Let’s face it; one of the best moments in a parent’s day is when their child finally falls asleep. Staring at that angelic little face can give you the utmost joy, especially since your home is now filled with the sweet sound of quiet! And it’s even better when you’re potty training that little darling and they wake up dry after a good night’s sleep.
This is an exciting time for you both, but it can be challenging, too.
Here are some expert tips for ways to help your little one stay accident-free through the night.
Decide if Your Child is Ready
How often do they have day-time potty accidents?
Most children are daytime potty trained long before they remain dry at night, so wait until their day-time accidents become quite infrequent. If they begin waking up dry on the odd occasion, this too is a sign that they might be ready to start night time potty training.
Are they old enough to understand what you are asking? Communication is the key: your child needs to be old enough to understand terms like “dry in the morning” for night time potty training to work.
Are they developmentally ready? Rewards and other motivational strategies can be helpful for daytime toilet training, but rewards or punishments are not initially helpful in getting children to be dry at night. This is simply because young children do not as yet have control of their bodily functions during sleep, and will not be jarred awake by their need to urinate during the night.
Train Your Child’s Body
If you sense that you are both ready to take on this challenge, the first step is making sure your child is kept well hydrated throughout the day. Do not give them anything to drink after dinnertime, or before heading off to bed. Also make sure your child uses the potty right before lights out. Take a few minutes to read to them, or keep them occupied in some other way while they sit on the potty, allowing for ample time to go.
Right before your own bedtime at around 10 or 11 p.m., gently rouse your child into a semi-awake state, keeping the room dimly lit and then, bring them back to the potty to urinate. It is important to let your child know you will be doing this, so as not to frighten or confuse them. If your child resists, do not force or argue; rather, let them know that yes, they may not wish to use the potty right now, but possibly, their body may wish something different. Let them maintain control, but give them a way to follow through with your request. And remember to maintain patience at all times. Never force your child, but rather use gentle words they can understand. And make sure your nanny or babysitter follows the same procedure if they will be caring for your child during night-time hours.
Lastly, make sure an adult — either a parent or carer — is available to take the child to the potty at 6 or 7 a.m. the following day. Many children make it through the night dry, but need to urinate early in the morning before the house is up and running.
This is easier said than done! But remember, stress can have a strong effect on your child’s progress.
Many parents get frustrated with their children for having night-time accidents, but keep in mind that these are truly accidents, not wilful acts. During the day, children are aware of what their bladder is telling them, but at night have less control over bodily functions. Using pull-ups or bedwetting alarms are often useful tools to support children in developing night-time training awareness skills. Most importantly, don’t push the training pace faster than the child is capable of going. And remember, stressful situations in the child’s life can cause them to regress and have more accidents.
Know That Accidents Happen
All children will continue to occasionally wet the bed, sometimes for a year or longer, as they continue to master control over their bladders and bodies. Remember, your child is more upset by this than you are. While it is important to lavish praise upon them when they succeed, it is also important to comfort them when they don’t. Never use shame as a training technique, or react as if there is a big problem. This is important behaviour for your child, and also your child’s siblings, to see and mirror.
If your child’s accidents are consistent, talk to your paediatrician to make sure there are no underlying medical issues, and also keep in mind that girls tend to train a little faster than boys. Many girls will be fully night-time trained at around six years old, with most boys following at around age seven.
Appreciate This Life Stage
As your child grows, so will their motivation to wake up dry every day. No, continually washing wet sheets isn’t fun. But remember that this is one of many developmental milestones marking your child’s growth, independence and mastery of life. As frustrating as it might be at times, try to enjoy this slice of time you and your child have together. It goes by very fast.