Monday, January 31, 2011

Nighttime Potty Learning

When Gumby started using the potty, it was 100% full time, just like a switch had been flipped; she was a potty machine.  She had already been having lots of naked time and hating diapers, so we just dove into getting her underwear.  But, we did wonder: what should we do at night?

I couldn't seem to find a lot of information out there for night time potty learning.  I had noticed her overnight diapers were getting less and less wet; sometimes they would be dry.

The first day that she used the potty consistently, at bed time, we asked her if she wanted a diaper.  She said no.  We co-sleep and we have a mattress pad.  So, I explained to her what I thought would happen.  I told her if she had to potty, we'd wake up, sit on the potty, potty and then go back to bed.  I told her if I noticed her pottying in her sleep, we'd wake up, sit on the potty, potty and then go back to bed. It seemed so simple.  What surprised me was that her and I both could sleep right through those little accidents until it was too late.

For the first time, the other night, she had a full bladder and was uncomfortable, stirring and thrashing.  I kept asking her if she needed to sit on the potty and finally, she said "yes"!  We still have accidents, but we deal with them.

Here are a few things that we have found helpful on our nighttime potty learning adventure:

Patience and Trust
We will get there when we get there. :)  We cannot control when Gumby uses the potty; we can only try to help her learn to recognize the feelings of needing to go and what to do.  We need to trust that she will go when she needs to go. 

Mattress pads and those little 'multi-use' waterproof baby pads
We keep the entire mattress under a fitted waterproof mattress pad.  We also have a flat pad that is the size of the toddler bed that we keep on top of that, right where Gumby is most likely to lay.  Sometimes, if we have an accident, the toddler bed sized pad catches it all and we don't have to change the full fitted mattress pad.  The little "multi-use" water proof pads come in  handy should an accident occur in the middle of the night.  I, personally, have no desire to wake up the family and re-make the bed at some odd hour of the night.  If a wet spot is found, it can be covered with the small pad so that we can sleep on a dry surface and deal with the mess in the morning.

Recognition that Nighttime Potty Learning is a Natural Milestone
As I mentioned, when we started this journey, I thought I could help Gumby learn to recognize needing to potty while sleeping and wake up.  Ah, I still chuckle.  And, I am still amazed that she can pee when she is literally sound asleep.  Even if I did notice *and* could bring myself to wake my sleeping baby, she'd probably be done by then anyway.  I have read forum posts of folks with kids her age that stay dry all night and some whose five year old kiddos are not dry at night.  All kids are different and this is like walking; they will do it when they are ready to do it.

No Need to Night Wean
This ties in with the previous item.  Gumby still nurse at night, quite a bit.  Most nights she is dry regardless.  Again, I have read forum posts of folks who have tried night weaning and the little ones still weren't dry all night.  So, for us, why ruin a good thing? :)

Limit certain fluids 2-3 Hours Before Bed
The other night I wanted some hot tea.  Gumby loves hot tea and she shared some also.  But it was late, and then she went to bed.  The rest of the tale won't surprise you, but we did learn that certain drinks such as hot tea and slushies probably should be cut off 2-3 hours before beddy time.  We don't limit nursing, milk or water.

Nighttime Potty for Everyone
In one of my less than proud and gentle moments, I learned that it is true - you can sit them on the potty, by hook or by crook, but you cannot make them go.  Even though it is so hard not to impose our will, try to force her to go because we think she has to, not to get upset if she doesn't go when we think she has to, we had to let go of trying to push the night time potty issue and just accept what would be.  Sometimes, she pottys right before bed at 10pm and still has an accident.  Some nights, her last potty was at 4pm and she refused to go and she'd be dry still!  We decided to change what we could control (us) and not worry about what we cannot control (Gumby).  So, the rest of the family has nighttime potty.  We don't make a real big deal, but we each announce that we are having our nighttime potty.  And, we put the dogs out for their nighttime potty too.  Almost every time, it turns out Gumby also needs a nighttime potty.

So, some weeks I don't have to wash the bedding at all, other than the usual maintenance washing.  Some weeks, I have to wash the bedding every other day.  We could use diapers or pull ups and keep the bedding dry and clean.  But, in our journey, we honestly feel that would hurt Gumby's sense of pride and accomplishment and that is far more important to us than the bedding.

What information, tips or things have you found useful in your nighttime potty learning adventures?


