Getting your toddler out of nappies at night can seem like a never-ending saga – from dragging yourself out of bed at stupid o’clock to change soaked sheets, to constantly having to put the washing machine on, it’s enough to push the sanest mum over the edge.
But whether this is your first or tenth attempt, here’s how to get help get your toddler dry at night and nappy-free.
Getting your toddler dry at night: 7 things to remember
1. Night-time dryness doesn’t happen at the same time as potty training
While you should wait until your toddler is dry in the day, it can take months or even years for some children to master night-time dryness, so don’t take away bedtime nappies until you feel he’s ready.
“If you find your toddler’s nappy is soaked most mornings, wait until his nappies are drier before you start,” says Kate Daymond, health visitor and sleep consultant. “Some children can be school age before they’re dry at night so don’t worry if your toddler is still trying to master it,” says Kate. “And often boys are slower than girls.”
2. You’ll need to be prepared for bed wetting
Although you don’t want to whip the night nappies away too quickly, you don’t want your toddler to get used to always relying on one. There’s only one way to see how he’ll cope through the night without a nappy and that’s to take it off.
“It can be tempting to leave the nappy on for longer than needed because it’s easier, and part of your routine,” says Kate. “Be brave and try taking it off – but only if he’s dry for at least five mornings a week.”
3. Be calm when bed wetting happens
“Never tell your toddler off for bed wetting,” says Kate. “And don’t go to the extreme and make a big fuss at night as this will teach him that it’s a good way to get attention.” If he can manage it put a potty by his bed with a towel underneath so he can get up quickly in the night if he needs to. It’s also a good idea to keep a nightlight on.
4. Don’t rush your toddler’s night-time dryness
“If you have three dry nights in a row things are working, but if there’s no progression, there’s no hurry,” says Kate. And sometimes toddlers stay dry for a while and then regress.
“But before putting him back in nappies, check there haven’t been any big changes in his life, like starting nursery, moving house, or a new baby. If there have be patient until things settle down as you probably won’t need to start again.”
5. Add a toilet trip at the end of your toddler’s bedtime routine
Don’t forget to make the toilet the last stop before bed so your toddler’s bladder will be empty before he goes to sleep. “It’s also a good idea to stop giving squashes or fizzy drinks after 5pm. Instead only give him water,” says Kate.
6. Try mattress or sheet protectors
“It’s a good idea to use a mattress protector as it’ll make your life easier during those late night changes,” says Kate. Also make sure you have clean bedding, towels and clothes close to hand and leave the landing light on too, so you can see what you’re doing with minimal fuss.
7. Getting your toddler dry at night takes time (and patience)
Be patient – dry nights involve lots of trying and heaps of encouragement for your child. And don’t let mummy pals put you under pressure to get your toddler dry at night too early, as every child is different. “It can take several weeks before you marvel over dry nappies in the morning, but it will happen,” reassures Mary, 27, from London, mum to Tom, 3.
What to do when your child has bed-wetting regression – one mum’s story
Sometimes a child goes back to bedwedding after they’ve been dry for some time. “Linh’s bed-wetting started out of the blue not long after her fourth birthday,” says Jane, 33, mum to Linh, 4. “The first time it was a one-off, then it progressed to once a week.
“It became more frequent, until she was wetting the bed practically every night. She’d wake up and cry out in the middle of the night, then we’d have to go in and change her. There wasn’t anything new going on and she didn’t have an infection.
“After about 3 weeks we really needed to try something different, and I started to research the subject. We discovered that we needed to give her more water during the day to increase her bladder capacity and to make sure she didn’t get any sort of irritation. We also tried to get her to hold on for a very short time before emptying her bladder.
“We stopped giving her a drink after her tea and encouraged her to go to the loo just before bed. If she was wet in the night, we made sure she was fully awake and that she went to the loo and helped clear up in the morning. We kept it as light as possible – we weren’t trying to ‘punish’ her! It took a few weeks to work.”
What the expert says
Children’s sleep consultant, Melissa Bielecki, explains, “If a child wets the bed once, there’s a temptation to restrict her fluids. But cutting back on her intake can lead to bladder irritation. As Linh’s parents know, with a child this age, you need her to wake up and say she needs the loo, or to take herself off to the bathroom.
“If your child doesn’t find it too upsetting, going back to pull-ups at night can help take the strain off everyone. With children who suddenly start bed-wetting again, it’s a good idea to take them to the doctor to check for any infection.”