4 unexpected night-time potty-training issues

Plus, advice on how to handle them. By Tammy Jacks

If you’ve mastered daytime potty training with your little one, you might be moving into the night-time potty training territory. But do you really know what to expect? One mom shares her story, plus we have some expert advice to help you navigate this new milestone.

ALSO SEE: The one thing I wish I knew before potty training my child

When is my child ready for night-time potty training?

According to researchers, the average age for night-time potty training is between four and five years old. The American Academy of Family Physicians says day and night potty training are different skills, so it’s important not to rush your child into night-time potty training before he’s ready.

If your child still has a full, wet nappy when he wakes up in the morning and he’s not really bothered by it, chances are, he’s not quite ready for night-time potty training. Even when your child is ready to drop his nappy at night, accidents can happen. In fact, bedwetting is quite normal among kids (statistics show between 5 and 7 million kids in the US don’t make it through the night without having an accident).

ALSO SEE: Everything you need to know about bedwetting

But what about those unexpected night-time potty training issues that arise? We address some of the trickiest…

Your child is dry at night, but wakes in the early hours for a wee

Solution: Before you get upset about being woken up too early, celebrate the fact your child has mastered a major life skill of being dry at night. The rest will sort itself out in time!

If your little one consistently wakes up early, be patient and know that this might just be a phase and your child will soon learn he should go back to sleep after each trip to the potty or toilet. However, it’s not always fair to expect your child to go back to sleep if he wakes up at 5.30am for a wee. For some kids, this wake-up time is normal.

Tammy Jacks, a writer and mom of a four-year-old daughter says, “Although I was proud of my daughter for deciding for herself that she was ready to drop her night nappy, I didn’t expect her to wake up before 5am to wee every single morning, but that’s exactly what she did.

Instead of scolding her, I praised her for sleeping through the night and simply adjusted her bedtime to 30 minutes earlier to accommodate the early morning wake-ups. This helped to ensure she got enough sleep for her age. Soon enough, she was back to sleeping a little later, while still staying dry.”

Your child calls you multiple times a night to wee

Solution: This might be due to drinking too much fluid before bed. For instance, some kids still find it comforting to drink warm milk or tea before bed. Rather than making a fuss of how much your child drinks before bed, ensure he drinks enough during the day. This might help him to drink less before bed. Then, slowly bring his night-time drink a little earlier so he has time to wee properly before bed.
Also, when some children start to sleep without a nappy at night, they become hyper aware of wearing underpants and might feel the “sensation” of needing the toilet even though their bladders aren’t entirely full. This is OK and will normalise once your child masters the skill and learns to trust his body, and his bladder, to hold his wee at night.

 ALSO SEE: 4 tips for night-time potty training

Your child doesn’t sleep well again after a trip to the toilet at 2am

Solution: Studies show that children have more REM sleep and light non-REM sleep in the second half of the night. Children wake more easily from this sleep, so they might wake up more during this time than at the beginning of the night. And if they need to wee around this time, they might wake up fully to go to the loo.

If this happens with your child, stay consistent and let him know it’s still night-time and he needs to sleep. Avoid too much eye contact or talking and be firm if he wants to stay awake. Try a shortened version of his night-time routine – such as a quick story, cuddle and kiss and maintain this routine every time he wakes to wee.

Also ensure your child is wearing pyjamas that are easy to pull down and pull back up. Onesies with zips are tricky to handle at 2am – and this might wake your child.

And when it comes to sleep cycles, the good news is, in the early childhood years, sleep cycles get longer as children get older, so your child will more than likely outgrow this phase.

Your child is too scared to walk alone to the toilet

Solution: Although you might not expect this, it’s quite normal for kids to be fearful of going to the toilet on their own at night. Try these tips:

  • Put a potty close to your child’s bed so he doesn’t have to walk far to the toilet while he’s still getting used to it.
  • Use a dim night light in the passage or your child’s bathroom so he sees, and recognises, the route to the toilet.
  • Tell your child it’s OK to call you if he needs to wee. When you take him, make sure it’s as quick and painless as possible.
  • You could also put a dim yellow night light next to your child’s bed so when he wakes to wee, he’s not disoriented and feels comforted by the light.
  • Give him plenty of praise if he manages to go without you. Soon, this will become second nature for him.
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