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Nighttime Potty Training Woes

Nighttime Potty Training Woes

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

My four-year-old has been happily out of diapers during the day since she was two-and-a-half but we cannot get her out of diapers at night. She desperately wants to be completely diaper-free and I know most of her friends have been dry at night for a long time but I’m really struggling to know how to help her.

The problem is she just doesn’t wake up if she needs to go. For pooping (not that she does it very often at night) she can wake up and go to the bathroom and put herself back to bed no problem, but for peeing her body just stays asleep. We tried going cold-turkey on diapers a few months ago but after three or four nights of having to change sheets at 3am I gave up and put her back in a diaper.

I would probably be OK with just waiting it out and keeping her in diapers indefinitely, but she is really upset about this and aware that her friends don’t need diapers anymore so I thought I’d ask if you have any advice.


We’ve touched on this topic before, and so there’s probably a huuuuuge wealth of advice and helpful suggestions back in the comment sections of older posts, but I think it’s worth going over again.

Staying dry at night is a completely separate, whole other “thing” than potty training during the day. For the majority of children, the ability to stay dry at night comes later. “Later” can be a couple weeks, months… or years. It’s not a question of practice or motivation. It’s a physiological development — the brain and the bladder finally sync up and wake the rest of the body up in time to get to the bathroom. If she’s a naturally deep sleeper, this task is even more difficult.

Many, many children struggle with enuresis (bedwetting) long, long after potty training. And it’s just…one of those things. You don’t know whether it will stop next weekend or next month or next year. Most kids outgrow it, and it’s up to the parents to stay calm and collected about it — no yelling or scolding, recognize that this is something she CANNOT help or control, and let her know that she is normal and wonderful and this is really okay and not forever.

Usually, yeah, some kind of absorbent pant at night is the easiest solution, while you wait for your daughter’s body to make the development leap. I can guarantee she’s NOT the only four year old on the playground who isn’t staying dry yet, no matter what the unofficial peer pressure survey suggests. (It’s so common that most doctors and experts don’t even classify it as a problem worth dealing with until the child is six or older. Under five? Keep ‘em in diapers and give ‘em more time. No shame, no biggie. So normal.)

But since she’s sensitive, yes, you definitely want to keep this positive and make sure she’s not feeling shame or sadness about it. Does she view Pull-Ups as something that’s not quite a diaper? Could you make a switch in brand or color and simply present them as “bedtime pants” rather than a “diaper” that she wore as a baby?

If that still bothers her, invest in a bedwetting alarm. I have heard very, very good things about them and they seem to work for the majority of kids who use them. (Commenters? Specific brand/model recommendations?)

Other things that can factor into bedwetting (beyond an immature bladder), are constipation and too much to drink too close to bedtime. Keep an eye on the poops and see your doctor for a laxative recommendation if needed — constipation puts pressure on the urinary tract so it’s very common for constipated (chronically or one-time) kids to have accidents at night. Watch her liquid intake during and after dinner and try to scale back on a lot of drinks of water right at bedtime. (And obviously, one final good pee right before bed is a MUST.) The longer her bladder takes to fill, the more likely she’ll be further along in her sleep cycle and able to make it until morning until she has to go again.

Good luck!

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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