If potty training itself has the potential to scare the bejeezus out of parents, then night training has the potential to cause full blown panic attacks. WAKE A SLEEPING CHILD? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I get parents practically shouting at me through the internet.
So of course, the next question then becomes, is night training necessary?
And the answer is as definitive as toddlers themselves; YES and NO.
*The NO, you-don't-have-to-night-train-answers*:
You don't have to jump into night training right away, especially if your child is under 32 months. Many children...many, NOT ALL...will start staying dry on their own as they get better at holding and consolidating during the day. If you would like to give that option a fair chance, absolutely GO FOR IT.
If your child has been a horrible sleeper their whole lives and they are finally able to sleep through the night; definitely hold off on night training. Definitely give the option of them staying dry on their own a solid chance.
Of note: if your child DOES start staying dry on their own, be sure to remove the diaper after a few consecutive nights of staying dry. If you continue to use the diaper, the child will move backwards and start to use the diaper again.
The YES, you-do-have-to-night-train answer (there's only one):
If your child is edging towards the 36 month mark and they are showing no signs of staying dry on their own, then YES, you do need to attend to night training. The bladder is being completely formed in this time and if there's no notion of holding and consolidating, the muscles will atrophy. I repeatedly say this: as each year goes by, I get more and more clients with 4, 5, and 6 year olds in night diapers. IT BECOMES TERRIBLY HARD TO NIGHT TRAIN OLDER CHILDREN.
*The HAPPY MEDIUM, you're-so-not-sure-what-else-can-I-do-besides-wake-ups answer*:
There are other things you do to help your child begin to hold their pee until morning, without doing the wake-ups. You can start with your Upside Pyramid of Fluids (in capitals, 'cause it's a thing). You can start monitoring fluids before bed. Usually, your child shouldn't have anything to drink at least 2 hours before bed.
For the love of all that is holy, please don't cry out in outrage that I suggest dehydrating your child. Either read my book or the many posts here on how to effectively monitor fluids in the evening. The Upside Down Pyramids of Fluid mean you go heavy on fluids in the morning and right after nap, slowly tapering down to next to nothing as your child nears nap time and bedtime.
Throughout the day, as your child uses the potty, you can ask him to HEAR one more little bit of pee. Children who are new to potty training often don't fully empty their pee, causing them to have more output at night. Asking them to HEAR more pee, as opposed to DO more pee, is a very effective way to get them to squeeze out that last bit.
You can ALWAYS take these happy medium tips and begin them at any time regardless of if and when you think you want to tackle night training.
Here are some other random night training things:
*Night training is possible in a crib. It is preferable to do once the child is in a bed. I always like to set the child up for success. We want your child to have the ability to do this on their own, if they are so inclined. The thing I don't like about a crib is that the child couldn't get up and go to the potty herself, even if she wanted to.
*Chiropractic adjustments can be especially helpful with night training.
*Yes. Some children really struggle with staying dry at night. However, I'm seeing big numbers in recent years. I believe the true culprit is disposable diapers and children not being able to feel the wetness at all. Our societal norm has changed drastically over the last few years. 10 years ago, a 5 year old in night diapers was pretty rare. Now, it's common place. Be sure it just doesn't slip under your radar. Some parents just keep thinking the child will stay dry with no extra help. That's not the case for every child.
*If your child starts staying dry through their nap, this is a really good sign to start attending to night training. It's NOT a definitive marker but if it happens, jump on it.
*If you feel you have tried everything and your child still can't stay dry at night, you can try cloth diapers. Often being able to feel the wetness, sets the child on the path of staying dry.
*For deep, deep sleepers you might want to purchase a potty alarm. These wake the child at the first sign of wetness. They are very effective in not only keeping the bed dry but also setting the child up for autonomy.
*Don't put off attending to night training if your child is over 3 and a half. At the very least, give it a good go with the happy medium tips. Try at least one wake up. As I stated, some kids will start staying dry and yes, some kids will need OUR HELP in doing this. It's okay to HELP your child accomplish something.
*My final word about this. Because I get a strange amount of kick back from this. Your child WILL be wet if the bedtime routine includes a sippy cup of fluid. This is common practice. I understand. But you can't expect a child to stay dry through 10-12 hours when they slugged down a bunch of fluid right before bed. You can't. And yet people do.
I just can't say this enough. As each year passes, I get more and more clients with 5, 6, and 7 year olds in diapers. While there can really be an issue, you can't just let night training slip by. You will be doing your child an enormous disservice.