We are starting a mini series all about potty training and in today’s episode, I interview Sarah Leach, our lead sleep consultant here at Little Z’s. We are going through how she did nighttime potty training with her boys when they were in an open bed.
Sarah has 2 boys and it’s helpful to understand her boys’ personalities, because they’re very different!
Her oldest son, John, is 6 and is a typical Type A first child. He is organized, a rule follower, and a sensitive sleeper who needs lots of sleep. When he doesn’t get it, you can tell! He was on the early side of every nap transition and the shorter side of every nap length.
Her 2nd son, Kenny, is currently 4 and more of a wild child. He could sleep 13 hours and didn’t drop his nap til he was 3 – much easier in a lot of ways, but also likes to push the limits.
So when it comes to nighttime potty training she has very different stories and methods with each of of her children. Here’s what she did with each son.
METHOD 1: DAY & NIGHT POTTY TRAINING ALL AT ONCE
With Sarah’s oldest son, John, they decided to potty train cold turkey. He had dropped a nap, was in a big bed, and was preparing to go to preschool in the fall, so they decided they’d just do everything at once – potty training it all. They decided to follow the method where you potty train for day and night at the same time! As a typical oldest child and rule-follower, John picked up on the nighttime training fast. And while in some ways that was a total win, they also found out there were some challenges with it as well.
METHOD 2: POTTY TRAIN DURING THE DAY, THEN TRAIN AT NIGHT
Kenny, Sarah’s younger son, is completely different from John. They did daytime potty training (following The Potty Consultant, Allison Jandu’s methods), but they kept pull-ups at night. Once Kenny started to wake with a dry pull-up in the morning, they decided to then tackle nighttime training.
ENCOURAGEMENT IF YOUR CHILD IS FEELING ANXIETY
Before we go into the practical tips, Sarah mentioned in the episode how her oldest son especially seemed to experience anxiety about potty training at night. We dive in deeper in the podcast episode, but if this is you, then I want you to know that you’re not alone and there are a few tips Sarah mentioned that might help!
- Pay attention to if they’re ready to be potty trained at night. Do they have dry diapers, are they an appropriate age, etc.?
- Give them some grace if they’re getting up a lot to go to the potty. They might be trying to prevent themselves from wetting the bed. Act like it’s normal, give it some time, and it will start to decrease as they get more comfortable.
- Affirm them!
- Try and relax more yourself. They will pick up on your anxiety or frustrations!
Here are some of Sarah’s tips for potty training boys.
TIP #1: WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CHILD GETS UP A LOT TO GO POTTY BEFORE BED
If your child is getting up several times a night before going to sleep, keep in mind that they may not be just stalling before bed by going to the bathroom. It may be their way of being sure that they are able to stay dry all night long! Allowing your child to get up and go as many times as they need may be just the ticket to helping them decrease their anxiety before bedtime about wetting the bed in their sleep. My biggest suggestion here: just give them time!
TIP #2: INTRODUCE A “DREAM PEE”
If you want to create what we call a “dream pee,” that might help your child as well. This is where, before you go to bed, you go in around 9:30 or 10:00, wake your child up, walk them to the bathroom, let them go to the potty, and then go back to bed. Usually in the morning, they won’t even remember doing this!
Especially if your child is waking up at like 5:30 or 6AM because that’s about as long as their bladder can make it, doing a dream pee for a couple of months could help them stretch til morning.
TIP #3: HAVE A POTTY IN THEIR BEDROOM
Alison Jandu, the Potty Training Consultant, suggests having a potty in the child’s room as an option either for these dream pees or the pre-sleep potty trips. They can get up and go right there in their rooms and it will help you to see if they’re trying to get up and just play or if they really need to empty their bladders.
One pro tip is to have a motion sensor light right by the potty so they can see when they go to the potty.
TIP #4: GIVE THEM A POTTY TORCH
I LOVE this idea. So when Sarah and her husband were ready for their son, John, to sneak down the hall to the bathroom on his own, they realized that he needed a little confidence so that he wouldn’t call out for them all the time. They went out one day to find a flashlight for him to sleep with to help him walk down the hall, and they ended up with this torch they called the Potty Torch!
They talked it up, saying things like, “This is your potty torch, and when you get up to go potty you use this to be sneaky, like a ninja, to walk through the hallway to the bathroom.” His eyes lit up and he was so excited! And it helped give him the confidence to go.
Anything from a flashlight to a glow stick would work – whatever your child thinks is awesome! Just keep it right next to their bed so they can feel confident walking down the hallway at night.
TIP #5: LIMIT LIQUIDS & DO A DOUBLE VOID
Before bed, limit the amount they’re drinking as it gets closer to bedtime so that they have less liquid in them to need to use the bathroom. Then, have them use the potty twice before they go to sleep. The “double void” helps them last longer overnight as well. For Sarah, this means her boys are going potty in their normal bedtime routine earlier on and then again once more right after stories, right before it’s time to sleep. Then, of course, Sarah encourages them that if they wake up in the night, they can use their potty torch to go to the bathroom.
FINAL WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Potty training at night can feel overwhelming! But you can keep sleep a thing even through it all. Here are some final words of encouragement and wisdom from Sarah about potty training at night:
- Make sure your child is ready, don’t force it. Look for those dry pull-ups or diapers and if there is anxiety, just give it time.
- Do what you can to make getting up at night easy, help them be confident, and let them take ownership of it – give them that “potty torch”, set up lights in the hall, etc.
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