Coming out of nappies at night

Night-time dryness comes after a child is toilet trained during the day. Often there is a considerable period in between before they will be dry at night.

Only look towards helping your child to become dry at night when they are reliably dry during the day. As a rule, most children are daytime toilet trained by the time they are 3 years old, but many are older.

Signal from the brain

To be dry at night, children need to receive a signal from the brain to let them know their bladder is full. It can take a while for them to get the hang of reading and responding to that signal. This is especially the case when they are asleep and it is not at all unusual for a four- or five-year-old to still be in night-time nappies.


Vasopressin is a hormone that reduces urine production at night. It is produced in the Pituitary gland and levels of this hormone increase with age from birth. Until its action kicks in your child might not be ready to come out of their nighttime nappy. 

If your child has a very wet nappy in the morning and is no longer taking a night bottle, it is a sign that they might not yet be producing enough vasopressin. If they are over five years old, your GP practice, school nurse or health visitor will be able to advise you.

Help them with nighttime bladder control

•   Offer them plenty of fluids during the day. 

•   Stop them from having a drink an hour before bedtime

•   Drop feeds or big drinks during the night.

Are they confident with using the potty or toilet during the day and have dry or nearly dry nappies fairly consistently in the morning? If so, you can take this as a signal that it is time to start night-time potty/toilet training.

Make a start

Helping your child to become dry at night is more effective if you keep the whole process as relaxed as possible. Suggest that they might like to have a go at sleeping without a nappy. Make sure that you have a waterproof mattress cover on their bed. Then encourage them to use the toilet before they go to sleep. Don’t make a big deal about it or over-pressurise them, however. 

Should I ‘lift’ them?

Many parents choose to lift their children and put them on the toilet later in the evening, just before they go to bed themselves when the child is asleep. Nowadays this isn’t considered to be a good idea, as the child doesn’t learn about bladder control, and it just teaches them to wee in their sleep. 

From a sleep point of view, it is not good to disrupt that very special and precious deep sleep that happens at the start of the night, either, and there is also the risk that rousing a child out of deep sleep can cause distress and confusion.

If they wet their bed

If your child wets their bed, try to remain calm. Quickly change the sheets and their nightclothes if they have woken up. Then encourage them to go to the toilet to see if they have any more wee left. After this, re-settle them to sleep. 

Let them know it’s okay, it’s not their fault and you’re not cross. 

If your child manages a dry night, praise them gently but don’t overdo it, or they might feel they’ve let you down if they wet their bed next time.

Do not use a reward chart, as this is not something that is entirely within their control. You can, however, praise them for the things that they have done to help themselves achieve dry beds. Examples would be waiting until morning to have a drink or going to the toilet when you ask them to, and so on.

Night-time toilet training tips [once your child is dry during the day]

1. Encourage them to drink enough during the day [6-8 glasses.] No fizzy or caffeine-rich drinks. Restricting daytime fluids can cause the bladder to be less efficient.

2. If you are still giving a bedtime bottle, now is the time to drop it. If your child is well hydrated during the day, a big drink at bedtime or during the night [unless they are unwell or it is very hot] is not necessary. 

3. Do not allow your child to get constipated, as this can affect bladder function.

4. Use waterproof easily changeable protection on the bed to minimize night-time disruption.

5. Use the toilet just before bedtime.

6. Leave a soft light on and if the toilet is not easily accessible, have a potty in their room.

7. If your child wets the bed and wakes up, praise them for telling you and still take them to the toilet to see if they can do a bit more.

8. Praise them gently but warmly when they manage a dry bed and don’t expect this to be every night at first.

9. Expect just the occasional dry night at the first few attempts.

10. If your child doesn’t manage a dry bed after 3 – 4 weeks of trying, give up and try again a few weeks later. Or wait until they start to have dry-ish nappies in the morning. 

Further help

If you’re struggling with any aspect of your toddler’s sleep, I am here to help you.

My book

Book by baby sleep expert

My bestselling toddler sleep book gives you the tools to help your child and yourself get a good night’s sleep. It is full of expert, practical advice and case studies. The book teaches you to create your child’s personal sleep plan and is written in a clear and accessible style.

It is available in all formats from Amazon and other booksellers.

My Early Waking Course

If your toddler is up before the milkman, you may find this course helpful. The Early Waking Course includes information about sleep training clocks, napping advice and techniques to prevent and deal with early waking. It takes around an hour to complete and it may be the best hour you’ve ever spent!

My 1:1 Consultations

If you choose to book a one-to-one consultation with me, you will receive my expert advice along with an individual sleep plan for your child. You will be in very safe, experienced hands and I treat every parent and child with kindness. As a qualified health professional, I can help families with medical and developmental issues. My success rate is outstanding, with over 15,000 face-to-face sleep consultations with families from all over the world.

See my reviews on Trustpilot

Tags: No tags

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *