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On Going Commando

On Going Commando

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

About a year ago you helped me through the issue where my daughter was potty trained but refused to poop on the potty. I was pregnant and desperately trying to get her out of diapers before the baby came. Once we took your advice and relaxed about it and it became no big deal, she naturally started pooping in the potty and was done with diapers, except at night, by the time the baby arrived. So, thank you! Now it leads me to my current issue.

My daughter has been using pull ups at night for all this time. (We tried putting her in cloth diapers, but she was a heavy wetter and it ended up with her sleeping with the pee against her skin all night, so she ended up with a nasty rash/yeast infection, so we switched back to disposables.) I don’t have an issue with her using the pull ups and figured at some point she would be keeping her diaper dry all on her own, and that’s when we would stop putting them on her. She is 3.5 now, so she is still pretty young. We have found that if we have her go to the bathroom first thing when she wakes up that she is keeping her diaper dry 4 or 5 times a week.

Lately she has been really big on “No! I don’t need a diaper!” She seems really insistent about not wanting one. I don’t know if that’s just because, well, she is 3.5, and insistent about everything. Or if she really doesn’t want the diaper any more. I know that we could probably do the whole restrict fluids before bed and all that stuff to help her stay dry (I could even wake her when I go in to feed her sister), but I am hesitant to do it.

Maybe I am just reacting with Mommy guilt because I so overreacted last time. But the nights she does pee in the diaper, she is still filling it up quite a bit. And there was a night that I was super sleep deprived and forgot to put a diaper on her and she peed, and I can’t shake the image of her slumped shoulders and the tears on her face because she had wet her bed. I’m not sure why it was such a big deal to her (cue more Mommy guilt thinking I did this), but it WAS, so I am really hesitant to just make the switch to panties overnight and have this happen occasionally, even though it would probably be the fastest way to get her out of the diaper at night. I don’t want to screw this up again and put pressure on her to get out of diapers at night if she isn’t ready.

But SHE really seems to want to be done with the diapers, even though she isn’t dry every night. She tells me she kept the diaper dry, even when she didn’t, probably because she can’t feel it. But, she gets a little yeasty even in the Pull up, so I am hesitant to do something that leaves the wet against her skin. Please, oh wise Amy, help me out! What do I do now? I’m hoping there is maybe some way to do this I haven’t thought of.


Okay! So the pull-up-to-panties part of your question is easy. You have a three-and-a-half-year-old who is staying dry four to five nights a week and insisting that she doesn’t want to wear a diaper at night anymore. So…listen to her. Make the leap. Done.

Seriously, she sounds ready, or about as ready as she’ll ever be until you take away the safety net of the pull-up. And while overnight potty-training is different for every kid, if it helps to put your mind at ease here: both of my children ditched the nap-and-nighttime pull-up by around your daughter’s age — Noah was probably only a month or two younger, while Ezra was not quite two. For Noah, we made the switch after about five dry nights in a row. But it was probably less than that with Ezra (my memory is fuzzy!) because like your daughter, he was insistent that he was all done with diapers. I figured it couldn’t hurt to piggyback on his enthusiasm, even though I wasn’t completely convinced. What did we do?

  • restricted fluids after dinner for the first few nights,
  • made sure they went potty at the last possible minute, and
  • put a waterproof pad under the sheets

Eventually, one night, you hear them come out of their room and use the potty unprompted. They wake up dry. And that’s about it. It really, really isn’t that big of a deal, EVEN IF there is an accident. Although changing wet sheets and comforting a crying wet child at three in the morning isn’t fun, it’s NOT the end of the world. For you or for them. I promise!

Which leads me to the other part of your letter: Oh sweet lady, you have GOT to let go of the mommy guilt and the second guessing of yourself! So you forgot to put her in a diaper and she wet the bed, and while the experience upset her, it CLEARLY didn’t scar her for life or give her some kind of complex about the potty or going to bed. In fact, I’d say her reaction was exactly what a potty-training child SHOULD do: she understood what happened, she did not want it to happen again, and now she wants to move forward and prove that she is a big girl who doesn’t need diapers. If she HADN’T reacted at all to the bed-wetting, then that’s simply a sign of a kid who doesn’t yet “get it” and should stay in pull-ups awhile longer. A kid who is embarrassed and frustrated is a kid who understands the process and is a motivated learner. SEIZE IT.

If it happens again, well…it happens again. The important part is making sure your reaction is the right one, and judging by your letter I’m pretty confident you aren’t the type of mom to go in there and shame and yell and belittle her while you strip the bed. Calmly change the sheets and stay upbeat and encouraging. Hey, it happens, honey. You are still such a big brave girl for not wearing a diaper! We’ll just try, try again, okay?

Don’t let her emotions freak you out: She’s feeling what she’s supposed to be feeling, you know? I know we all have this urge to shield our children from every possible negative feeling like sadness or shame, but we can’t. Nor should we, all the time. Those feelings are part of the big scary process of growing up — they’re natural and valid and in this case, have nothing to do with YOU DOING SOMETHING WRONG.

Worst-case scenario? She has a string of back-to-back accidents and goes back into pull-ups. Institute a sticker chart and give her a goal — five dry pull-ups in a row mean she can go back to big-girl pants at night. Since she can’t feel the wetness, buy the kind with the “vanishing design” feature on the front. In the morning, instead of asking if she’s dry (since she always says yes), have her look for the picture and tell you what she sees. Then make the goal three or five (or whatever) dry nights in underwear and buy her a toy or treat, just to leave her feeling extra-proud and confident and to erase any bad thoughts about the previous accidents.

So. Deep breath. Follow her lead and listen to her. Lots of kids need to ditch the pull-up before they make it across the home stretch of potty training, and require a bit of nervous trust from their parents. Leap! And the dry sheets will appear.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Published March 7, 2012. Last updated March 23, 2012.
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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