Top tips for dry nights

Night-time training is not automatic

If you are concerned that your day-trained little one is still in nappies at night, don't worry. Just because a child is dry during the day doesn’t mean they should be automatically dry at night. Night-time toilet training is quite different from daytime training, and many children take quite some time to be dry at night – sometimes up to 2 years for super-sleepers.

On average, the majority of little ones are around 3.5 or 4 years of age before they are reliably dry at night. However, some children do still need the safety of night-time pants or protective covers at the age of 5 or 6 - mainly down to being very deep sleepers. Of course, some children with medical conditions may go beyond this age.

Even if your child is dry at night from an early age you may find they have the odd accident. This is normal and nothing to worry about. Even older children have accidents occasionally, caused by illness, nightmares or over-tiredness.

Signs your child may be ready for night-time training

As you know, each child is different and milestones happen at different times. Your child may be ready for night-time training if:

  • they ask not to wear a night nappy or night-pants, or they remove them during the night.
  • night nappy/pants are only slightly damp in the morning, rather than very full.
  • night nappy/pants are dry for 2-3 nights in a row.
  • your child wakes in the night to go to the toilet by themselves, or asks you to help them go.

If your child is showing one or all of the above signs, you may want to begin night-training.

How do I start night-time toilet training?

Preparation is key!

Explain to your child what they’ll need to do in the night now they no longer have night nappies/pants. Talk about going to the toilet – be encouraging and offer lots of praise and support.

Let it be an adventure – let your child feel excited about being grown-up! Try not to apply too much pressure. Talk to them about accidents and how it’s not a big deal, and they might happen if they don’t get to the toilet in time.

Invest in a good protective mattress cover

To save your mattress – invest in a waterproof fitted sheet to put underneath your child’s usual bedsheets. These really will save your mattress and endless sleepless nights. If you’d prefer it – you can even use padded disposable mats for them to sleep on.

Accidents may happen, especially in the first few attempts so prepare for this and be ready for some middle of the night clothes and sheet changes. If the accidents occur every night, it may be better to wait a few weeks and try again.

Encourage good toilet habits

Make sure that your little one uses the toilet right before bed; make this part of the bedtime routine so it becomes second nature.

Let your child know that the bathroom light or hallway light will be on – it may be an idea to leave their door open a little in those early days so they can find their way to the toilet in their sleepy state. Some parents find having a potty in the room can help very little ones starting to night train.

Get your child into the habit of going to the toilet once they wake up. In the morning, bladders are full and for little ones who are just learning night toilet-training this can be the time they have an accident. Like the evening ritual of going to the loo last thing before bed – make it part of their routine. ‘Wake up for a wee!’ is a great way of putting the idea into your child’s head.

Restricting fluids is not necessary

You don't need to restrict drinks before bedtime, especially in the summer when they can get dehydrated, but do keep your eye on how much they've drunk. Stick to milk or water before bedtime as some children are more likely to have a wet bed after drinking sugary or fizzy drinks. 

To lift or not to lift?

Some parents find lifting their little ones from bed and putting them onto the toilet when they go up to bed themselves, really helps reduce accidents. It can be particularly helpful for little ones who are deep sleepers. However, some experts suggest this actively encourages weeing while half asleep and can cause more accidents. 

Accidents will happen

As stressful as it is cleaning beds in the dead of night – don’t hold a grudge – accidents will happen in the early days – especially in the middle of the night. Keep calm, reassure and reward your child’s efforts. You may find that an easy to find, extra set of sheets may be a big help when night-time training.

If the accidents happen all the time (more than two in a night, or a few accidents in a week) they may not be ready for night-time toilet training. Go back into night nappies/pants and try again after a few weeks.

The key to successful night-time toilet training is to try not worry about it. It will come in time and it really is an individual thing, not an age thing. Go by your child and don’t compare them to others.

Don’t push your child if they are not ready and don’t make it an unhappy time. Think positively – you’ve already done the biggest job – daytime toilet training, which can be hard to master!

Finally, if your child is older (over 5) and has had several attempts at night-time toilet training over a prolonged period with no success and you are worried – pop along to your GP to discuss your concerns. There may be an underlying problem that needs investigating.

By Fi Star-Stone, Childcare is Fun.

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