When I started potty training my daughter, I decided to break the process into two steps: daytime potty training and nighttime potty training. Though I started daytime potty training her at 22 months old, I didn’t start nighttime potty training until three years old because she didn’t show signs of readiness until then. If you’re about to start potty training, consider breaking up the process. Potty training is tough! Separating it into two steps may make the process easier for you and your child. It did for my daughter and me!
I used the book Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right by Jamie Glowacki to potty train my daughter. Most of the daytime potty training happened over one exhausting weekend. After about two weeks, she got the hang of things and accidents became less and less frequent. She initially didn’t like pooping in the potty, but grew more comfortable with it about seven months after starting potty training.
Why you should break up potty training into two steps
There are many reasons why you might want to break up potty training into a two-step process.
- Easier for you and your child
Potty training is a big deal to a child. It’s a huge change from what they were used to doing since they were a baby – going to the bathroom in a diaper! It makes them have to pay attention to something that they may have given no thought to before. This can be stressful for them.
On the parent side, it’s an exhausting process. You have to pay close attention to your child, stay positive about the process, be consistent, and clean up a lot of messes. Breaking up the process can make it easier for you and your child by letting you focus on one part at a time.
- Delays disruption of you and your child’s sleep schedule
If you separate nighttime training from daytime then you don’t initially mess with your child’s sleep schedule or bedtime routine. When you first start nighttime training, you will need to wake your child to take them to the bathroom. This may interfere with their sleep and yours.
Some children have difficulty going back to sleep after being woken up. If yours is this way then stick to daytime potty training first.
- Your child may not be physically ready
Throughout the day, your child can go to the bathroom whenever they need to. They will probably go every one or three hours depending on how much liquid they drink. Their bladder may be ready to hold urine for 2-3 hours, but it may not be ready to last 8-10 hours overnight.
If your child is waking up dry, they are physically ready to nighttime potty train. Until then, you may want to try daytime potty training. My daughter was daytime potty trained before two years old, but wasn’t ready to nighttime potty train until she turned three.
- Eliminating diapers saves money
Children who are still in diapers can go through 5-10 diapers throughout the day. At night, they usually use one or two maximum. If you daytime potty train first, you will save a bunch of money not having to buy diapers any longer.
For example, if your child goes through five diapers per day, they would go through 450 diapers in 90 days. You can get 116 for $40 at Walmart. You’d need $160 worth of diapers to last three months.
Compare that to Pull-Ups. You’d need around 90 for three months (one per night). You can get 94 Pull-Ups for $30 at Walmart.
The cost savings for daytime potty training will make a difference if you are on a budget. Who couldn’t use an additional $130 every three months?
Once you’ve decided to break up the potty training process, here are the steps to take.
Step One: Daytime potty training
I like the Oh Crap! Method because it does not rely on rewards and is a quick training method. I knew potty training was going to be difficult so I wanted to completely focus on it for one weekend. I know several moms who started daytime potty training, but then stopped after their child had too many accidents within the first few days. I only wanted to go through the daytime process once.
After one weekend, she had the basics down and improved over the next few months. By the time she went to preschool at three years old, she could get on the toilet, potty, wipe, flush, and wash her hands all by herself. This was one of the requirements for starting school. Our potty training schedule gave her a solid 14 months to get used to all the steps of going to the bathroom before school started.
Step Two: Nighttime potty training
I started nighttime potty training my daughter at three years old. She’d been wearing Pull-Ups at night since 22 months old when I stopped buying diapers.
I knew she was ready to start nighttime training because she would wake up most mornings with a dry Pull-Up and immediately need to go pee.
I did a few things to help her transition to nighttime potty trained.
- Had a conversation about staying dry through the night
I talked to my daughter about how she would have to get up and go to the bathroom if she needed to potty in the night. Since she was three years old, and had been daytime potty trained for a year, she completely understood what I wanted her to do.
I also read her a few books about potty training to remind her of the process. She enjoyed Princess Potty quite a bit.
- Put her in Pull-Ups every night until she was regularly dry in the morning
After the daytime potty training was successful, I transitioned my daughter from diapers to underwear during the day and Pull-Ups at night. Although Pull-Ups function as a diaper, they are more like underwear to a child.
I made sure to involve my daughter in the Pull-Ups process as much as possible. She put them on herself before getting her pajamas on at night. This helped her feel in control of dressing and undressing herself to use the potty.
- Transition to underwear at night
After weeks of dry Pull-Ups in the morning, she transitioned to underwear at night.
At this point, she was particularly sensitive to going to the bathroom and no longer wanted to pee in a Pull-Up during the night. She said it felt icky. She never pooped in one the entire time she used them. If she woke up in the night and needed to go to the bathroom, she would call out for me and I’d take her.
I put a nightlight in the bathroom to help her find her way, but she insisted that she’s too scared to go by herself. At almost four years old, she’s still afraid to go to the bathroom alone at night.
- Make nighttime potty trips
Every night before I go to sleep, I take her to the bathroom around 11 pm. She always goes pee even though she’s gone at 7:30 pm before bed. She is mostly asleep when I take her to the bathroom and will go right back to sleep after I walk her back to her room.
Occasionally, she will wake up crying in the middle of the night between 2 – 5 am and call out that she has to go potty again. It can be a bit frustrating to be woken up through the night, but I also have a 10 month old who gets up at least once per night so I’m not rushing her to face her fears. Hopefully, she will get more comfortable going to the bathroom by herself in the next year.
Things you need for nighttime potty training
You don’t need much to nighttime potty train, but a few items can make it easier.
- Potty seat for your toilet or small potty
My daughter started potty training on a small portable potty from Summer Infant, but quickly moved to a toilet seat attachment. I got two, one for the downstairs powder room that we use during the day and another for the main bathroom closest to her bedroom.
The seat is attached by a magnet to the lid and flips down when in use. The seat is easy to pull down and my daughter could do it by three years old. When the kid’s seat is not in use, it flips up and looks like a regular seat.
- Nightlight for the bathroom
The nightlight in the bathroom allows me to keep the lights off when I take her to the bathroom in the middle of the night. This helps to not fully wake her up. I also think the nightlight will help her feel confident to take herself to the bathroom in the next year or so.
- Pull-Ups until your child stays dry overnight
I showed my daughter that Pull-Ups were different than a diaper by having her put them on herself like she does with underwear instead of having her lay down and be “diapered”.
Nighttime potty training was an easier process than daytime potty training because my daughter already had the basics down. Separating the daytime and nighttime potty training into two steps made the process less stressful on both of us! I would definitely recommend doing the same when you’re potty training your child.
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