Potty Training

potty training during nap time isn't as hard as it sounds
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Here's How To Handle Potty Training During Nap Time

Because interrupting a nap is definitely not happening.

by Cat Bowen
Originally Published: 

Potty training is a lot of trial and error. One of the bigger challenges you'll likely face during the potty training process is what to do when it comes to sleep — and in particular, nap time. There's already so much going on in your little one's world that the idea of interrupting a nap is anathema to you. Potty training and nap time may sound like they can’t coexist, especially at the start, but with a little help, you and your little one will get there. Here’s what the experts want you to know.

How to potty train during nap time

During the process of potty training, you want your child to be as rested as possible, and you don’t want periods of rest to add any extra stress. It’s helpful to set up clear communication with your little one about any changes that are going to happen. “As with any part of potty training, prep is an important step in the process,” certified potty training consultant Anneliese Schlachter tells Romper. “Let your child know any changes that will occur during nap time, and prepare the space for quick and easy cleanup to try and preserve sleep time.”

It works best to give your toddler some time to understand that you’re going into this situation, rather than just springing it on them. “Whether you are just starting out potty training or you're looking to ditch nap time diapers [or] Pull-Ups, it take three to five days to prepare your child that the diapers or Pull-Ups are going away,” Abby Klein, a certified potty training consultant, tells Romper. “The more they know what to anticipate, the better they will do.”

In terms of setup, it can be helpful to have a place they can go nearby in case they do feel the need to use the bathroom in the middle of nap time. “Set up a small floor potty next to their bed so they have easy access in the event they do need to go,” Klein says. “If your child is still in a crib, teach them to call out to you when they need to go, so you can assist them.”

Incorporating a nap time potty routine (i.e. visiting the bathroom before and after nap time) can also be helpful for the process, and it's key to have your child empty their bladder fully before they go down for their nap. “Sometimes children can become resistant to both a before and after nap time prompt, so a potty sit before nap is usually sufficient,” Schlachter says. “Most of the time, a diaper change is already part of the nap time routine, so that can just be replaced with a potty sit.” At the same time, it they refuse, don’t force it.

Another piece of advice Klein has is to limit fluids one to two hours before nap time. “Try to frontload their fluid intake earlier in the day [and] offer the potty before laying them down,” she says. “Ideally we want their bladder to be as empty as possible before napping.”

When it comes to knowing when your little one is ready to introduce the potty training process to nap time, it can be helpful to keep track of their bathroom habits. “I would look at how long of stretches between potty breaks your child is going during the day,” Klein says. “If they are going two to three hours between pees, then they should be able to make it through nap time dry.”

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When to remove the diaper

Given all of the above advice, you might be wondering how diapers come into play. Both experts actually recommend doing away with diapers altogether when it comes to nap time. “I do recommend keeping them bottomless for the first two to three days during nap time,” says Klein. “This will help to accentuate the sensations involved when they do need to go.”

By the time they are ready start the potty training process, they are likely also capable of making it through a napping period dry. “Most kids are ready to remove the nap time diaper from the beginning of training,” says Schlachter. “There can be a transition period (usually a week) as they're learning, but it shouldn't take too long to readjust. For nap (and night): If the child is already waking up dry, or taking off their diaper, that is a good sign they're ready to go diaper free.”

It makes sense to feel concerned about your little one having accidents during periods of rest — no one wants to clean up any more messes than they already have to. “It can seem daunting to remove the nap time diaper from the beginning, but it helps to prevent any daytime training confusion,” Schlachter says. “Give your child some grace and time to adjust. If it really is a total disaster, there's no harm in putting them in a Pull-Up to sleep and trying again in a few weeks!”

If doing away with diapers while they nap isn’t quite in the cards for your little one yet, that’s totally OK. It also depends on how you as a parent are approaching the potty training process, which is ultimately up to personal preference. “Plenty of parents want to focus on training during awake times and hold off on nap [or] nighttime training, which is perfectly understandable,” Klein says. “For parents that want to diaper during nap time, I would switch from diapers to Pull-Ups. Even though these are just as absorbent as diapers, we want to make the distinction between the two. I would let the child know that these are for sleeping only and that they can call out to the parent if they need to go during nap time.”

Affirming with your child that the reason they have a Pull-Up on is so they remain dry and comfortable during their nap, but also that it’s coming off immediately upon waking up, can be super helpful for their understanding of the situation. However, at some point you're just going to have to go fully forward and switch to underpants at nap time, allowing for accidents, especially if they're waking up dry. It allows that mental connection between sensations that can prompt your toddler to go to the bathroom. “This sets a clear expectation that all pee and poop go in the potty only,” Klein says. “When parents switch back and forth between diapers and underwear, it tends to send a mixed message: ‘Sometimes it's OK to pee [or] poop in my pants, but sometimes it isn't?’”

Nap time training might take a while, and your kiddo might have several accidents, but that’s usually part of the process. Thankfully, experts agree that nap time tends to be a lot easier to train around than nighttime, which can actually take years. A little consistency, and a great many trips to the potty, and it should all come together.


Anneliese Schlachter, certified potty training consultant

Abby Klein, certified potty training consultant

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