Potty training is not always an easy task, and not one that you can entirely predict on it's outcome either. Many of us come to learn that the best way to approach the whole thing is with a relaxed attitude, at a time when our children are displaying signs that they are ready, and with plenty of patience. It's quite normal for a child of the age of three to 'still' be in nappies, alongside a much younger child, because every single person on this planet is different. Children are different. We all develop and grow at different rates and this means that potty training can either be a minefield, or a non-brainer. Trying to match what friends are doing with their own children is never going to work; listening to your own child and waiting until they eady is likely to be successful. So, you nailed the day time potty training and your nappy bill is considerably lower... is it time to start thinking about night time potty training?
Night training doesn't usually happen at the same time as day training when it comes to ditching the nappies. It takes quite a lot for a child to firstly recognise that they need to use the toilet, and to be able to verbalise or otherwise indicate this need. Then further effort is needed to be able to pull down underwear and actually use the toilet or potty too. Imagine your toddler doing all of that during the night- waking from deep sleep and being able to perform as they do during the day. And no doubt at first there are a few 'accidents' during the day too. So it's little wonder that night training comes a little later in many cases!
Doctors advise that the average age for night training is around 3.5 to 4 years old, but some children will still need pull ups or bed protection up to the age of seven too. All of this is fine; remember that your child is unique and whatever is normal for them, is normal. Night time training is not necessarily a learned skill, it is more a physiological development, which means that it can be involuntary, and therefore harder to 'achieve'.
There are signs that you can look for that could indicate your child is ready to lose the nappies at bedtime too. Signs to look out for:
- A dry nappy in the morning, several days in a row
- Your child is reliably dry during the day
- Your child has less than 2-3 'accidents' per month during the night
Approach night time training in a similar manner as daytime training. Explain to your child that they no longer need to wear nappies at night, and make an effort to explain that they can use the toilet instead.
- Use either disposable or re-usable waterproof sheets under your child's normal bedding in case of accidents
- Don't limit drinks, but be mindful of how much they consume prior to bedtime
- Make sure that your child can easily get up from bed and access the bathroom or potty independently if they need to. This may mean coming in to you to ask for help, so make sure that they know this is ok too.
- Keep a change of bedding and night clothes handy so that if your child does have an accident, you can change them as quickly and efficiently as possible. Try not to make a big deal out of this- stay calm and remember that it isn't your child's fault. Don't be tempted to issue consequences for a wet bed as this can upset your child needlessly and cause issues with confidence too.
- Take your child to the toilet immediately before they turn in for the night. And then take them as soon as they wake up in the morning.
Some parents recommend semi-waking children when they go to bed, so that they can use the toilet, then return to sleep relatively undisturbed. Only you will know whether or not this is worth doing. Chances are, this will not affect sleep at all, but some children may find it quite intrusive- so this one is up to you.
However you approach night time potty training, remember that it is a developmental curve for each child and that accidents may well be inevitable. Don't attempt to start when there is something big going on, unless you are very sure that your child is more than ready. Christmas, birthdays, house moves or new babies can be very disruptive on the whole family, and chances are that getting up to change bedding in the middle of the night is not top of your agenda either. Take your time and remember that this is not a race- your child will get there in their own time- and that's fine!
If you have any concerns, speak to your GP or health visitor for advice.