Potty training is such an exciting and important developmental milestone for both you and your toddler.
After spending the last SEVEN years dealing with diapers and potty training my three children (ages 7,5, and 3), I can now say that it’s possible for the potty training process to be fun, stress-free, and positive.
However, many parents have questions about what to do during nap time and overnight once their child is day-time potty trained. Here are some simple steps to help along the way, beginning with a refresher on potty training in general.
When to Start Potty Training
If your toddler is showing any of these signs, it might be time to start potty training!
- Shows interest & curiosity in using the toilet (or watching you use the toilet!)
- Hides when pooping or alerts you when he/she has a wet or dirty diaper
- Can keep a diaper dry for 2 hours or longer
- Shows some independence in dressing/undressing
- Child is 3 years old (Most children will be ready to potty train between 18-36 months of age)
How To Start Potty Training
- Plan to start when you can be home for at least 3 days and fully focus on potty training (ideally the entire first week).
- Ditch the diapers and pull-ups during awake hours. It is easiest to have the child go naked for the first couple of days and transition to underwear once they have gone on the potty for 2 or more days.
- Set a timer to remind you to have your child attempt to potty at least once an hour. When the timer goes off, practice running or racing to the bathroom to keep it fun!
- Have your child drink lots of liquids when you are first starting so they learn the feeling of having to go and can have lots of practice going!
- You can use a child-size potty or use a child seat on an adult toilet. Have boys sit down while they are learning! Plan to sit your toddler on the toilet for at least 5 minutes because it can take time to figure out how to relax those muscles and actually release the urine. Keep a basket of books next to the toilet to entertain your child and encourage them to sit still for a few minutes.
- Help your child count 3-5 squares of toilet paper and practice wiping as needed. You can double-check for quality control!
- Kids will typically learn to pee on the potty before they learn to poop on the potty. Watch for "poop signs" and run them to the potty to let them try on the toilet.
- Accidents happen! Try to stay calm and positive. Clean it up together and say "Accidents happen. I know you will make it to the potty next time."
- Use a diaper or pull-up for naps and overnight. You want to start by focusing on the awake hours only!
- If you have tried for 3-5 days and have not made progress, wait 2 weeks and try again. Try to keep the process as stress-free as possible.
What About Naps and Bedtime?
I want to take the pressure off of you as a parent. Many children are not developmentally able to control their bladder overnight until ages 6-7. Please do not worry or feel pressured if your 3-year-old wakes up wet most mornings! This is normal! You cannot force your child to stay dry overnight. Children will reach this milestone when they are developmentally ready.
Even so, here are some tips to navigate nighttime potty training and set your child up for success:
- First, keep your toddler in pull-ups overnight until he or she has stayed dry overnight for 2 consecutive weeks. This means if there is an accident at any point in that 2-week window, we start counting from the beginning. Personally, I would rather change a wet diaper in the morning than change sheets in the middle of the night!
- For younger toddlers, I like to keep them contained to their own bedroom overnight (locked in for safety) so I recommend having a child-size potty available in the room in case your toddler wakes up and wants or needs to use the bathroom overnight. I like to put a towel or doggy pee pad underneath in case of spills.
- For older toddlers (4+), make sure they have adequate lighting to find the bathroom overnight.
- You may consider limiting liquids after dinner to prevent your child from having a full bladder overnight.
- Have your child use the toilet immediately before laying down to go to sleep as part of the bedtime routine.
- Once your child has stayed dry overnight for 2-weeks straight and you decide to let him or her sleep in underwear, double layer a waterproof mattress pad and sheets (ex. mattress pad, sheets, mattress pad, sheets). If your child happens to have an accident overnight, you can simply remove the top layers easily without having to remake the entire bed at 2am.
- Stay positive especially with older toddlers or even young elementary age children! With time, they will be able to stay dry overnight or wake up to use the bathroom.
My name is Katherine Bridges, and I live in Cumming, GA. I am a mom of 3, a labor & delivery RN, and a Moms on Call infant & toddler sleep consultant. I have my own business called Little Lambs.
I have helped hundreds of families find sustainable routines and healthy sleep habits. My services include both in-home and virtual options for families near and far. Follow me on Instagram here!