Inside: Thinking of overnight potty training your toddler or preschooler? Learn everything you need to know about nighttime potty training right here.
Potty Training Resources for Parents:
- Potty Training Under Two: Everything You Need to Know
- How to Potty Train a 2 Year Old
- What to do When Your Toddler Won’t Poop
So your toddler is fully potty trained during the day, and now you’re wondering when to tackle nighttime potty training.
Mama, you’re in the right place.
Today I’m going to share with you everything you need to know (and then some), so you can successfully potty train overnight – and hopefully still get some sleep in the process. No promises on the sleep thing, though 😉
Let’s kick this off with the question I hear most often:
How do I know if my child is “ready” to nighttime potty train?
As I shared in how to potty train before 2, “readiness” mostly falls on us as parents. Yes, there is most certainly a time, I’d say before two years old, where most toddlers are not ready to train overnight.
However, after two years old, most toddlers can successfully be nighttime trained. It’s important to remember that all kids are different. There is no prize for potty training first.
That being said, sometimes we wait around for “signs” – thinking to ourselves, “he’s just not ready.”
When in reality, your toddler or preschooler is ready, it’s you who’s not ready.
And it’s totally understandable. No one wants to set an alarm to wake up several times a night. It’s exhausting. But it is short-lived.
Let’s look at some common questions/scenarios when it comes to nighttime potty training.
Does my child need to wake up “dry” in order to be overnight trained?
This is almost always the measure used to determine whether or not a child is “ready” for overnight training, however, this can leave you waiting and waiting around for that magical day to come.
If you put a diaper on your 3 year old, and then put them to bed, the likelihood is they’ll wake up wet. Why? Because for the past 3 years they have been sleeping in a diaper.
The only way to teach them to wake up dry, is to remove the diaper. This is all to say, you don’t need to wait for your child to wake up dry to nighttime potty train.
Can I overnight potty train a toddler who sleeps in a crib?
My recommendation would be to wait until they are sleeping in a toddler bed or converted crib.
You want them to be able to get to their little potty (more on this later), as quickly as possible. And since I’m guessing you don’t want to teach your toddler to climb out of their crib in the middle of the night, it’s best to wait until you transition them to a bed.
Mom-to-Mom Tip: There’s no rush on transitioning your toddler from crib to bed, especially if you have more than one child. Cribs provide a sense of security for toddlers and peace-of-mind for moms. If your toddler is content in their crib, wait it out a little longer. However, if they continue to climb out, or wake up in a soaked, leaking diaper, it may be time to transition.
At what age should I nighttime potty train my child?
As I mentioned earlier, all kids are different, so it’s difficult to give a one-size-fits-all answer. However, as Jamie Glowacki notes in her life-changing book Oh Crap! Potty Training, the longer you wait to train, the harder it will be for your child to learn how to “hold it” overnight.
The ideal potty training window for overnight training is between 2-4 years old. Again, this is the ideal window. Why? Because at this age, most toddlers are transitioning to a bed, and most have recently been daytime trained, making nighttime training easier.
If your child is older than 4, you can still overnight train following the steps below.
If you have any additional questions, drop me a line in the comments or DM me on Instagram!
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How to Get Started with Nighttime Potty Training
1. Pick a Start Date
As much as you might want to, you shouldn’t just jump right into overnight training. You need to start out by picking a date at least 5 days away.
5 days prior to overnight training, it’s important to reduce liquids gradually.
Picture an upside-down triangle.
- When your toddler wakes up in the morning, give them water or milk to drink as usual (big part of the triangle).
- As the day goes on, reduce water intake.
- At dinner, serve their water in a small cup (so it looks more full), and make sure they don’t drink too much (tip of the triangle).
Your goal is to reduce liquids gradually. You don’t want to suddenly restrict water, especially for a young child. And on the flip-side, you don’t want your toddler guzzling water at dinnertime, as you can be certain it will cause them to wet the bed.
2. Get the Gear
You may already have some of these items from daytime potty training. If not, these are the things I recommend to have on hand for a successful nighttime potty training experience.
- Little potty (to keep next to bed – see photo below)
- Soft nightlight (so they can find the potty / you can see to help them)
- Sheet protectors (more on this below)
- Nightgowns or sleep shirts (more on this below)
- If your toddler accidentally wets the bed (this will happen and it’s totally fine), you’ll want to have a waterproof sheet protector in between their bed sheet and the mattress pad. This is so you don’t have to replace the mattress pad in the middle of the night.
