You potty trained your kid at age 3. You still kept them in a diaper while sleeping at night because you weren’t sure if they would be able to hold it overnight. Totally normal. And you were right too, because they would wake up every morning with a wet diaper. But then, as they turned 4 or even 5 years old, you started to wonder, “should my kid still be wearing diapers at night?”
How can I get them to stop?
It’s something a lot of parents deal with. It’s normal. Just because your child is potty trained doesn’t mean they’re developed enough to go 10 hours without using the potty.
This is something we dealt with as our 4 year old turned the corner to age 5, and in some ways, it’s harder than daytime potty training for certain kids.
We did our research to figure out some effective strategies. Here’s what we found.
Wearing Diapers at Night: What’s the right age to worry?
Naturally, the first thing we wanted to figure out is what the right age is to consider this a real issue. It’s not an exact science.
3 years old is too young to worry about it. And 10 years old is waaaay too old to be dealing with this. We know the right answer is somewhere in between.
The tricky part is, kids develop along different timelines. Therefore, the range of “normal” behavior is probably wider than you’d expect.
After all, kids have different sleep patterns, different fluid intakes, different bedtimes, and kids will physically have different abilities to “hold it” at night. All of this eventually works out as they get older, but there isn’t a magical age at which it all happens in any sort of consistent way.
With that said, waiting for nighttime diaper wetting to naturally stop on its own isn’t always the best way to go for all kids. Some kids will need some additional “training” to be able to adjust to holding it overnight.
So, to answer the question from the beginning of this section: what’s the right age to worry?
The answer is, if your child is somewhere between ages 4-6, you shouldn’t necessarily worry. But you should discuss it with your pediatrician and get their professional opinion (we are not pediatricians!).
So let’s rephrase the question:
When should I start doing something about wearing diapers at night?
Most believe that, at around age 4 or 5, it’s a good time to start nighttime potty training. Even if your child will eventually get there “naturally” on their own, you can still help them get there sooner with a few different strategies.
How to Get Your Child to Stop Wearing Diapers at Night
#1 Watch for dry diapers
This isn’t going to happen to every kid, but just as your child starts becoming potty trained during the day, you may start to see them occasionally wake up with dry diapers at night, around age 3.
This is apparently the magic window to start doing some form of nighttime potty training, because your child’s body has shown you they are physically capable of holding it.
If you’re like us though, you may have missed this window. We did. We continued using nighttime pull-ups and the occasional dry diapers stopped.
Oops, we didn’t know any better.
That’s OK though, it’s not the end of the world. Let’s move onto the next tip.
#2 Limit fluids in the evening
This is perhaps the most obvious and easiest thing to control. If your child is drinking a lot before bed, they’re going to have a hard time keeping their diapers dry at night.
Think about when you drink a lot before bed – you probably wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
So, make sure they get plenty of fluids throughout the day and adequate fluids at dinner. But cut it off there. It may be not be easy at first, and will be hard to resist your toddler telling you they are thirsty.
But this is the first fundamental change you need to make to the nightly routine if you want a better chance at having dry diapers.
#3 Make sure going potty is part of the bedtime and wake-up routine
If your child is still in pull-ups, it’s easy for them to not bother jumping out of bed to go to the potty in the morning or not bother telling you they have to go before getting into bed.
Much like everything else, it’s on you to make it part of the routine.
The last thing your child does before he or she climbs into bed should be going to the potty. And it’s the first thing they should do when they wake up.
The bedtime part is easier to manage than the wake up part. One thing you can do if you know approximately what time your child wakes up is to be there when they wake up to encourage them to go to the bathroom right away.
Do this a few times and it will become routine.
#4 Consider starting bottomless
This is a common recommendation for daytime potty training, and guess what? It can work at night too.
Sometimes the sensation of wearing something (like pull-ups or underwear) can give your child a sense of comfort that leads them to having more accidents. After all the years of wearing diapers, kids develop a sort of muscle memory that may lead them to having accidents when wearing underwear at night.
So, consider starting bottomless (or at least with loose pajamas and no underwear). That alone may kick start your kid’s successful nighttime potty training.
#5 (Optional) Set up a small potty and night light in your child’s room
I read this tip from someone else and honestly it wasn’t something I had thought of before. But I think it’s something that could work well: setting up a small potty in your child’s room, with a night light.
If your child finds it difficult to get up in the middle of the night and go all the way to the normal potty (especially if they need typically need help), this may be a good interim solution.
While you would like them to eventually use the actual bathroom, these helps build good habits and reinforces the behavior of getting up and going during the night.
Every kid is different, but you have to start somewhere.
There’s no magical age to stop wearing diapers at night. And yes, some kids will figure it out on their own. Every kid is different.
But assuming they don’t figure it out on their (most won’t for a while), you need to actively try and make it happen. And guess what? It’ll happen eventually, so don’t stress too much about it.
Do you have any other tips for getting kids to stop wearing diapers at night? Leave a comment below!