For parents with little kids, potty training is the epitome of a necessary evil. Of course, we want our kids to become self-sufficient in the bathroom — and to stop having to buy diapers! — but the road to success is often arduous. While having little ones between the ages of 9 and 14 months stay dry during the day is a great first step, getting them to sleep through the night without any accidents is another story. With so much information floating around out there, it's hard to know what truly works. To get to the bottom of the most commonly asked questions about nighttime potty training, we asked two experts for their best advice.
When Should Kids Stop Using Pull-Ups?
Although parents may be hesitant to let their children hit the hay without a solid backup in place, once your kiddo clocks in five consecutive nights without accidents, feel free to lose the pull-ups for good.
"When a kid stays dry five nights in a row, take the diapers off," advised Jamie Glowacki, a potty-training expert and the author of Oh Crap! Potty Training ($16) and Oh Crap! I Have a Toddler ($16). "The biggest problem I see is that parents will notice that their child has stayed dry for a few weeks, but they'll keep the pull-up on and the child will revert back to relying on it."
When Should Kids Stop Drinking Fluids While Potty Training?
When it comes to ensuring children stay dry through the night, monitoring how much fluid they're drinking before bedtime is important. Of course, parents should always provide their children with water if they're thirsty, just be sure to note how much your child is actually taking in.
"I call it the upside-down pyramid of fluids," Jamie explained. "So if you were to go heavy on fluids the minute your child wakes up from the day or from a nap, you can push it a little. Get crazy straws or add a little watered-down juice or something. Be sure they're drinking more during the waking hours. You want to monitor their fluid intake after 5 p.m. or so, depending on the kid's bedtime. I suggest having them use little medicine cups — or Dixie cups — anything that will make the child feel like the cup is full, but it's really just a sip."
Are There Any Products That Make Nighttime Potty Training Easier?
Naturally, having multiple stacks of inexpensive sheets on hand is always a good idea in case of an accident, but parents should also consider buying a quality mattress cover, like the highly rated SafeRest Premium Hypoallergenic Waterproof Mattress Protector ($25 for a twin size).
"Invest in a good waterproof mattress cover for kids who are over the age of 1," Dr. Jennifer Stroud, a pediatrician at Orlando Health Physician Associates, told POPSUGAR. "They have options that zip closed or stretch over, so they keep the urine on top of the mattress and prevent it from soaking through." And if you're especially nervous about leakage, don't be afraid to use multiple mattress covers. Simply put a top sheet between each layer to ensure your kiddo's bed is still comfy.
Should Kids Help With Cleaning Up Accidents?
No one likes being woken up in the middle of the night, especially parents who are already sleep-deprived, but alas, sometimes duty calls by way of an accident. It's understandably easy to get frustrated in these moments, but keeping your cool and involving your child in the cleanup process is important.
"Let the kids participate in cleaning up," Dr. Stroud urged. "Don't make it a punitive thing, and try not to get angry. Say something along the lines of: 'OK, you went to bed, that was an accident. It's time to clean it up.' Make your reaction very matter-of-fact, and encourage them to participate in cleaning it up so that they have a responsibility in the process as well."
Ultimately, while every parent wants their kids to succeed with potty training off the bat, sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. "Kids are all different, so you can't compare," Jamie said. "Your neighbor might have gotten their child potty trained in three days. Your kid might take a little longer. It's your kid's learning curve. Don't judge it. Don't say things, 'Oh, my kid's doing terrible.' No, your kid's just taking a little bit longer."