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Senior Correspondent

Q: Using your advice, I successfully toilet-trained my daughter by age 16 months. It is now three months later and we are still using diapers at naps and nighttime. At her nap, which lasts several hours, she fully soaks her diaper. At night, she is taking off her diaper prior to falling asleep, wetting the bed after she goes to sleep, and then crying for us when she wakes up in a pool of pee. Is this a sign that I should begin night training? I’m hesitant to do this because I am 8 months pregnant and don’t relish the idea of waking up several times a night to take her to the bathroom and tending to a newborn as well. I would prefer to continue using diapers until she is old enough to get out if bed and take herself to the potty (even a potty in her room). Is this unrealistic? Or should I just deal with the extra night-wakings and start taking her to the potty a few times a night now? If not, how do I keep her diaper on at night?

A: First, congratulations to you for ignoring the babble coming from the professional community and training your daughter when the time was right for doing so. The primary reason toilet training has gone from being no big deal in the 1950s and before to the single biggest parenting hurdle of the early years today is because parents are waiting too long to begin the process.

Parents are waiting too long because they’ve fallen for the very bogus idea that certain “readiness signs” must be present before training is possible. The very notion implies that if one attempts to train before these signs are present, they will do harm to their child. Correction: That is not just implied, it is in fact precisely what the babblers contend.

Let’s talk about dogs for a moment. Which of the following will be easier to house-train: a 3-month-old puppy or a one-year-old dog? The puppy, of course! The longer one allows the canine in question to release whenever and wherever the urge arises, the more difficult it is going to be to teach said older canine a new trick. The same applies to a human child. Period. End of argument.

Now, to your question: Given that she’s been doing so for a while, it’s not likely that you are going to find a way to prevent your daughter from removing her diaper before she falls asleep at night. Furthermore, you want your daughter to “hold” all night long. Taking her to the potty several times a night is not going to advance that goal.

As I emphasize in my book on toilet training, there is no such thing as “night training.” Given proper circumstances, a child will train herself, and there is no better motivator in this regard than waking up on cold, wet sheets. To that end, I recommend that you cover her mattress with a rubber sheet (which I’m fairly certain you’ve already done), then the regular sheet, and put your daughter to bed wearing nothing from the waist down. The feeling of a bulky garment around her pelvic area is only going to delay her self-training. When she wakes up crying for you, go tend to her with great and loving patience. Within three to six months, she’ll be waking up dry. In the meantime, you’ll have enjoyed considerably more sleep.

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