By Dr Bunmi Oyinsan (Copyright)

Nighttime potty training is another aspect of raising children which a lot of parents find challenging. Parents get worried when their children who are able to stay dry in the day time keep wetting the bed at night. The truth of the matter is that day time potty training is totally different from night time potty training. The two kinds of training do not go hand and hand and parents should not try and train children for both at the same time.

Let the child get used to daytime potty training first, take some time to celebrate this milestone with the child, then gradually start the night time training process. However, be prepared for another battle because night time potty training might take a much longer time to achieve. This is because success depends to a large extent on the size of the child’s bladder. The child’s bladder needs to grow large enough to hold the urine that the child produces during the night. Her brain also needs to mature enough to recognize the urge from her bladder when she needs to pass water.

Many toddlers are not developmentally able to sense when their bladder is full and rousing themselves from sleep to go and use the potty is also difficult. In a lot of cases, the child’s body system doesn’t mature enough for the child to stop wetting the bed until the child is about 5 or 6 years old. Some even take longer. Sometimes, a child might be a very deep sleeper and this affects their ability to sense when the bladder is full.

There will also continue to be the occasional “accidents” even after the child is potty trained. Unless there are other medical reasons, a 7-year-old wetting the bed at night is not abnormal. Some people even believe that it takes boys longer to stop wetting the bed than girls but please don’t quote me because I have not found any conclusive research to back this claim!

My advice here is not to panic if you try and potty train your child for the night time without immediate success. Please be patient with the child. Do not lose your temper or become harsh with the child. After you have tried night time potty training consistently without success for a few weeks If the child is still very young you might have to take a break and give the child’s bladder sufficient time to mature a bit more. In most cases, by the age of 7, most children will be fully night time potty trained. If, however, bedwetting persists even after you have consistently tried to train the child past the age of 8 you might want to have the child checked out by a doctor for nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting).


Has your child been using the potty without your prompting during the day consistently? In other words, does she no longer depend on you to remind her to go and use the potty during the day? If the answer to this question is yes, then your child is ready for night time potty training.


  1. Buy either disposable sheet protectors, or easy to clean plastic sheets
    that can be placed under the child’s bedsheet to protect the mattress.
  2. Avoid giving the child liquids one hour before the child’s bedtime.
  3. Let her use the potty, 30 minutes before bedtime and again just before
  4. Wake the child up to use the potty before you go to sleep. If your bedtime is more than 2 hours after your child goes to bed then time yourself and wake her up to pee 2 hours after she goes to bed.
  5. Waking the child up to pee once at night is usually sufficient if it is well-timed and if you do not allow the child to have fluids too close to bedtime. Her bladder will not be producing as much fluid as it does during the day.
  6. During the daytime, tell your child that he needs to go to the bathroom any time he wakes up during the night. You can also offer rewards,
    promise the child a gift, or a treat if he wakes up by himself to go and pee at night. Ask him to let you know whenever he does this so that you don’t end up going to wake him up again during the same night.
  7. Some children will actually resist nighttime potty training, they might be scared to get up at night go to the bathroom alone when everybody else is sleeping. If you notice this is the case with your child, find a way of making them know that there is nothing scary about night time. I have a nursery rhyme that I sing with my grandchildren to embolden them: “Go way scary monster, go away!” By the time we get to the last line, they are screaming at the imaginary monster and making scary faces to scare any monster away! Please make sure you provide adequate night light.
  8. You might also need to use some tough love if you find that your 4- year-old (or older) child is deliberately resisting night time training. Have a “sit down” or talk with the child. You can start by asking her why she does not like getting up to use the potty at night. If she cannot defend herself, you might then remind her that she is old enough and able to get up and use the potty at night. Let her also know that you will make her clean up the mess every time that she wets the bed.

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