In Dante's Inferno, Hell is described as having various levels that dive ever-deeper into the bowels of the Earth. The lower the ring, the worse the sin. The final ring, home of winged Satan himself, is reserved for traitors. But millions of parents around the world know, somewhere below that ring... is potty training. And one of the most challenging aspects of the whole ordeal is what to do after your kid goes to bed. Honestly, how do you potty train at night?
Romper spoke to potty training consultant Allison Jandu because, at least in my experience, curling up in the fetal position and sobbing uncontrollably will not, in fact, help potty train your toddler at night.
Look, it's one thing when you and your toddler are awake and you're dedicated to the process and asking them if they have to pee every 20 minutes. And seriously, that's annoying enough. But at night? You're sleeping and they're sleeping (almost certainly via tremendous effort on your behalf), so the idea that you're really going to have to make this a 24/7 effort is nothing if not monumentally exhausting.
Jandu generally suggests just going for it all at once. "It is most efficient and faster to do it all at the same time. You're doing it anyway, so... if you are able to do it all at the same time, go all in," she tells Romper. The main benefit for this "all in" strategy — other than generally getting things over with quicker — is that you avoid confusing for your child by remaining consistent. In other words, if your kid knows there aren't a different set of diaper rules at night, they will always know what to expect and what is expected of them.
"You also don't have to worry about them holding it until they get their nighttime diaper on," Jandu says.
You'll start to see your child having dry nights... developmentally it could just fall into place.
How exactly do you go about night-training? Jandu says there is no "one-size-fits-all" answer to this very real quandary. Limiting liquids leading up to bedtime (and cutting them completely at least a half an hour before), encouraging kids to go to the bathroom before bed, and then waking them up to try again before you go to bed, are all strategies some parents have found helpful. And then there are personal tricks you can find along the way. For example, one way my partner and I limited liquids before bed was giving my son his nighttime drink of water in a little plastic shot glass. That way he felt he was getting a "cup" of water, but his bladder wasn't. (Also, not gonna lie, plastic mattress protectors to go under the fitted sheet are a real lifesaver during the duration of this process.)
That said, it's just not always possible to night-train at the same time you're potty training during the day, either for practical reasons or because, you know, you can only deal with so much at one time. Hey, we've all been there at some point! And if that's the case, Jandu recommends transitioning from diapers or Pull-Ups to a cloth training pant at the time of day-time potty training and declaring it your child' "special nighttime underwear."
"A lot of parents will find with potty training ... night time will often clear itself up on its own," Jandu says. "You'll start to see your child having dry nights... developmentally it could just fall into place."
Going back to Inferno, Dante described an inscription above the gates of Hell: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." While it may certainly feel that way when you're night-training a toddler, there is hope, and you're going to make it through this... maybe sooner than you think (but definitely eventually).