Inside: Nighttime potty training for heavy sleepers can be SO frustrating. Get tips and advice from a mom who’s successfully trained one heavy sleeper and is in the middle of training a second. Plus, all the supplies that are essential to nighttime potty training success!
We just started nighttime potty training our second child, who apparently is a ridiculously heavy sleeper. As with our oldest, who is also a heavy sleeper, we kept waiting for it to happen naturally. I expected him to start having the occasional dry pull-up two years ago.
A year ago.
Six months ago.
One month ago.
Those dry pull-ups never came.
Unfortunately, some children just have small bladders. When they are also heavy sleepers, the difficulty of nighttime potty training is multiplied times a hundred!
They get those small bladders from us, you know! My husband recently told me that he gets up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, every single night.
Sometimes, getting older is the only thing that will make nighttime potty training a heavy sleeper easier, but it doesn’t mean you can’t try at different intervals to see if you can ditch those pull-ups.
No matter when you choose to start nighttime potty training a heavy sleeper, these strategies and tips and help! Also, it is absolutely essential that you have all the supplies you’ll need before you start. You really don’t want to wake up two days in to realize you don’t have extra sheets or any clean underwear.
Nighttime potty training a heavy sleeper is rough. Have grace for yourself (and your heavy sleeper), follow these tips and get everything on this list to make the process so much easier.
5 Tips for Nighttime Potty Training a Heavy Sleeper
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If you don’t succeed the first time around, these pull-ups are the only ones I could find that didn’t leak – unless he’d had WAY too much to drink the night before.
1. Choose a non-stressful time to start nighttime potty training.
Thinking of starting to nighttime potty train right after you have a baby? Don’t.
How about before or after a move? Nope.
First week of school? Scratch that, too.
You need to choose a good time both for you and for your child. Choose a time that is not stressful, and you’ll be able to handle the extra wake-ups and laundry.
If you’re pushing to nighttime potty train because you’re trying to save money, I’m going to tell you right now: it doesn’t save you that much money. The extra laundry detergent and water for the sheets add up quickly.
Choose a non-stressful couple of weeks, just like when you did daytime potty training.
2. Remember your heavy sleeper really can’t wake himself up.
This tip is HUGE.
When you are super frustrated that your child can’t stop having accidents at night, you need to remember that they just can’t help it. No, really – they can’t.
They don’t even remember having the accident.
Someone in my life suggested that I make my child wash their own bedding every day after the accidents at night. Like that would help them wake up at night to go potty.
Don’t take out your nighttime potty training frustrations on your child. It will only cause shame about something they can do nothing about.
3. Cut back on the liquids 1-2 hours before bed.
You can decide how strict to be on this one. Personally, I’m kind of a softy about drinks before bed, mostly because I get thirsty before bed.
With my daughter who is a heavy sleeper, after six months of accidents almost every.single.night, we cut back to only one or two sips of water in the two hours before bed. That eventually helped, but she still had accidents every other night for the next few months.
If you do allow a small drink before bed, I suggest enforcing a double potty the hour before bed rule. That has finally helped with my son to reduce and/or eliminate accidents.
4. Try to wake your child to use the potty before you go to bed.
Your success with this will depend on the child. My daughter was able to wake up enough to use the bathroom.
My son? I’ve tried several times with only one success, and that was a near disaster. He was so angry at being awakened that I expected him to pee all over the bathroom floor. Thankfully, he chose to get it in the potty, instead.
If you have a super compliant child and start younger than I did, you may have more success with this technique.
5. Stick to a solid bedtime routine.
I’ve found that whenever we shift bedtime dramatically – more than an hour difference – accidents are almost guaranteed. There is something about being off their normal routine that also affects nighttime potty training.
For the first few months, do your best to get your heavy sleeper to bed at the same time every night.
Related: 10 Tips for Creating a Night Routine for Kids (that tames bedtime chaos)
7 Things You’ll Need for Nighttime Potty Training a Heavy Sleeper
1. Quality Waterproof Mattress Protectors
If you don’t already have a waterproof mattress protector, now is the time to buy them.
You need at least two. Four would be better.
You’re going to be doing a lot of laundry for a while. If something crazy happens and you don’t get to the laundry, you’ll be thankful to have a second set.
We recently purchased a mattress protector similar to THIS one , and it is holding up beautifully to daily washings. Just be dry the cover on low to maintain the waterproof barrier. High heat can break down the barrier, which leads to leaks, and these aren’t cheap!
You definitely want to go with quality on this one. We’ve tried the ten dollars ones, and we might as well have thrown that money in the trash can.
Buy the good ones and take good care of them!
2. Extra Sheets and Blankets
Extra sheets are a must. You’ll be double layering your child’s bed for easy middle of the night sheet changes. If your child happens to pee through boy layers (like mine), you are going to want extra sheets.
One way to save yourself money and frustration is to ditch the top sheet altogether. We only use bottom sheets and blankets for our kids’ beds.
