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nighttime potty training

Nighttime Potty Training Check-Ins

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

I have read every post since a friend turned me on to your column three years ago, and am hoping you can help with some potty training advice. Our 3-year-old daughter is (mostly) daytime potty-trained. She is awesome at peeing on the potty, and good at identifying the need to poop. (She is still terrified to actually poop on the potty, but we are working on that – mostly by not making a big deal when she poops in her pants, and celebrating the victories she has when she does go on the potty). So, daytime, no big deal.

My question is what to do about nighttime. She is nowhere near night-trained, and I am not so concerned about that. She is a deep sleeper, physiologically she may not be ready, no problem, she sleeps in a pull-up. For several months, my husband and I have been taking her potty when we go to bed around 10/10:30 (approximately 3 hours after she goes to bed). Sometimes she is dry, sometimes wet, sometimes poopy. None of this bothers me, since it is more about the routine of the potty act, not the outcome, at this stage. She is used to the routine (even checking at bedtime to make sure one of us is coming back to take her potty)

However, he is less on board with it now. He is concerned that getting her out of bed at this stage is doing more harm than good, especially since she is not showing signs of nighttime readiness, Sometimes she wakes easily, sometimes she is deep asleep, but she always goes right back to sleep after the potty visit. Her behavior does not seem altered. He did say last night that she seems more emotional, but, also, she is 3, so the emotions are bigger anyway, and hard to pin to this. (Not to discount his observation).

Anyway, this is a long-winded way of asking, should we stop for now? Any thoughts about our nighttime approach?

I know this stage won’t last forever but what do we do in the interim…

If your daughter was semi-consistently dry (maybe three nights out of five) at the three-hour mark, I’d say stick with the check-in potty routine. But she’s not, sooo….

If your daughter was semi-consistently having a lot of trouble settling back down to sleep after the potty break, I’d say quit with the check-in potty routine. But she’s not, sooo…

In other words, this routine doesn’t necessarily sound like it’s helping or hurting all that much, so it’s entirely up to you. Personally, I only did this when we were actively working on night-training, when my toddlers were showing clear signs of readiness and we’d made the move to training pants or underwear at night. (Basically, when there was a Clear & Present Danger of a big mess in the bed that outweighed the hassle of waking them up.) And we really didn’t do it for very long — maybe a week or two, just to be on the safe side.

What was more important for my toddlers, actually, was getting into the room and waking them up to go to the bathroom in the morning. I knew they could stay dry all night (again, dry morning diapers three out of five days, give or take), but we didn’t want to push it too long in the morning. So if a 7:30 a.m. wake-up was typical, I’d go in around 7 and get them right to the potty, first thing. (If a toddler wakes up with the choice of getting up to put their butt on the potty vs. just staying in their nice warm bed and going right there, guess which one they’re more likely going with.)

Every kid night-trains at a different age, and at a completely different pace from day training.

If she’s not regularly staying dry/clean for three hours, that’s a pretty clear sign that she’s a long way off from staying dry for 6 – 8 hours or more. So no, I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong or harmful here…just maybe trying something that isn’t serving any particular purpose just yet. You’re more nighttime potty training yourselves instead of your daughter.

More practice with the potty is never a bad thing at this age however, while deliberately mucking with sleep can be. Since you and your husband are disagreeing on whether the potty breaks are negatively affecting her sleep patterns and moods (HI YES THREE YEAR OLDS ARE BASICALLY WALKING GLASS CASES OF EMOTIONS), you could cede this one to him and agree to stop the routine for a week and see if anything changes. (Unless she wakes up on her own! If she does that, by all means take her to the potty! Praise her and hallelujah!)

Every kid night-trains at a different age, and at a completely different pace from day training. They really are two whole separate processes and milestones. She’ll let you know when she’s approaching readiness by either 1) staying dry/clean all night for more nights than she doesn’t, and/or 2) waking up independently to use (or ask to use) the potty. If neither of those things are happening, feel free to just stick a pin in the whole endeavor and revisit the check-in routine (either late at night or early morning, or both) until she’s giving you some signs of success.

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.

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