When Should Your Child Be Potty Trained Through the Night?

I was very proud of my potty training efforts with both of my children—but that overconfidence has quickly faded into green shame! (My melodrama is intended here…)  First, let me tell you of my brilliant potty training efforts.  My son was blissfully free of diapers at a little over two years and my daughter started regularly using the potty at about seven months.  (She’s now 14 months and still in diapers, but makes the sign for “poop” and helps us avoid toilet dunking diapers most of the time!)

So here’s my dark confession.. My son, who has worn disposables at night since babyhood, is still in diapers at night.  So even though he used cloth during the day for just a few years since infancy, he has filled the landfills with his nighttime diapers for four full years.  We buy gigantic disposables and he’s managed to still fit in them without moving to pull-ups.  Although we resolutely tried to use cloth at night multiple times, persistent rashes and yeast infections eventually wore us down.

We have tried less fluids, salty foods, waking him at night, letting him wet himself, and using treats for dry diapers, all to no avail.  He’s an extremely heavy sleeper who wakes up a bit frenzied and disoriented in the middle of the night and screams when we ask him to try and pee.

Everything I’ve read indicates that kids may take years to night train.  Even up to six years!  Still, since the rest of the world potty trains far earlier than we do here in America, it seems like the night training thing should be possible.  Do you have any ides to assuage my disposable diaper guilt?  Are you in the same boat?  Help!


  1. I have 7 brothers and sisters, and all but one of us were the same way. Sometimes it’s just something that has to be outgrown, and treats, shame, and guilt won’t have any effect on the problem…they’ll just have negative effects on the child’s psyche. Just wait it out! 🙂

  2. 🙁 We’re in the same boat. Our daughter is five and just WON’T night train! We have tried all of the things you listed above as well. We have tried different kinds of cloth diapers, but she pees so much at night that they leak and I end up washing sheets every day. She uses a disposables every night and I insist on using the chlorine-free ones, so they are eating a hole in our budget. Sure do wish I knew what I could do!

  3. Have you tried a buzzer or alarm? They are a little pricey, but they work. Basically it is just an alarm that goes off when a sensor gets wet, and it wakes the child up. It helps teach a child to wake up when they need to go. They will wake up when they first start wetting, and will be able to stop, or go to the bathroom, before it becomes a full “sheet changing” indecent. It takes a few weeks, but if the child is old enough, you can keep some clean PJs/underware by the bed, and they can change themselves.

  4. Our son is a very heavy sleeper also. He was potty trained by 3 1/2 but still wet the bed at night until he was 6 when we bought an alarm (http://www.bedwettingstore.com/WET-STOP3-Bedwetting-Alarm-with-Sound-Vibration.html). Within two weeks he was staying dry and hasn’t wet at night since. The alarm trains their brain to wake up when they need to go to the bathroom. You can find them less expensively on Ebay.
    He was in pull-ups for the longest time but I hated how costly and bad for the environment they are. So I bought some washable pullups from someone on Ebay who makes them herself and I would put him in underwear, attach the alarm to that and then put the pull up on top, that way when he did wet it wasn’t a huge mess. I also bought a waterproof mattress protector (http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=6773&parentCategoryId=85180&categoryId=86184), just in case.
    It’s not a dark confession it’s just one of the harder things to deal with as a mom especially and eco-conscious one. Good luck.

  5. I’ve read that a certain percentage of kids will wet the bed at night until they are 5-10 yrs old. It would be interesting to know if that were true in other cultures, but I don’t know. My son (cloth diapered from 1 yr on) was dry at night before we even started potty training. And my 1 yr old (who uses the potty for most #2 and 2-3 times a day for #1) has started to wake up with a dry diaper about 1/3 of the time — this tells me that night time potty training does probably happen very naturally in other cultures UNLESS there is some biological impediment.

    In other words, I have no ideas for you. But I think it’s possible that beginning potty training earlier (before 12 mo., for example) might possibly help avoid the problem (if part of the issue is forming a strong habit in combination with being/becoming a very deep sleeper — after all, very few breastfeeding co-sleeping babies are SUPER deep sleepers).

    That’s my 2 cents based on zero expertise whatsoever.

