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Last updated on May 26th, 2024

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Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

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Is Potty Training Ruining Your Child’s Sleep?

Community Question of The Week: Potty Training and Sleep

“Help! My 2.5 year old who is newly daytime potty trained is stalling at bedtime and waking up in the middle of the night to say he has to poop on the potty. Naturally, we are torn between risking a dirty diaper and letting him get out of bed only to sit on the potty for a while and declare, “I’ll poop later”. Sometimes he will poop on the second curtain call, sometimes not. How should we approach this problem? He is getting less and less sleep with these shenanigans. I have not seen this potty training problem addressed anywhere and would love some advice. Thanks, Mary”

Balancing Sleep and Potty Training

With a newly daytime potty trained child, the potty can itself become yet another bedtime stalling tactic. At the same time, I understand your worry about encouraging them to go in their diaper. It’s a tricky balance! You have a few options:

Pre-Nap and Bedtime Potty Rituals

Ask your child to sit on the potty before naps and bedtime. If your child starts saying “I need to go potty” as a stalling tactic at bedtime, bring him to the bathroom. The trick to stopping this stalling tactic is to keep it boring, really uneventful, as the engagement with you is what your child is after. No talking, no games, no show and tell.

Encourage Independence

First, walk with your child to the bathroom; do not carry him there. The goal is for him to do everything as independently as he can, making it feel like a chore, not parent fun time.

As much as possible, have him do the pants pulling, getting on the potty, lifting the seat, washing and drying his hands, pulling his pants back up and so. Some parents graduate to not even entering the bathroom with the child, standing in the doorway with their back facing the hallway.

Do the same thing during the night.

You don’t want to turn lights on, as that will disrupt the winding down you have achieved so keep a night light on in the bathroom at all times.

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Addressing Persistent Bedtime Stalling

Finally, if he still uses the potty as an excuse to prolong bedtime, try saying you’ll wait in his room for him while he goes. Some parents will bring their child to the potty one time and if there is no pee or poop, reassure him that it is ok to go pee or poop in his diaper at night. If he says he has to go potty again five minutes later, tell him that he’s out of luck, it’s too soon to go again, he can wait until morning, and make sure he knows there is nothing wrong with using a diaper overnight. Other parents who feel uncomfortable with this approach will tell their children to go to the potty on their own this time.

Want to learn more about how to help prevent power struggles with potty training?Read on.

Portable Potty Options for Independent Potty Use

I have even had parents put a portable potty in a child’s room so they can go independently. Just hope they don’t knock it over! Here is my whole list of the best products we recommend for potty training, including that portable potty.

Remember, that this is a transitional phase. With these tips, you can manage it effectively without sacrificing quality sleep for your child.

Author: Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

My name is Kim West, and I’m the mother of two beautiful girls, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 21 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. My sleep journey began when I started experimenting with gently shaping my daughter’s sleep by not following the conventional wisdom at the time. After having success (and then more success with my second daughter!), I began helping family and friends and my step-by-step method spread like wildfire, exactly like an excellent night of sleep for a tired parent should!