: insists on a water bottle, sleeps in a diaper, often wakes up soaked. Honestly, I’m not worried about it. She’s clearly a ways off from training at night, and having a few more sips of water before bed or in the middle of the night is not going to change that. Even when we do make the push for training overnight, the water bottle will not make or break it: either she’ll be able to wake herself up when she needs to pee, or she won’t.

    All that is to say…don’t worry about it. Do whatever makes your life easier in this hectic time. My one suggestion, if you haven’t done this already, is to get special nightime diapers that are more heavy-duty. Pampers has a 12-hour diaper, and maybe other brands do too? That’s helped us cut back on leaks and wet sheets. Good luck!

  • Autumn

    May 13, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    When my kiddo was between 1.5 and 2.5, she was soaking wet at least 3 nights a week, and then it started to taper off.  She sleeps hard like her dad!  We attempted day training around 2.5, but she didn’t get it, and when she did day train at 3, she was in a night diaper until 3.5.  Partially because I’m pregnant and the diaper was easier than potentially changing wet sheets.  Now she wears underwear to bed unless she refuses to pee (power struggle alert) then I get out one of the 3 remaining disposables in the house.  Start unfolding one of those and she runs to the bathroom.  

    Short version, when your kiddo starts being dry at night, a sign potty training is a go! 

  • Janel

    May 13, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    I don’t want to scare anyone and agree with the advice given here, but also want to note that you should be tuned into how much your child is drinking. My son has Type 1 Diabetes and one of the earliest and easiest to pick up on signs is extreme thirst and excessive peeing. He was diagnosed at age 2. I am not sure this is even relevant in this case, but when I read about increased thirst it triggers that warning in my mind so thought I would share.

  • S

    May 14, 2015 at 1:23 am

    Total non-issue. UNLESS it’s an issue! You’ll know the difference. Intuition. My daughter started drinking 40 oz of water at night. Soaked dipes and sheets. I’m talking a teeeeny tiny not yet 2-year-old. It was behavioral (just the ASD – phew?) and not diabetes, but still a problem for a below-the-charts kid filling up on water. But even she still brings a water bottle to bed now (1.5 years later) and just likes a sip if she wakes up. No big deal!

  • An

    May 14, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    As a pediatric nurse I just wanted to echo what Janel said – not to try to scare you; very likely not the case but it’s a really easy thing to have him screened for diabetes – sometimes the only thing parents notice at first is a kid that is drinking a lot and peeing a lot and catching it early can help prevent serious complications.

  • Jess

    May 14, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    I have to agree with Janel & An – diabetes was the first thing that popped into my mind too. 

  • LW

    May 15, 2015 at 10:15 am

    Letter writer here

    Thank you!  What a pleasant surprise!  And a relief that I don’t need to worry about his teeth. 

    Diapers haven’t been as much of an issue lately.  We cloth diaper due to allergies and, since I wrote the letter, I’ve been folding the inserts differently (in Kawaii’s Goodnight Heavy Wetters, love those diapers).  He still definitely pees a lot, but at least he isn’t waking up covered every morning. 

    He has his 2yr check up next month, I’ll talk to the pediatrician about the possibility of diabetes.  

    Thank you again!

  • Myriam

    May 15, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Thirst and peeing are definitely symptoms of diabetes, but I wouldn’t worry about that yet. Moodiness, loss of appetites, problems sleeping, and weight loss would also occur pretty rapidly if that was a problem. And the thirst would most likely wake him up at night, several times, and at an increasing frequency. So, I say do mention it, or if you have a friend or family member suffering from diabetes, ask them to do a glucose finger prick test, and you’ll have a good idea. Up here, pharmacies do them to if you ask nicely!

    • Myriam

      May 15, 2015 at 10:35 am

      Replying to myself to add that I am Type 1 diabetic. That doesn’t make me a doctor, but still 😉

  • Katerina

    May 16, 2015 at 12:55 am

    I leave a water bottle in my toddlers bed all night, I’m not even sure if she drinks it or not but it’s there if she needs it.  She’s not potty trained yet so it might pose a problem later but for now it’s there and she has access and can’t use it as a stalling tactic.  She does still drink warm milk before bed but we always always brush our teeth afterwards.  Only water after the teeth are brushed!  🙂

  • Shanna

    August 7, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    I also leave a sippy cup with my kids at night as well as having my own water bottle by my bed. Extra tip if you always wake up in the middle of the night dying of thirst, put on a good lip balm at night as you go to bed. I like Carmex, but my kids get Burts Bees.