Night Time Potty Training

Potty training or toilet training – for us, it’s the same. We’ve never really used a potty except for a couple of trials and decided it wasn’t working for us so it’s always been the toilet.

Aristotle has been toilet trained during the day time for a long time. After all our experiences with toilet training, I do believe that the best way to get it done is to dump the diapers (cloth or disposables) and go commando. Being wet makes them uncomfortable and there really is no stronger motivator than that. Even a cloth diaper isn’t quite as effective because little kids are busy people and they hate being interrupted – even to go to the toilet.

The problem we had with night time was that we didn’t want the bed to get wet (we co-sleep with him in a cot flushed against the bed but he often ends up on the bed in the middle of the night) and we didn’t want the mess to clean up. Aristotle is not the neatest of sleepers and can end up in all sorts of funny positions and locations in the course of a night so keeping a rubber mat handy does not help at all – not unless you wrap the entire mattress with it. So we kept the diapers for night time – just in case. We figured that he was already toilet-trained during the day time (even when napping) so perhaps it was only a matter of time before the night would come in control.

What we discovered was that once the diaper was on, Aristotle would pee into it rather than go to the toilet. This happened even when he was awake. So long as there was a diaper, he would rather pee into it than make the annoying trip to the toilet. Our son who was completely toilet trained during the day time was consciously choosing to pee into the diaper rather than using the toilet. When queried, he would brush it off with a feeble, “Oh, I forgot.” It was hard to believe when he never forgot if there was no diaper.

We realised that the only way to get the job done was to ditch the diapers and sacrifice the mattress. It was painful…

I read up a little on night time potty training and noted some advice stating that if your child goes to sleep at 8pm, you should wake him up at 11pm and 4am to go to the toilet. We tried that but it didn’t seem to be working. Sometimes he’d make it, sometimes, he would pee even before 11pm. In the end, I was hardly sleeping because I was either getting up to bring him to the toilet or to change him if he wet the bed and to slip a towel under him so he wasn’t lying in a wet spot. It was like the early days after bringing baby back home from the hospital all over again.

After a while, we decided not to change him. We would wait until he woke up from being wet before we changed him so that he could feel the discomfort. Yes, it was horrible, but he didn’t seem to be aware that he’d peed if I changed him while he slept. Even then we still had a lot of trouble because he slept like the dead and just would not wake up.

Just when I thought all was lost, he started waking up for the early morning pee around about 4-5am on his own. As long as we helped to get him up for the first pee, he could manage the second one on his own. I read somewhere that you should not carry your child to the toilet but make him walk there so he is aware. I would carry him out of bed (because shaking him to wake up didn’t work) and put him on his feet before nudging him to walk to the toilet on his own.

When he was consistently dry for a number of nights in a row, we decided to stop waking him up to see if he would be able to get himself up. He did and all was good until tonight. Just when I thought we were on the home stretch, he peed even before 10pm! What went wrong? We got lax with the fluid control before bed time. At dinner, he drank a big bowl of soup and had ice cream, then went to sleep early.

So here’s what worked for us:

  1. No diapers. Not even cloth diapers.
  2. Cut back the fluid intake at night. It really depends on the time that your child goes to sleep. On a weeknight, we usually have dinner at 6pm and the kids are in bed by 7:30pm. That means controlled fluid intake during dinner and no fluids after.
  3. Don’t forget the last pee before going to bed – even if they don’t feel like going, just get them to empty the bladder.
  4. Initially, wake them up at about 11pm to pee (give or take – you can adjust your timing accordingly over a few nights to see what’s a good time to wake your child).
  5. You can do a second toilet trip in the early morning. Again, I think the timing really depends on your child. The advice I read was to do it at 4am. I found I had to do it at around 2am (but that was before we cut back on the dinner time fluid intake).
  6. Once you’re making it through the night without incident for a while, drop one toilet trip and see if your child will hold or wake up on his own.
  7. Once you’re getting through the night without incident for a while, drop the other toilet trip and see if your child will wake on his own to go to the toilet.

Whether you choose to toilet train at this point or to wait until your child is older is really up to you. One of the arguments against this method for night time toilet training is that you are disrupting your child’s sleep cycles. You decide when to wake him so you could be waking him during a deep sleep cycle. I do believe it affects the quality of sleep because he did seem more tired during the day time when I was waking him up twice a night to go to the toilet. In retrospect maybe it might have been better to wait a bit, but we had our reasons for wanting him toilet trained overnight.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

7 thoughts on “Night Time Potty Training

  1. How old is he? I’m glad ours went quite easy. He was just over 2yo. The nighttime was not too much trouble. I just brought him to the toilet (while he’s still sleeping) in the middle of the night. eventually his diapers remained dry and I left it out altogether but still did the midnight trip. Then I gained confidence to skip that too! ;D

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    1. Hi Sammi – he’s 4, but he’s been fully toilet trained during the day since he was 3. We had a lot of trouble with the night time part because he just couldn’t seem to wake up. When I wrote this, we had a pretty successful run for over a week where we didn’t have to wake him to take him to the toilet at night. Right after I wrote this, he started wetting the bed again – almost as if I jinxed it when I wrote about it!

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  2. We’ve a different problem. Once Vee wakes up (even on his own for a diaper change), he has problems going back to sleep. He needs 1-2 hours for his eyes to close and that seriously disrupts my sleep too. So we never wake him him pee and hope he won’t too until he can sleep very well or hold till morning.

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    1. Hi MieVee,

      Hope all is going well with no. 2 🙂

      Yup, we had the same problem with Aristotle as well. He used to be a really light sleeper and would be really hard to get back to sleep if he woke up. He seems to have grown out of that stage so hopefully Vee will too. I never thought the day would come so perhaps there’s hope for you, too 🙂

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  3. Baby #2 is wonderful, he sleeps amazingly well and can fall asleep on his own, something that never happened to Vee until he was 14 months old. We’ve been to Singapore for a week, gone out for full day outings, etc. and it doesn’t feel like bringing an infant out at all. He’s so calm most of the time. 🙂

    As for Vee, I think he’s sleeping much better nowadays. Hope the day comes soon.

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