When we decided to potty train for the first time, I read multiple books, and they all gave me different instructions. Many of them suggested doing both day and night potty training. Even then, I knew I wasn’t ready for potty training at night, though I thought we were ready for daytime potty training.
I chose my preferred method, attempted to potty train my then-2-year-old son, and 4 days later, admitted sweet defeat as I cried on the floor with my little one who clearly was not ready despite exhibiting all the “signs of readiness” I’d read about.
Now he’s 3 and successfully potty trained during the day. And I’m not going to lie–now that he’s daytime trained, I have absolutely zero interest in potty training at night.
Despite the fact that we’ve already made the transition from crib to toddler bed, we aren’t nighttime potty training.
Here, I’ll tell you why, and give you some details and statistics to help you make an empowered choice as a parent to determine whether potty training at night is right for your family.
Why I’m Not Potty Training at Night
One of the quickest things I learned in my parenting journey is that parenting books are fantastic guides, but very few of them work for everything.
Except that I had to stop because my son was clearly not ready, and I had to reconcile the mom guilt I felt about doing that.
It was yet another reminder that these books can be good guides, but ultimately, the decisions about how we parent are mine and Husband’s alone.
Need some solidarity on this subject? Read about our potty training problems from that emotional first attempt.
Our first go at potty training was emotionally disastrous, especially for my sweet little boy. But less than a year later, we successfully potty trained Jack. And I learned something pretty huge along the way.
Emotional Readiness is Key
When Jack was actually ready to potty train (the second time we tried), he didn’t just exhibit the typical “signs of readiness.” He asked to go potty. He made it abundantly clear that he was ready, and it helped that he could communicate much more easily than when we tried to potty train the first time.
For some children, this isn’t the case. For some children, the “signs of readiness” outlined in all the books are absolutely enough.
For Jack, they weren’t.
And here’s the stupid obnoxious thing about it all. When we tried again after he started asking to go, potty training was actually pretty easy!
I know, I know. You think I’m lying, or forgetting the bad parts. And sure, there were messes to clean up and tears to wipe. I’m not saying he was immediately accident free and it took no work at all.
But honestly, it really wasn’t bad.
We set a timer for every hour, took him to potty, slowly extended the amount of time, and eventually got rid of the timer altogether. It was work, yes, but it wasn’t particularly hard work.
And most importantly, no one struggled emotionally.
That’s why I’ve decided that there will be absolutely no night potty training for us. No waking him up every two hours for overnight potty training. No alarms to help him start waking up.
None. of. the. madness.
Daytime potty training wasn’t worth the fight the first time, and nighttime potty training sure as hell isn’t worth the lost sleep or the emotional ups and downs. Not for our family.
So here’s when my son will be night time potty trained: when he consistently wakes up dry.
Night Potty Training: Is It Worth the Sacrifice?
I want to be clear as I begin this section that the choice is completely yours. I have friends who night potty trained their two-year-olds successfully, and more power to them. At Undefining Motherhood, we will never tell you what choices to make.
But we will provide you with information to help you feel educated and empowered to make the best choices for you, and that’s what this section is here for.
If you want to potty train at night despite this section because it feels best for you and your child, go for it, mama!
Since I’m choosing not to, I’m going to give you the research-based reasons why.
“Readiness” really is a key thing to think about when it comes to nighttime potty training. And when I say “readiness,” I actually mean the following: is your child developmentally ready to nighttime potty train?
Consider the following information from Parenting Now, an organization focused on equipping parents with the skills and resources to support their parenting journey:
“Many toddlers and young children are unable to stay dry overnight. Their bodies are not developmentally ready to hold it for so many hours. This, coupled with the fact that many toddlers and young children are deep sleepers, means possible bedwetting until they are older, closer to 5, 6, or 7.”
The Mayo Clinic confirms that “most children can stay dry at night between ages 5-7.” This means that, while you might see some improvement in your child’s ability to stay dry if you choose to nighttime potty train, the truth r is that your child is likely not developmentally capable of staying dry all night long until they are between 5-7 years of age.
As someone who remembers wetting the bed (no idea how old I was) and being embarrassed by it–and as someone who places perhaps too much value on sleep–nighttime potty training isn’t worth the hassle.
And guess what? It doesn’t mean that your child isn’t potty trained! You’ve done the work of daytime potty training, so putting your child in a pull-up at night doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. At all.
Choosing to night potty train is a personal decision, of course, and we support you if you decide to go for it. But for me, research suggests that children just aren’t developmentally ready, and I am sure as hell not ready to wake up on a schedule each and every night if I don’t absolutely have to.
So What Do I Do With My Kid at Night?
If you choose not to night potty train, just leave your child be until they’re dry at night.
Over time, he (like your child) will begin going less during the night. We can limit liquids to hasten that process if we choose to.
When he no longer wets through diapers, a transition to pull-ups makes perfect sense. They’re more similar to underwear and make your child feel more like a “big kid” than having to lie down and put on a diaper.
As you get to a point where wetness is more minimal, you can switch to an option like Peejamas. These pajamas have built-in absorbance so your child doesn’t need underwear or a diaper.
The absorbance is not nearly enough for Jack right now, obviously, and I don’t find them to be as absorbent as pull-ups either. But as nighttime accidents lessen, they’re a great option if your little is bothered by still being in a pull-up.
Note: if you choose to go the Peejamas route, double-check your child’s size, and when they say you need to wash the pants 5 times before using them so they’ll have full absorbance, they mean it. We learned the hard way.
You Do You
I want to end on this note. If you’ve made it this far, chances are that you aren’t stuck on a certain plan to potty train at night. But in case you are, there is absolutely no judgment here, mama. You do you.
But for me and my family, we’re going to sleep, and someday, who knows when, I will joyfully report back that my son has self-nighttime potty trained.
Not because he’s amazing (though he is), but simply because he, his bladder, and his brain all grew together.
Did you choose to potty train at night? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, mom, recurrent miscarriage survivor, & owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband (affectionately known on the internet as “Husband,”) son (Jack), and dog (Charlotte). She believes our society puts too many expectations on women that make womanhood and motherhood restrictive. Her goal is to shift the paradigm about what it means to be a woman and mother, giving all women a greater sense of agency over their own lives. You can find Katy and her work featured in places like CNN’s Headline News, Romper, Scary Mommy, Demeter Press’s Motherhood and Social Exclusion, & more.