- Simply remove the wet sheet and sheet protector, and place a new sheet protector and sheet on the bed.
As for pajamas, it’s time to put away all the onesies and complicated zips & buttons. I only recommend nightgowns or fitted sleep shirts (nothing too loose) for overnight potty training, with no underwear (or diaper).
You want your child in as little clothing as possible until they are fully trained. Fitted pants or underwear can mimic a diaper and cause them to accidentally wet the bed.
3. Make a Plan
Nighttime training falls all on you. You can’t expect a 2.5 year old to wake themselves up to go potty (at first). You have to consistently get them up to pee.
Remember that thing I mentioned earlier about readiness? You have to be committed and ready to wake up through the night to make sure potty training is successful. But don’t worry, this isn’t forever!
For ease, I’ll use the term “waking” – however, I would never recommend waking a sleeping toddler. Do your best to gently lift them out of bed, sit them on the little potty to pee, and tuck them back in – like you were never there.
- The first night, I recommend going in every 2-3 hours. So if your toddler goes to bed at 7 PM, go in at 9PM, 12AM & 3AM.
- If your child is an early riser, I wouldn’t wake them to pee after 3 AM. You may risk messing with their sleep cycle – causing them to be awake for the rest of the night.
- After a few days, you can expect to drop to two wakings – 10 PM & 2 AM.
- Eventually, you’ll want to drop that first waking (10PM), and just go in at 2AM.
- Once your child has been accident-free, or maybe even gets up on their own, you know you can drop the wakings.
What should I do if my child consistently wets the bed or I can’t seem to get the timing right?
Mama, sleep is everything. Everyone needs it. You need it to function as a mom, and your toddler needs it to function as a little human being. If everyone is loosing sleep over non-stop accidents, it’s time to hit the pause button.
Go back to diapers or pull-ups for a few weeks and try again when you feel ready.
How do I know if the nighttime training worked?
The only way to know for sure, is to not go in for a night-waking. Don’t set your alarm, let them sleep, and see what happens.
If they wake up dry or get up on their own to pee (or call you for help) you know it worked!
When is it okay to introduce underwear or pants?
After you’ve declared overnight training a success, I would wait a few weeks before introducing pants or undies.
Especially if your child is younger. You want them to be able to use the potty as quickly and as easily as possible, without having to pull down pants or fuss with anything extra.
My toddler has nighttime tantrums or sleep issues. Should I postpone night-training?
My advice would be to solve the sleep issues before tacking on nighttime training. Sleep comes first. Training can wait until the other issues are resolved.
- Pick a Start Date & Reduce Liquid Intake
- Get the Gear
- Make a Plan
- Celebrate being officially diaper-free!
Lauren R says
This post came at the perfect time! I finally feel “caught up” on sleep from having a 6 month old, and feel ready to tackle nighttime training with our 3 year old. My only hesitation is nap time- he still takes a 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon, which means I can’t wake him the middle of it to go (and he almost always wakes up with a full diaper after his nap). I know limiting liquids before nap time will help, but do you have any other tips for tackling nighttime when they still take a good nap too?
Hi Lauren! I did overnight training with my second daughter right before 3. For the most part she also took long naps – so it can be done! Limiting liquids will definitely help. I keep the little potty next to her bed and always have her pee before lying down for a nap. She naps in just a nightgown, no undies. And you’re right – you definitely don’t want to wake them during a nap. There’s definitely a little bit of trial and error involved with naps. However, removing the diaper at naptime can also be a good indicator of how long he can hold it while he sleeps! You could also just focus on overnight training and still use a diaper at naptime. Once he gets used to the feeling of having to get out of bed to pee at night, it might translate to naptime as well. Hope this helps!
Lauren R says
Very helpful! What you said about it being the *parent* who needs to be ready is so true, and your post has made me feel ready- so thank you! Also, another tip I’ve seen elsewhere is to layer -protector-sheet-proctector-sheet-, so that when you have to change sheets in the middle of the night your’e just peeling the top two off, and have another set all ready to go underneath, thus not having to put another on at 3am!
Thanks again for the helpful tips!
I’m so glad to hear that – and wow, that is genius! I wish I had know that tip. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you so much for this! My son is potty trained during the day and doesn’t really have accidents anymore. However I’m so nervous to transition at night! I love some of these helpful tips and you are making me feel like I can do it!
You CAN do it! And yay for daytime potty training success! DM me on Instagram anytime with questions 🙂