  1. Excellent tips - it's apparent that you are so in tune with your little one, and I love that you're letting the process happen at her pace, not with coercion or bribes (which so often backfire anyway).
    Thank you for sharing!
    ~Dionna/Code Name: Mama

  2. You have pretty much the exact same situation as me and way of handling it as i do. My #1 day and night trained at the same time when he was 21 mo old. It was 3 days of accidents then he was done and is now 7 and i could count on 1 hand how many accidents he has had since he was trained. He stayed dry dispite the fact that he nursed all night long till 31 mos and coslept. #2 was a diff story. He day trained at 23 mos and i discarded the diapers at that time and he is now 44 mos old and still nursing at night and cosleeping. He has accidents many times a month but sometimes goes a few weeks being dry. We use the swaddlebee all purpose waterproof pads under us. SOmetimes laying them on top of a wet sheet to go back to sleep. but mattress is fully covered and we keep pads and extra jammies easy to grab every night. He gets the wiggles around midnight most nights so i bring him for a "sleepy peepee" and sometimes again at around 3am but i won't go back to diapers. He only has water or milk to drink after dinner and i know that eventually his bladder will consistantly hold all night long but he is not quite there yet. IN the meantime we just make due with pads and towels and lots of laundry :o) thansk for sharing this :o)

  3. Thanks for sharing this! There is so little out there on potty training such young children in general; and I don't think I've ever come across something about night training! My oldest daughter is just over 2 and she seemed just about to potty train when her sister was born at 16 months and our lives turned upside down for a bit. We're still working on getting pee in the potty now and I think sometimes I push too hard because I know she was/is so close! And when I push, she doesn't even want to tell me when she's wet. I think it'll probably happen this summer when we don't have to wear so much clothing! She's a very heavy night wetter though even though she weaned on her own quite some time ago, so I definitely won't bring up potty at night until days are going well. I do have some wool pads though, ftom an Etsy shop, that were great for diaper-less naps this past summer!
    I'm rambling, but again, thank you for sharing this! I'm a new follower too.

  4. Great to read your experience. My girl also was amazing at using the potty from the time she started about 6 months ago. She is 2 1/2 now and to be honest I have not even thought of night time weaning. I was an almost all cloth-diaper Mama until recently when every time I put a CD on her, both she and the bed would end up completely soaked. (I would change her about 4 hours after she went to bed but always met her soaked) So now much to my embarrassment as an eco-mama we've switched to yucky disposables at night. She's not fussed about the diaper wearing at all so I'll wait a little longer before I begin the nighttime potty journey but I will definitely keep your tips in the forefront when we do. Thanks.

  5. I appreciate the comment and kind words ...

    @Dionna - we are big fans of Alfie Kohn and Unconditional Parenting. Some people asked if we got a musical potty, but we didn't and we dont do anything for praise/coercion. We just tell her "You put your pee pee in the potty" or "Oops, pee pee goes in potty."

    @Momma Heather - your situation does sound just like ours! it is interesting to see how other folks handle situations. I know what you mean about sleepy peepees! on the occassions she does wake to go, she barely pees and is back asleep still on the potty! And I was worried she'd be awake for a few hours or something!

    @scody - I know what you mean about being sooo close. Over the summer, Gumby was naked and would ask for a diaper when she had to pee, and then tell me she needed it off, yet she had absolutely no interest in the potty. I understand the anticpation when all the pieces are there and you are sooo close! Good luck! Gumby also was a VERY heavy night wetter...

    @Terri - I never could get a CD solution to work for us at night. The overnight disposables were always soo huge and heavy! I had briefly thought about nightweaning, thinking maybe it would help. But for us that would have hindered so much more of the relationship and then I learned it is milestone separate from day time learning anyway.

  6. OK, so my son is 3 and has been daytime trained since 19 months. Having grown out of his cloth diapers we have been using disposable pull-ups at night. However, they were always wet in the morning. We were told that since he had been our of diapers for 1.5 yrs he should be good to go through the night and that the pull-ups were hindering his motivation. So, he now sleeps (in our bed) butt naked. I'll take him to the bathroom before coming to bed and sometimes in the middle of the night when I go (which might be frequent as I am pregnant). However, he is consistently wetting the bed and it's only if I take him multiple times that he has a dry night. I now find myself sleeping with my hand near his crotch in a half alert state (no good for my shut-eye!). So, a month in to this I feel we all need to go back to training pants (maybe cloth ones) in order to get some sleep (he often wakes up grumpy and tantruming). Others have suggested that we start to move him to his bed so there is not as much clean up and more 'natural consequence' for him. Based on your reading what's your take? I keep seeing general guidelines that if they are wetting more than a couple of times a week you should use training pants. I'm just worried that he will perceive this as a backwards step. Or maybe he'll welcome it??

  7. @Anonymous - thanks for stopping by :) As far as him seeing the training pants as a backwards step, can you try asking him if he wants to continue sleeping naked and getting up multiple times or giving the training pants a try to see if everyone sleeps better?

    it sounds to me like maybe just take a step back and get some rest for everyone. i <3 my sleep :)

    i really dont think moving him to his own bed will yield any useful 'natural consequences' b/c he can't help it. i know when gumby has an accident, she is asleep. i couldn't believe it, but she's out. i can't see a consequence being useful if the person isn't even aware of the actions they are taking. know what i mean? probably the move to the new bed itself will come with it's own challenges to everyones sleep. i could be wrong.

    good luck and i hope you can find something that works out for everyone. stop back if you can and let us know! :)