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nighttime potty training

Potty Training Wars: The Non-Night-Trained Kid Who Won’t Wear a Pull-Up

By Amalah

Hi there,

Love everything about your blog and still read almost every one even if it’s utterly unrelated to me.

I’m wondering if you can help. Our son is 3.5ish, toilet-trained during the day (actively asking etc), and got there through his own want to be dry and a few treats.

But now it’s nighttime. He shows almost no signs of being dry at night and that’s cool with us, I get it’s a physiological thing and his body has to be ready etc. BUT. It’s not fine with him. He is now flat out refusing to wear a pull-up pant (or short short short term savior from the rejection of diapers), complete with uncharacteristic tantrums. He’s absolutely not ready to be dry at night, even if I do no liquids for an hour before bed, two pees before bed, get him out of bed for a pee at like 11, he will still wake up having peed in the night at around 4am.

So I guess my question is, is there anything we can do to give him a helping hand and/or get him to accept that he’s just not ready yet (we explain that his body isn’t ready, there’s no shaming or anything like that, we avoid big boy/baby talk)? How long should we try with nighttime training if we’re seeing no dryness? Can we help him get dry quicker?

Help! Please!
Endlessly Washing Laundry

Well, giving my own experience at JUST HOW EASY IT IS to “reason” with a 3.5 year old, I don’t know how much success you’ll get with the “hey it’s okay to wear a pull-up at night” pep talk. I mean, you can certainly TRY, and you’ve certainly got the right script in mind, and maybe over time (and with enough flat-footed insistence that no, we’re not dealing with wet sheets at 4 a.m) you’ll win this particular battle of wills.

But again. He’s 3.5. God help us all.

What about getting him an alarm clock to see if you can catch that middle-of-the-night/super-early-morning pee that way? Try setting it for 3:45 a.m. or so, and he can get himself out of bed and onto the potty himself. Then adjust the alarm forwards or backwards until you find the sweet spot of maximum sleep and dry morning sheets. (Maybe leave a little treat for him in the bathroom as an extra motivation for getting out of bed.) They make specialty “bedwetting alarms” as well but 1) I have no experience with them and thus have no idea if they work, and 2) that might be a little overkill given his age and the fact that he could literally hit the stay-dry-at-night-milestone any day now. Given his motivation level, I’d opt for a regular alarm and see how that goes.

Another option is cloth nighttime waterproof/training pants that look and feel more like underwear, and that might not have the same connotation/association for him as a disposable pull-up or diaper? (Assuming that’s what you were using, otherwise, hahaha I’ve been outsmarted by a 3.5 year old AGAIN.) Amazon sells a variety of nighttime underwear/waterproof training pants — a lot of which are aimed at older bedwetters so they really do look like “real” underwear to eliminate the embarrassment aspect. Etsy is another good shopping resource for all thing cloth diapers/training pants and you might find someone who can MacGuyver up a few pairs of waterproof pants that look just like what he wears during the day.

Good luck! Hopefully his body will decide to cooperate with his desire to stay dry at night soon — it’s impossible to predict, alas, and every kid gets there at their own pace.

 

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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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chelsea
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chelsea

What about just putting a pull up on him after he’s already asleep? I do this with my 3 year old sometimes, it definitely beats wet sheets at 4am. And if he wakes up mad about it, just say “oh I don’t know how those got on!”

Joanna
Guest
Joanna

Our son is 5 but otherwise we’re in the same scenario, and we use these: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I9R6W0S/ref=sns_myd_detail_page. Sometimes he even feels the wet enough to wake up, which he never does with pull-ups.

Mel
Guest
Mel

Maybe consider taking him off dairy for a while. My son was having a heckuva time with night time wetting. The Dr. suggested that no dairy might help, for a variety of reasons. And sure enough that did the trick in about a week.

Wendy
Guest
Wendy

Same! We dealt with this until midway through age 6 with our oldest. He also refused all tricky underwear or midnight pull-up spy maneuvers. We double-sheeted the middle of the bed with a flat crib protector turned sideways held on by a flat sheet folded in half and tucked over the sides. And we did a lot of laundry. But eventually it just stopped. Younger son has been night time dry since before he potty trained around age 3. Every kid is different. Hang in there!

Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

We used the bed-wetting alarm for my son. He was day-trained by three, but still wet at night in kindergarten. On the advice of our pediatrician, we decided to try the bed-wetting alarm, reluctantly. I was afraid that it would be upsetting for him, or disruptive somehow, but it worked. Very, very well. It took less than a month for him to be completely dry at night, if I remember correctly (he’s 16 now, so it’s been a while). I think it is a really good option, and I think it’s most effective when the kid is motivated (i.e. doesn’t… Read more »

Holly
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Holly

I take my son (now 5, have done sine 3.5yo) to pee right before I go to bed. He sleeps so deeply, he won’t wake up to realize he has to go, and, he’s too scared to leave his room anyway in the middle of the night. So! Around 10pm he gets walked down the hall, goes pee (while mostly asleep), and then guided back into bed. I’m too scared to not do it, because I loathe changing sheets in the middle of the night.

Vickie
Guest
Vickie

My nephew had this same situation and eliminating sugar based drinks Stopped It. This included juice. He drank only water (and milk with meals, but I realize dairy can be same issue) and stopped all liquids a couple hours before bed. I think he might have had sip of water at bedtime, but not a lot. And the night time wetting just stopped. Immediately. Clearly – increase water intake all day. I can relate to this at age 57. Because drinking anything but water causes me to have urgency issues. Water only and I never have to get up in… Read more »

Rachel
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Rachel

They make a product called pee-jamas now but I’ve no idea if they work.

For my kiddo we put pull up OVER the undies at night for awhile. If he woke dry he kept the undies on and removed the pull up. If he woke wet I had less to wash. BUT he was upset about waking in wet sheets so he agreed to the pull up IF he still got to wear his undies.