When to Use Diapers at Night During Potty Training

Question: Will He Tell Us When He Needs to Potty and Should We Use Diapers at Night?

A reader asks:

"Our 21-month-old has been able to pee on the toilet even if held onto one since he was 12 months old. But he won't tell us when he has to go. If we put him on every 1.5-2 hours, he doesn't have an accident and is starting to poop if we catch him in time. Will he eventually tell us? He stays dry during most naps which are 2.5-3 hours long. He wears underwear and we know that you can't put them back in diapers as it sends the wrong message. What if we put him in a diaper at night?"

Answer: You mention that he's been using the potty when you put him on it and you've been doing this for nearly a year. What this indicates to me is that maybe he is not the one who is potty trained. You are the ones who are trained to take him to the potty. In a way, you have conditioned him. He really doesn't have much of a reason to tell you of his potty needs and he doesn't have much motivation to go on his own if he knows that you are always (or even frequently) going to do that work for him.

Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just means that you should take a step back and allow some accidents to happen. Be verbal with him, but do not scold or be harsh when these accidents occur. Take the time to say what it is that he needs to do. Give him the words that you would like him to use. Say them for him at first. Give him some room to develop this independence and be patient because it may take some time.

But rest assured, he will probably pick it up pretty quickly since he's already been using the potty with your guidance.

You ask about diapers at night. Night training takes longer to accomplish in children. The choice of whether or not to use diapers, training pants or just plain underwear is yours.

It truly is a personal preference and doesn't really help speed up or slow down a child's ability to have dry nights.

What it comes down to is what you and your child want to deal with. If you want to try waking your child up several times a night to keep the bed dry, you can try underwear. If you don't want to wake your child up but still want to use underwear, expect that you will be changing wet sheets frequently until your child gains night time bladder control. This can take a year or often longer after daytime potty training is accomplished. You can get mattress protectors and learn to "double sheet" to make middle-of-the-night cleanup easier if desired. Just put one sheet on the bed, on top of that, place a layer of protective cloth (these are usually vinyl or rubber backed) and then put another sheet on top of that. When an accident happens, just pull up the top layer and the bed's made and ready for sleeping again.

If you choose to use Pull-ups or a diaper, chances are you'll be dealing with less cleanup, but these can leak, so a mattress protector is still a pretty good idea.

Here are what some parents have said about night training and using diapers or Pull-ups:

"My step-daughter is 5 and wearing the Goodnites now.

We tried letting her sleep in panties to try and break her -- no luck -- she does not even wake up when she wets the bed, just keeps sleeping in it."

"I have four children and used diapers, Pull-ups or Goodnites until they trained at night... Mine usually quit wetting the bed around 4 years or about a year after they were potty trained... I think they will quit bed wetting when they are able. I don't think that they do it on purpose."

"We were also very frustrated and asked the doctor what to do... She basically told us that sometimes it takes time for the bladder to catch up with the child.

She said to give it time and that by age 6 most kids grow out of it.
My son never woke up if he had an accident. He'd sleep right through it until the morning."

"My daughter told us when she was 34 months that she did not want to wear a diaper to bed at night, so we started getting her up at 10:30 p.m. to pee and on most nights that did the trick for us. Now at 36 months she gets up and goes by herself. I do think it is individual to each child. Some children just take more time than others."

    I hope this helps, and good luck to both of you.

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