With Nighttime Potty Training, There’s No Room For Bragging. None.

I don’t remember who told me to try it—maybe my friend, Jenny, or my girl, Betsy. Our kids were all the same age, running in the same playgroup circles, with mamas who wanted their babies out of diapers, and so we put our heads together and pulled out every pediatrician-approved suggestion/parenting book idea/old wives’ trick we’d ever heard, tossed it against the wall, and went with what stuck for each of our children. For my Mari, I chose naked potty training, where you let your kid walk around in her birthday suit, peeing and pooping all around the house like a small puppy until she figures out, “Hey, instead of doing number two on Mommy’s pretty beige carpet, maybe I’ll take a dump in that super cute bright red potty she bought me!”


Sounds gross, but I promise you it worked. In a weekend. We started on a reasonably warm Saturday in April, a few months before Mari’s second birthday just stripped her down naked and let her roam free around the house with explicit instructions: If you have to pee or poop, do it in the potty. If you pee or poop anywhere else but the potty, you’re going to clean it up because it’s yours. On the first day, she peed on the wooden floor in the hallway once—right in front of me—and pooped on my bedroom carpet later that day when I wasn’t looking. I’ll never forget the look on her face when I handed her paper towels and told her to clean it up: there she was, naked, with a pacifier in her mouth, giddily sopping up the pee until the smell hit her. That little, “Yay, I’m helping Mommy” giggle quickly turned into a, “Whoa, wait! EWA!” frown. Two more clean-ups like that and voila! Mari was potty-trained.

And I was cocky as all get-out about it.

Until it came time to teach my daughter how to stop peeing in the bed.


Getting her to stop urinating in her sleep was a whole different proposition—one that I couldn’t get a handle on and that I was too embarrassed to ask my friends about. I mean, what mom wants to tell her friends that the reason she’s a cranky, funky mess during the day is because she spends most nights doing 3 a.m. sheet changes/mattress disinfecting/pajama swaps with a can’t-hold-it-all-night five-year-old? Coming off of successfully potty-training my daughter in a weekend, I felt like a complete failure for not being able to get her to sleep through the night without soiling her bed.

I wish I would have known then what I know now, though—that I shouldn’t have felt guilty, that my daughter’s bed wetting was not only normal but naturally unavoidable. On GoodNites.com, there’s some great information and expert advice from pediatricians and moms in the thick-of-it on bed-wetting, including the fact that up to seven million kids ages 5 and older in the United States wet the bed at night, and one of the reasons they do it is because their bladders aren’t developed enough to hold urine for a full night. Pediatricians on GoodNites.com also says that some kids who wet the bed also don’t have the triggers needed to let them know their bladders are full and they should get up and go to the bathroom.

For the record, this flies in the face of what I was raised to believe. He’s going to k-i-l-l me for this, but my brother was a bedwetter and I distinctly remember my parents blaming him for the problem—calling him lazy and saying he was peeing in the bed on purpose. I promised that if my kids were bedwetters, I wouldn’t respond the way my ˜rents did, but when faced with the issue with my first daughter, I admit I didn’t really know what to do other than change the sheets and pray the girl would just, like, stop wetting the bed before she got to Yale.

Mari did eventually stop peeing in the bed. I don’t remember when it happened, it just did. It got easier when her dad, Nick, and I got proactive: We cut back on how much liquid she drank in the evening, made her use the bathroom before she went to bed and woke her up to go again before we turned in for the night—all of which was extremely helpful in cutting down on the amount of times she woke up wet. And then, before we realized it, she wasn’t doing it anymore and the precautions weren’t necessary with plenty of years to spare before her freshman year at college!

Thank God. Because peeing the bed at Yale would NOT have been the business.

Not at all.

Goodnites Master Logos Outline V1.5

So you know: I recently partnered with GoodNites® to write about my family’s experiences with bedwetting as part of the company’s campaign to spread the word about dealing with nighttime accidents. Yes, I’m getting a check for this. No, they’re not paying me to say nice things about their product. As always, my experiences and opinions are my own.

Flickr credit: Janineomg for Creative Commons

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. And while I know this is a post for Goodnights I should also let parents know that there are reusable cloth diapering options that will fit children up to 5-6 yrs of age. You’re already washing wet sheets and blankets so it’s just as easy to toss a soft cotton diaper in the load with the other ‘accidents.’ You’ll not only save a little money by reusing them but your child will feel more grown up knowing they aren’t in a ‘diaper’ like they are use to. Most have a waterproof layer that will keep them and their beds drier. Just google “reusable training pants” and you’ll come up with a ton of options. I’ve heard the “Super Undies” brand is quite popular with the older kids.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Hey there, Calley,

      I know where your heart is on this; you weigh much more heavily on the side of cloth diapering and environmental concerns, and I understand and support you in that. But GoodNites aren’t diapers; they’re disposable underwear that catch the urine so it’s not hitting the bed or keeping your kid’s skin wet. They’re also designed specifically for sleeping positions. And while there are cloth diapers that fit kids as old as five or six (thanks for the info—I didn’t know this!), GoodNites come in sizes that fit much older kids—even teens who struggle with bedwetting.

