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Baby Sleep Science Mini Blog: Toilet Training and Sleep

We are big fans of waiting until your child is good and ready for toilet training before attempting to begin! For some children, this may be under age 2 and for others not until age 3 or later. Summer is often easier than winter. Watch for interest and readiness, please try to avoid anxiety and pressure and comparisons to other children! Prepare for accidents, keep a travel potty in your car, and lots of wipes, baggies, and changes of clothing. If you start too young, chances are you’re setting yourself and your child up for weeks and months of frustration and accidents.

If you have taken the plunge into to learning to use the potty, here are some key things to remember when it comes to sleep:

  1. At first, don’t even go there at night! Your 2 or 3 year old (or even 4 year old!) maybe not be able to physiologically “hold it” for 10-12 hours at night and we would hate to see you restricting fluids, especially in the summer! Sometimes, the only way to get a dry night at this age, is to wake yourself in the night for a potty run or take your sleeping child to the toilet before your go to sleep, and that is disruptive and no fun for anyone! So, although you may be working on toilet training during the day, put something absorbent on your child at night and don’t even mention it! It may be helpful to literally say “night night” to the potty or “see you in the morning potty” so your child has a concrete separation from the toilet and “permission” to go in a diaper overnight.

  2. If you prefer the option for nighttime toilet use OR if using the toilet has become a stall tactic, or free pass for your child to get out of the crib or bed and take a leisurely tour of the hallway and bathroom, get creative! Put a small portable potty in your child’s room (sure, put towels under it and some sanitizing wipes if you want) and let your child have one curtain call after tuck in. If you hear, “I have to go potty” after tuck in, respond to your child. Keep it dark, calm, quiet and boring. Sit him on the potty in the room (keep it dark!), and pop him right back into bed when the pee pee or poo has happened. Remember – no talking! No reminding, “hurry upping”, bribing, sighing, etc. If you must say something, say “I love you, it’s night night time”. No stickers, stars, rewards, or whatever it is you are doing during the day. These bedtime potty tactics should quickly lose their luster and subside.

  3. The urge to void is suppressed overnight. When kids are ready for a dry night they usually are dry most of the night, and then do a very big wet in the morning. You might try waking up a few minutes before your child typically does and taking him to the potty in the morning just before that first void until he gets the hang of “holding it” on his own.

  4. Before overnight dryness expectations you’ll want to be sure your child is not drinking large volumes of liquid at night. Some kids stop taking milk, but their parents switch it for sippy cups full of water. This is rarely a necessity, rather a habit, and can create increased urine production. Small sips of water at bedtime are adequate as well as a great day of hydration!

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