When is the right time to start night time potty training?

This is such a frequent question asked in my group Potty Learning Support (from birth to independence). Let’s break down the myths and limiting beliefs that you might have encountered surrounding night time potty training so you can make the right decision for your family.

I’ve heard that children can’t be dry at night until their hormones change

This is one of the myths I cover in the naps & night time module of my Advanced Pottty Training courses. The ADH hormone does play a role in night-time dryness, but this hormone is actually present from birth! There are a small number of children (less than 5%), who do have a problem with hormone production, and misrepresented data from studies about these children is where this myth comes from. The earlier you begin potty learning, the better your child’s bladder and bowel health will be so the sooner you begin, the less likely you are to encounter these problems.

The key is: being dry at night is a skill you can teach your child. 95% of the time, hormones will be doing their job, and you don’t need to “wait” for some internal switch to take place. 

If you haven’t started introducing the potty during the day yet, try my FREE Get That Bot On The Pot course.

Should I wait until I’m done with night time feeds?

Not at all, you can start using the potty at night as early as birth! Breastmilk stimulates the bowels so it’s common for babies to poop during or straight after a feed. For parents who practice Baby Pottying/Elimination Communication, simply position them over the top hat potty during night feeds to catch it.

As your child grows and develops, they may need fewer feeds at night. However, night time waking is not always to do with feeds (as anyone with a child who wakes at night will already know!). Research shows that the earlier you start potty learning, during the day and/or at night, the quicker your child will learn the necessary skills to be dry at night.

Should I wait until they are sleeping through the night/waking up dry?

In a nutshell, the answer is “no”, and also “it’s up to you”.

Before you ditch nappies completely: When it comes to all potty learning, whatever age you start can have a benefit. We know that babies wake frequently in the night*, and most parents who help their tiny babies use a potty at night say that is less hassle than changing a pooey nappy. This doesn’t mean they don’t wear nappies – just that when they wake you also offer them a potty. Using a potty at night can really help your child to learn a good basis of skills for later independence.

For older toddlers ready to ditch nappies:  Research shows that children who are potty trained in the day usually quickly become dry at night without much intervention from you, within around 6 months. However, there is a lot you can do to help this along – see our course on how to teach your child the skills they need. By implementing potty use into your toddler’s bedtime routine and thinking carefully about how to set them up for success, you can start helping your toddler potty train at night as soon as you start formal potty training.

About “sleeping through”:  Do you always sleep through the night without ever waking to shift position, go for a wee, or drink a sip of water? Of course you don’t! Most adults don’t sleep for 8-10 hours without waking up and neither do babies (Hysing, Harvey, Torgersen, Ystrom, Reichborn-Kjennerud and Sivertsen 2014), so when studies refer to ‘sleeping through the night’ they actually refer to the child sleeping for a consecutive 6-hour stretch without signaling their parents.

About “waking up dry”: This is a recognised strategy. You simply wait until the nappies come up dry in the morning before ditching them at night. My advice is you can try this if your child is under 3 and you have completed day time potty training in the last 6 months. But if your child is over 3 and has been dry in the day for a while, it’s not a good strategy. The bladder needs to develop good habits and this does not include using nappies. In fact, disposable nappies or pull-ups actively prevent children from learning the skills they need for being dry at night. There is a lot you can do to help your child develop good habits and gently teach them to be dry at night.

When should I get started?

As we’ve already established, most parents who practice Baby Pottying/Elimination Communication during the day also use the potty at night, but some choose to use nappies at night instead and this is ok so long as your child is below the age of 3. Getting enough sleep should be the priority for you and your baby, but research tells us that for a child over the age of 3, it is important to start night time potty training as soon as possible, ideally within 6 months of day time potty training  completion.

My top 5 tips for night time potty training

1. Start sooner rather than later.
The most gentle learning curve comes from introducing the potty from birth, even if you also use nappies at first. No matter what, children begin learning from birth so waiting until your child is older to begin learning means they have to unlearn what they have already learned and effectively change their whole way of life!

2. Enroll in my Advanced Potty Training course
It covers everything you need to know about when and how to potty train at night, plus what the research tells us about nighttime dryness and when to seek medical attention.
Learn more about Little Bunny Bear’s range of Potty Learning courses.

3. Use nap time as practice for night time
Being sleep deprived or having your sleep interrupted can make it challenging to introduce the potty at night. If your child still has naps, it can be helpful to start using the potty before and after they nap to establish that routine before you start to expect them to know what to do at night.

4. Ditch the nappies, protect the mattress
Disposable nappies feel dry as soon as they are soiled which dulls your child’s sense of what their body is doing. Using them at night makes it easier for your baby to ignore that they need go potty and fall right back to sleep, when what you need is for them to use the potty first.  Accidents are part of the learning process but we have got you covered with the perfect all-natural mattress protection. See the video below to learn about our Puddle Pads.

If you want to continue using nappies, another way to prevent them from dulling your child’s senses is to use a Nappy Cloth.

5. Turn the lights down low…
Keep things as unstimulating as possible when helping your child use the potty at night – low lights, quiet voices, and gentle movements will all help them to go back to sleep after going potty. As they get older, making it easier for them to reach the potty or toilet without you – such as taking the side off the cot/bed or removing any baby gates between them and the bathroom can also help.

*Trajectories and Predictors of Nocturnal Awakenings and Sleep Duration in Infants by Hysing, Mari., Harvey, Allison G., Torgersen, Leila., Ystrom, Eivind.,Reichborn-Kjennerud, Ted.,Sivertsen, Borge. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: June 2014 – Volume 35 – Issue 5 – p 309-316

2 thoughts on “When is the right time to start night time potty training?

  1. Maria says:

    I really agree with everything on this page. It just seems impossible to get any medical source that confirms the fact, that it is a myth, that hormones would need to develop in order for night time dryness to be possible. Have you read any source of this?

    • littlebunnybear says:

      Hi Maria, of course! I’m a children’s research nurse so everything I post is fully evidence based and supported by peer-supported research. If you look at the bottom of the post, I cite my references for night time there.

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