  6. Bed wetting is often a totally different story than regular potty training. It happens across all populations to certain number of kids. Often it’s genetic — so if a parent had a hard time training at night their child has a higher chance of late night training. My husband wet the bed at night until late so I’m expecting it to be awhile here. His mother did as well, but that might have been more to do with the nuns at her convent school shaming and punishing her for it than something genetic.

  7. EXACT same boat here! we use disposables at night due to rashes. my first daughter was a potty “training” breeze! we didn’t even train her. she just naturally stopped wetting herself & asked for undies. my son, however – totally different story. we turned 3 in april and still wets diapers every single night, and naps too. we also use the big size diapers because they’re cheaper than pull-ups! my son is also a very deep sleeper. you just DO NOT wake him up! he becomes hysterical. he often holds conversations with me in his sleep when i think i’ve woken him up…. then we he really wakes up he is a bear! i did have a bed wetting problem as a child, but my mom always told me i trained at the ‘normal’ age…. the night wetting was later, and sporatic, not every night at all.

  8. we have the same nighttime diapering issue with yeast rashes since my son was 6 months or so. He is now 16 months and I am working a little on potty training stuff – teaching him the signs, etc. – and plan to get started at 18 months. I’m thinking the best bet may be to put him in a toddler bed with undies and waterproof sheets and myself sleep in teh hall outside his door so I can react quickly for a few weeks if needed, until he can get up and use his potty seat in his room and then go back to bed.

    But i have no experience so I may just be going to be in for a few weeks of sleepless nights (or a few days) before learning my lesson. But I do kind of think most kids can nighttime train at the same time they daytime train. SO its undies or bust for us and crossed fingers!

  9. My 4 y.o. son wears nighttime trainers and is a very heavy nighttime wetter. I have a Happy Heinys trainer and a Ladder Hill Design trainer. I have to stuff them with hemp/prefolds/mf combos. Using cloth at night is so awesome. Pullups are so expensive! Sorry to hear your little man got rashes from nighttime cloth 🙁

  10. I don’t understand the guilt. Nighttime dryness is a physical and neurological thing. The body has to be physically capable of holding urine, waking in the night to urinate and the body had to produce a hormones that assists in this. The norm is up to age 6 before this might happen. Our doc said that if we had the nighttime conversation at age 6 then it would be time to investigate the physical side and if that checked out then look at the alarms for training the body. Right before my son turned 5 he was dry at night. And that was about the norm with his classmates.

    There isn’t a thing in the world a parent can do to make the body mature faster or get that hormone to produce in the body quicker. No reason to wake a child from perfect sound sleep, no reason to change sheets night after night and make the kiddie feel embarassed.

    We cloth moms have to get over the disposable guilt! Look at what you have done by cloth diapering during the day! You can’t sacrifice your child’s health (yeast infections ouch) for the sake of using cloth at night.

  11. I am so glad I am not alone! My oldest boy trained easily at night, but my second boy is still wearing a disposable pull-up at night. We also tried cloth at night, but he had bad reactions to it unfortunately. They will do it when they are ready and not a moment sooner. No guilt! 🙂

  12. heather crusch says

    My daughter is 6 and is a very very deep sleeper. She does not use anything but a large pee pad (cloth on one side rubber on the other side) and a rubber sheet. I have tried doing with her as I did with my older 2 kids, wake them up and walk them to the potty at night. It worked for them but not my youngest. She doesn’t wake up enough to “train her brain”. Believe me I’ve tried!
    When she has accidents I just bathe her and wash her pad (and anything else that is soiled). No pull ups. No diapers. We have 5 pads so they can be rotated.
    I have not used any alarms or any other gadgets because of me calling her name, light on in the bathroom and me walking her to the potty doesn’t wake her nothing will. I guess we will just wait it out for awhile.
    Anytime she doesn’t pee she gets a “good job” but no reeards. NEVER EMBARRASS OR PUNISH YOUR CHILD FOR SOILING THEMSELVES! This whole potty training is hard enough on them. Stress will not speed up the process. My tip is be patient, limit fluids an hour before bed and have them pee twice (if possible). When we pee it doesn’t all come out. So going again about 5 minutes later empties out most the bladder. My daughter hates it because “she already went” lol
    Hope this helps.

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