NEW YORK TIMES COLUMN: FAMILIES TODAY:
POTTY TRAINING AROUND THE CLOCK
By: T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., and Joshua Sparrow, M.D.
Q. Our 2-year-and-9-month-old son was potty-trained for daytime fairly easily at 2 and 1/2. At night he is still in a diaper, and he wakes up very wet. How do we help him to stay dry at night?
A. Your son is following the usual pattern for toilet training. Learning to use the potty during the day at 2 and 1/2 should reassure you. Use the same approach for nighttime: Keep things smooth and easy.
Staying dry at night often takes more time. Many children sleep so deeply at this age that they don’t sense when their bladders are full. As sleep cycles change, most children grow out of this problem. It is far too early to worry about enuresis, or persistent bedwetting. Most pediatricians won’t make such a diagnosis until a child is at least 5.
For children who have been dry at night for several months and then wet the bed, other causes should be considered – for example, a urinary tract infection.
The wait for nighttime dryness can be frustrating. Changing the sheets is no fun, and success seems so close once a child uses the potty during the day. Yet a parent’s overreaction may lead to resistance.
If you can avoid drawing attention to it, have your child limit his liquid intake after supper. Before he goes to bed, he can use the potty not once, but twice – in between, you two could read a story together. Then, let him bring his potty to his bed so he can learn to use it on his own when he wakes up at night. Decorate the potty with glow- in-the-dark stickers to help him find it.
Many parents have told me they have succeeded in night training by gently waking their child to use the toilet a few hours after lights out – usually just before the parents go to bed.
It’s important to keep things low-key. If your son wakes up wet in the morning, don’t make an issue of it. Just respond with an encouraging tone: “Don’t worry. When you’re ready, you’ll be able to stay dry at night.” And he will.
Responses to questions are not intended to constitute or to take the place of medical or psychiatric evaluation, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a question about your child’s health or well-being, consult your child’s health-care provider.
Dr. Brazelton, prior to his passing, was the founder and head of the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, which promotes and supports community initiatives that are collaborative, strength-based, prevention-focused sources of support for families raising children in our increasingly stressful world. Dr. Sparrow, a child psychiatrist, is currently the Director of the Brazelton Touchpoints Center. Learn more about the Center at www.touchpoints.org.