  2. this is so terrible of me but i have to admit that i had to read the title of this post twice (okay, maybe 3 or 4 times…) because i was like, wait a sec, what exactly is denene posting about here?? haha…

    anyway, i know exactly what you mean!! it’s not something that’s handled easily and takes a moment to get through. for anyone who hasn’t dealt with this it seems as easy as not letting your child drink before bed, etc., but there can be so many other factors leading to your child to wet the bed. in fact, it’s even hereditary! i won’t get into too many details about my experience with my son for fear that he’ll one day google me and see that mama was puttin’ his bizness on blast! 🙂

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      LOLOL! Ooh, I hadn’t even thought about the headline that way! And yes, you’re right: bedwetting can certainly be hereditary. I was actually surprised by a lot of the info I found on GoodNites.com because my only experience with it before my kids was, as I wrote in the piece, with my parents disciplining my brother over his nighttime accidents. I’m sure bro will NOT be happy that I’m putting his bizness on blast! LOL!

  3. Thanks so much for posting this! It’s an incredibly helpful intro to the topic. The biggest challenge I face with regard to nigttime potty training for my 5-year-old is that there are nights when her hyperglycemic episodes (she’s Type I diabetic) has rendered it impossible for her know when to get up an use the bathroom (with hyperglycemic episodes, excessive urination is pretty common). I’ve struggled with the fact that the hyperglycemia is part of my nighttime bedwetting equation, but the numerous other facts you’ve mentioned are helpful and might get me to the nighttime bedwetting solution a little faster…

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Daphne, I’m so glad that this post and the links to the GoodNites sites are helpful to you as you make this journey with your daughter. They have a panel of experts on the site who can answer any questions you have on the subject, too. Use them; they’re there to help. Hugs!

  4. Kia Morgan Smith

    Denene, this is SO on point! Thank you for this post. As you might know I have potty-trained Jo-Jo during the day, but still put on pull-ups at night AND during naps because he hasn’t mastered not wetting the bed. I too am frustrated but now I see it’s a lot more than him knowing how to get up. My girls NEVER wet the bed at night but for some reason my boy still does. I would LOVE to try GoodNites because he is really big on wearing his BIG BOY underwear during the day. So I’d like to see how he responds to the GoodNites. I never thought of buying them and have just been buying Pull-ups. I’m going to get GoodNites TONIGHT! Thanks D! I’ll let you know how it goes! (And if you got any samples, send them my way!) 🙂

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      I love it! And if samples come my way, you’re at the top of the list. I’m also going to be doing a giveaway of great nighttime products sometime soon, so make sure you check back in for that, too.

  5. I tried to prematurely force my kids out of diapers/pull-ups at night time just because I was tired of buying them and wanted to save money. It did not work, but once they were ready, it was on. They even requested to just wear their regular undies at night. I guess a kid knows when they are ready, just like they know when they are ready to start using a toilet. I will look into the GoodNites for my 2 yr. old and the occasional slip ups when traveling.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      This: “Kids know when they’re ready.” GREAT POINT! And let me tell you: there’s nothing more motivating than some “big kid” underwear. Mari LOVED the ones with the days of the week on them. Apparently, they were magical.

  6. Thank you so much for posting this. I’m currently in the midst of getting my just-turned 6 year old to go during the night. My husband and I have stopped giving her something to drink after 8:00 pm and also get her up during the night and it really does help a lot. Thanks again, it let’s me know we are not alone in this and that it’s simply natural for children her age to go through this!

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby


      I promise you: If you’ve got a kid, you’re going to have some nighttime training issues. It is what it is; you’re not alone. I’m glad this post helps you realize that! Good luck with it, and make sure you check out the website. I promise you, there’s some GREAT info there!

  7. Love it. Just sub yale for Spelman

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Mh, LOL! Who sent you? My sister-in-law? She graduated Spelman; her brother (my husband) graduated Yale. Always makes for interesting dinner conversation! Of course, I’d be happy if my girls went to either of those amazing schools, so long as the came out brighter and more connected than when they went in.

  8. My youngest still wear pull ups and he’s seven and a half (the HALF is really important to him). I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. As long as he’s dry at night by the time he graduates high school, I’m good.

  9. Sylena E. Smith

    It sounds like none of the commenters here have any personal experience with bed-wetting (or wouldn’t like to admit such). So let me fill you in on my personal struggles. I wet the bed WAY past 5 years old. I was in elementary school and still had problems. My parents would shame me all the time. Neither of my younger sisters had this problem. They blamed me and made me feel extremely guilty. They put plastic on my bed and wouldn’t take it off long after I told them I knew how to stop it. Please don’t do this to your children.

    It took me a while to figure it out; but whenever I would dream about water, I would wake up peeing or having already missed the party. Eventually, I figured out that if I was dreaming about water or going to the bathroom, I should wake up. It was as simple as that. It took quite a lot of practice waking myself out of water dreams. But once I had it down, I never had problems again. I still don’t make it through the night without a restroom break. But I no longer have to rely on water dream consciousness to wake me up.

    If you are having trouble, try this with your child. When they wake up wet, ask them what they were dreaming about last night. Or ask what happens when they dream about water. Do they wake up wet? If your child can’t remember his or her dreams, try an exercise to help dream consciousness. I know it sounds like hoodoo. I know from experience that if you don’t remember what your dreams were about, you can train your brain to remember. It’s as easy as making up a little chant to say right before bed – ‘water means wake up, water means wake up’ – or something cute. This is a tool I used to help myself remember my dreams – ‘remember your dreams, remember your dreams’ – and it worked.

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