When will my child stop needing diapers at night?

There’s a wide age range for toilet training, but by three or three and one-half years old, most children learn to use the toilet during the day. However, learning to stay dry at night sometimes takes another six months, and many children occasionally wet at night until they’re four or five years old. Nighttime control generally comes later than day control because a child must go for many hours without using a toilet before he’s physiologically ready, and because a sleeping child can’t consciously decide to go to the bathroom.

                               A child will stay dry at night when he’s ready. He may tell his parents that he wants to stop wearing diapers, or his parents may decide that he’s ready because he has been consistently dry for many days. Sometimes a child who’s dry at night will find it hard to give his diapers up, but if his parents let him know that diapers are available at night if he needs them, he will probably switch to underpants without a problem. Parents should not be alarmed if their child asks to go back to wearing a nighttime diaper. Such a request is usually just a temporary desire to re-experience something familiar.

                               Some parents choose to help their child stay dry at night by waking him up to use the bathroom, especially if he’s had a lot to drink before bed. Other parents encourage their child to be a “big boy”, although such urging misses the point. He will be dry when he’s mature enough and his body is ready. Pressuring him to act older will not help, and neither will shaming him or trying to make him feel guilty about wetting.

                               Even if a child has been dry for weeks or months, accidents are inevitable. If your child wets his bed, keep in mind that he’s not doing it to frustrate or harass you. Either he’s not quite ready to give up diapers or, if the accidents are occasional, he’s sleeping too deeply to get himself to the bathroom. It is also possible that your child is reacting to the temporary stress of a move, a new baby in the family, or the start of school.

                               Whether your child has been having accidents or has not yet been dry enough to give up diapers or pull-ups, you probably feel impatient and frustrated. You may feel that he’s been in diapers long enough, or that you don’t want to wash and change sheets frequently. These feelings are understandable, but once you realize that he’ll be dry as soon as he’s able, you can adjust your expectations and relax.

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