It’s the middle of the night and I find myself half way up a bunk bed attempting to change the sheets. I scrabble around sleepily, trying to hook the sheet over the mattress. My son has had an episode of nocturnal enuresis, the posh words for wetting the bed.
Training your child to be dry through the night can frustrating for both child and parent.
Since that night I learnt a little secret that will ensure successful night time potty training.
This post contains affiliate links.
“At the age of 4 all children should be dry at night time!” my neighbour told me.
“Rubbish!” was my immediate response.
All children are different and they learn to be dry at night at different times.
And therein lies the key to successful night time potty training.
It’s bed time and my three year old twins are making a fuss, they don’t want to put their night time diapers on. “My not want nappy!” they say. I do understand, I know they want to be nappy free but I also know that they are not ready to sleep through the night without diapers.
Every morning they wake up with wet nappies. If I take them off, they’ll just have wet beds. (And guess who’ll be changing the sheets in the middle of the night.)
It can be frustrating for children and parents.
Toddlers who potty train with ease, are not necessarily capable of sleeping through the night without having an accident.
All Children are Different and Learn to Be Dry At Night at Different Times
The internet is a great place for getting information but it’s also easy to compare yourself to others. “I potty trained my 2 year old in 3 days and they didn’t need any nappies afterwards.”
That’s perfectly possible. In fact, a friend of mine wrote a book, exactly about that. (Potty Training in a Weekend, it’s a great book. Of course, reading it doesn't guarantee that your child WILL potty train in 3 days, but she has a good method and her book is worth reading.)
The problem is, your children are not hers and all children are different. There is nothing wrong with potty training later. As far as night time potty training goes, you simply can’t rush it.
Being Dry Through the Night is Not Just a Learnt Activity
Even if you do successfully potty train your toddler, that doesn’t mean that they will automatically be dry at night.
When you potty train, you are teaching your child’s brain to understand that their bladder is full and that they need to empty it. You are teaching them to voluntarily control their bladder.
Night times are more complicated. In order to be dry at night time, a child needs to understand that their bladder is full AND that fact also has to rouse them from sleep. If you have a deep sleeper, it’s not going to happen straight away.
Of course, if your children don’t need to go to the toilet, they will also be dry at night time but not needing to do a wee, is not the same as being in control of your bladder during the night.
Bed Wetting is Often Normal
Lots of children have primary enuresis, which means that they’ve never had control of their bladder at night time. It’s perfectly normal and the statistics will surprise you, 5% of 10 year olds still wet the bed and it’s perfectly normal.
Most girls are dry by 6 and most boys are dry by 7. Even some adults wet the bed with no apparent medical condition to treat.
Constipation Can Contribute to Night Time Wetting
If your child is constipated, it’s going to make night time potty training almost impossible. The vast majority of constipation is related to not eating enough dietary fibre (normally too many packets of unhealthy foods and not enough fruit and vegetables.) You need to teach your kids healthy eating habits. (I’ve got you covered!)
Kid’s poops should be soft and squishy and come out easily. If you’re worried, go chat to your doctor. Sometimes kids need a bit of medication if they’re very bunged up (and then a healthy diet to keep them regular.)
Night Time Potty Training Tips
I have 4 young kids and I totally get the desire to get rid of nappies once and for all. If you are really impatient, there are certain things that you can do to help your child be dry at night time.
- Restrict fluid in take for a few hours before bedtime.
- Make sure they do a wee directly before getting into bed.
- Put them on the toilet before you go to bed. (Get them out of bed and get them to do a "squeeze".)
- Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables to prevent constipation which can make bed wetting worse.
- Use a plastic sheet or absorbent disposable mat that protects the mattress.
Restricting fluid in take and putting them on the toilet don’t teach them to control their bladder, they just buy you time. But it is normally time that will resolve the problem.
If your child is potty trained, they will eventually be dry at night time (as long as there aren’t other medical issues and they don’t fall into the small percentage of people who continue enuresis into adulthood.)
Related: Toddler Potty Training Regression
When Can I Take my Child Out of Night Time Nappies?
Don’t be in a rush to take your child out of nappies. You may be putting unrealistic expectations on them.
Wait until they have frequently dry nappies in the morning.
Teach them that they need to use the toilet rather than go in the nappy if they need a wee.
What Should I do if my Child Wets the Bed?
The most important thing is to be understanding. It may be a total hassle for you to change the sheets on the top bunk in the middle of the night, but they didn’t have an accident just to annoy you. They weren’t being badly behaved. Just change the sheets, give them a cuddle and put them back to bed with a kiss (and remember than in 10 years time you’ll look back and miss your midnight sheet changing antics!)
People do say that bedwetting is a stressful situation, but really it’s just people’s expectations that are unrealistic. Punishing or shaming a child for wetting the bed, is not only unfair, it will also make the matter worse and more stressful.
When to go to the Doctor
Secondary Enuresis is bedwetting after your child has been dry at night time for at least 6 months. Sometimes secondary enuresis is a perfectly normal response to a stressful situation or an increased fluid intake. Sometimes it is an indication that something else is going on. (Constipation is a common cause and often not as obvious as you'd think.) Go chat to your doctor.
The Secret to Nighttime Potty Training?
The secret is simple. Wait until your child is ready.
If you try to night time potty train your child too early, it may turn into a stressful situation for everyone. If you wait to night time potty train your child until they are ready, it will be a simple matter of just taking off their diapers.
I finally manage to get my twins into bed, with their nappies on. The next morning both nappies are soaking wet.
And as ever, they refuse to take them off.
I don't think we're ready for night time potty training yet!