Ask Rebecca: Using a pottytunity to delay bedtime

Your child is telling you she wants to be nappy free at night says Rebecca Mottram.

Dear Rebecca,

My 20-month-old is doing amazingly well with potty training. She’s had several dry days, almost a week of dry naps (2ish hours) I really shouldn’t complain, but… she asks to go several times AFTER we put her to bed. She’ll pee a decent amount before we put on PJs, and then want to go again 20 minutes later. She only ever has a few drops, but she’s so proud. And I’m SO TIRED. She’s still in a diaper for sleep, so she’s not worried about an *accident* really, I think it’s partially a stalling bedtime tactic. I don’t want to tell her to just go in her diaper, but I don’t want to get her up twelve times a night to go, either. It’s affecting her sleep but she still wakes up with the birds, so she’s grumpy. How can I encourage her to hold it without dismissing her instincts?

I would certainly agree that this is definitely a stalling tactic and as I understand it, quite a common one.  You are right to question how best to approach this since you need to give the right messages as well as teach her how to manage the situation. I loved that you asked about supporting her instincts as well; it’s so important to do this.

Dealing with night time parenting has to be one of the hardest parts of being a modern parent. I would always recommend that parents prioritise good sleep over pottying at night, but often its unavoidable. From 20 months, your daughter is very capable of being dry at night. You mention that she has had some dry naps and this is an excellent indicator that she will cope well at night without nappies (if you’re not sure about this, do watch my night time potty training webinar).  I would recommend that at this stage, it’s time to ditch the night time nappies and go for it.

Your daughter has clearly made a great connection between what the potty is for and how to use it effectively. As you say, she is doing very well in the daytime. Research shows that children who are daytime potty trained can be night time potty trained (1).

A likely scenario is that she will “grow out of it” – and by “it” I mean the novelty factor of using a potty at bedtime. Instead, I would see this as her way of telling you that she wants to be independent and that she can do it; she is literally showing you that she knows what to do! So, you need to help her manage the situation in a way that does not interfere with sleep. There are a few things you can do to help her with this, from setting reasonable boundaries to setting things up so she can be independent at night (which might also help you sleep as well).

Help her understand the cut-off point, set a routine at bedtime just like you would around anything else. To do this you might say to her that she is allowed one extra potty trip and then it’s time to sleep. If she insists on more, you might tell her that you are very proud of her and after she has gone to sleep if she wakes up and needs a wee, she can use the potty then. Tell her that her body needs to rest so she can keep growing. Showing pride in her gives her valuable recognition and showing confidence that she can do it will help to motivate her to do what you are asking.

Such tactics are part of the 7 supportive steps for night time training (which you can find out more about in my night time webinar). Make sure she has a potty in her room overnight, and a night light. In these ways you are setting her up for success. If you dress her naked from the waist down, she can use the potty independently. Naked at night will also help remind her she is not wearing a nappy. Just make sure you have good mattress protection.
If she does wet the bed, manage the accident in a positive way – even one accident can be an amazing learning opportunity for you both if you handle it well.

In terms of her sleeping, you may find that her sleep actually improves without a diaper on. It may be that it feels wrong to her now, or she may be too hot etc. She may wake up needing to wee and not know how to manage that. In short, it may be more confusing for her to wear the nappy at night now that you have reached the stage you have with daytime potty training.

Ditching nappies at night time is in fact, very much in line with what her instincts will be telling her – that she can do it! She is very likely to hold it overnight and have none or very few accidents along the way.

Best wishes,

Rebecca

References

  1. Largo RH, Stutzle W. (1977). Longitudinal study of bowel and bladder control by day and at night in the first six years of life. II: The rôle of potty training and the child’s initiative.Dev. Med. Child Neurol. Oct;19 (5):607-13.

If you have a potty dilemma, why not ask Rebecca? Submit your question to our Potty Talk series.

Rebecca Mottram, the founder of Little Bunny Bear and author of The Baby Pottying Guide for babies aged 0-18m (available now on Amazon), is a registered Children’s Nurse, potty learning researcher and consultant. Rebecca provides coaching to parents and carers around the world via private consultations and workshops. She also designs the Go Potty™ range of nappy belt systems, mattress protection and potty learning clothes and the Sew Potty™ range of sewing patterns.

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