I gotta pee!For more than a year our 3-and-a-half-year old daughter has been cruising around in the daytime, confidently sporting underwear. But when night falls, like a super-hero in reverse, she downgrades her powers, takes her Dora the Explorer cotton bloomers off and yanks her scratchy pull up on. Four days ago she told my husband and me enough was enough. She was ready to pee in a toilet at night.
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We get it: Soggy diapers are a relic of her babyhood. She wants more out of life, and joining the slumbering bladder-full as they make their way down the hall in the semi-dark is a start. It's just one more way she can distinguish herself from her (not-so) distant past as a baby, or from her perspective: a slobbering, co-dependent googly-eye creature.
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The awful truth is that my husband and I aren't excited about this development. And it's coming from a selfish place of sleep, the kind in which we rest soundly for six to eight interrupted hours. The kind we were just getting used to again as our child's immune system matured and she no longer needed our assistance at night with one cold or another. But as usual we're going to follow her lead, because, well, we don't have a choice. And this is how we're going to do it:
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1. Offer a choice between pull ups and undies. Sometimes it's a rough day at the kid office, and a newly potty training kid doesn't want to deal with getting up in the middle the night. It's a limited-time offer that could bring some much-needed mental relief.
2. Make sure her diet is up to snuff. If your child is constipated it can create pressure against the bladder and increase visits to the loo, so we'll be more vigilant than usual to make sure our daughter is getting a good balance of vegetables and beans.
3. Limit liquid intake at least one hour before bed. Offer more liquids in the afternoon if you're concerned your child won't get enough to drink.
4. Use the bathroom an hour before bed and right before bedtime. That way your kid's bladder won't be harboring any residual urine.
5. Place a training toilet in the bedroom. Until your kid is comfortable leaving her room and padding down the hall to use bathroom, this'll help her get into the habit of getting up and hovering over a toilet while half asleep.
6. Urge her to visit the bathroom right before you go to bed. Aka, wake her up around 10 p.m. or so and head the pee off at the pass. The idea is to help her body get into the habit of getting up and going to the bathroom. Then perhaps she'll rise for other nighttime bathroom breaks on her own. (A parent can dream.)
7. Plan for pee. Plan for it on bed sheets, pajamas and the floor. Keep a new set of pajamas, wipes and a towel handy. Which leads to the next point.
8. Guard against the pee. Consider using a waterproof mattress pad that goes over the sheets and tucks under the mattress. That way you don't have to deal with re-making the bed in the middle of the night. And at 4 a.m. this will feel like the most brilliant planning you've ever done in your life.
9. Embrace the pee. Well, maybe not embrace, but be mindful of how you react to it. Most likely your kid's going to be groggy and cranky when she discovers she's soaked. She doesn't need to feel like a schmo on top of it. She should know that it's natural and that it takes a while.
10. Regression happens. Daytime potty training taught us that even though declarations of urine independence are made by a kid, that doesn't mean he or she is truly ready.
So when it comes to nighttime potty training we know that our daughter could regress, or quit it altogether, only to pick it up in another year, maybe two. A lot of kids don't master the art of the midnight pee until 6. So there's plenty of time, and (fingers crossed) patience to go around.
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