3. Extra Laundry Baskets
Still in the laundry department, you will need an extra laundry basket or two. You don’t want disgusting sheets tossed onto the bedroom carpet in the middle of the night.
I am a minimalist, but with a family our size, you really can’t have too many laundry baskets! We purchased this set of 6, and as long as the kids don’t use them to build castles, they last a long time.
4. Extra Underwear and Pajamas
Extra, extra, extra. Are you sensing a theme here?
Now is also a good time to make sure your child has enough underwear and pajamas to last the entire nighttime potty training process. While I do advocate that kids need fewer clothes, pajamas are an exception when you’re in the middle of nighttime potty training.
It may be that your child gets the hang out it in a week. Bless you – I really hope that happens for your sake.
Orrrr, you could be like me and not see progress for six months or more. Just get the extra pajamas and underwear already.
We love our pajamas from Primary.com. They are cozy, hold up well to multiple washings, and are gender neutral.
Buy them in gender neutral colors, and you’ve got easy hand me downs for any gender.
You can also find affordable boy’s underwear here (my son loves these! He talks about how comfy they are all the time), and girl’s underwear here.
Related: Primary.com Clothing Review
5. Nightlight for the Bathroom
If you don’t already have a nightlight for the bathroom, now you need one. There is nothing worse than a glaring bathroom light when you’re trying to get your child to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
We’ve had this one for years, and it’s held up well.
6. Disposable Mattress Pads
When you decide to nighttime potty train a heavy sleeper, you need to commit to a time period to try. If, like me, you just decide that you need to bite the bullet and just commit for the long haul, you may be at this a while (sorry – mom of five kids being real!)
If you’ve been at it for several weeks, or if life happens and you’re just too tired to deal with nighttime potty training (but you don’t want to go back to pull-ups), you’ll want to have some of these disposable mattress pads on hand to give yourself a break.
Keep a trash can and an extra pad close by the bed, and your child may even be able to take care of the whole thing himself without waking you up! We all have limits. Sometimes, you just need to rest and enjoy a short break before going back to doing multiple loads of laundry a day.
7. Coffee (For You)
You may already be used to interrupted sleep. However, if you’ve just started getting full nights of sleep, returning to waking up multiple times a night can make you feel like a walking zombie.
Before you start, make sure you are stocked up on your favorite form of caffeine: coffee, tea, soda, chocolate. You’re gonna need it!
One of the best birthday gifts I ever received was my Keurig (it’s still going strong!). I really don’t know how I survived the rest of motherhood without it.
The ability to have a fresh, hot cup of coffee in an instant (instead of a lukewarm or burned pot that I kept meaning to get back to) is life-changing.
Nighttime Potty Training for Heavy Sleepers: What You Need Above All Else
Finally, to survive nighttime potty training a heavy sleeper, you definitely need a healthy dose of optimism.
You have to embrace the age-old mantra, “This too shall pass.”
The overwhelming majority of children nighttime potty train by the age of seven.
It really doesn’t last forever. As a matter of fact, my son had his first dry night last night, when I thought it would take weeks.
Keep your chin up and persevere! Dry beds and full nights of sleep are somewhere in your future.
Read Next: The Easiest Way to Early Potty Train a One-Year-Old
Thanks for this! Curious, how long do you wake your kid up at night? How do you know his body has been trained to get up at night and you can stop waking him? I’ve been waking my son up at night for a few nights, and he has no recollection in the morning. Seems to be sleepwalking through the motions. So I wonder if he’s learning anything…
My oldest two struggled with nighttime potty training until they were 7 and 9 respectively. The night waking helped when they were small enough to carry to the bathroom, and they were then able to make it to the morning and stay dry. For those two particularly, when I would have another baby or we moved, it would disrupt our schedule, and I couldn’t keep it up with two of them. If you only have one you’re working with, and it’s not hard to fit into your nighttime routine before you go to bed (as in, you’re not losing sleep over it), and it’s actually helping (they’re staying dry until the morning), I would stick with it.
Belive or not but i have 11 years old who still potty in her bed and day time clothes, It is very frustrating and cant wait to try this website thank you
I’m so sorry you’re still dealing with this. Just remember it’s not your child’s fault, and at that age, make sure to check with your pediatrician to see if a referral to a specialist is warranted. Good luck!
Thank you so much for this informative and useful article. We are in the thick of it and so appreciate this!
GRATEFUL FOR YOUR POST. I have a 12 y/o (step)son who, as you might have guessed, is a ‘Heavy Sleeper.’ I was settling in for the night after our very similar routine and wondering when to ditch the Goodnite pull-up’s. We do the routine and have done the waking and even been to urologists. Sometimes we are dry for the five days he is here, and some days we aren’t. It’s heartbreaking, really. I, too, am a mother of 5 and it is hard when an older kid has an issue that is easily an object of ridicule. But any way… I’m rambling. Thank you very much for your post.
That’s so hard Kristin! Not enough pediatricians talk about this, and it can be so embarrassing for kids. Hang in there!