Is it ok to just nurse baby back to sleep in the middle of the night? Or should you offer the potty every time baby stirs? Will you ruin EC if you don’t offer? Will you go crazy with lack of sleep if you do? Today I address a hot topic in the EC community: whether to potty during the night hours or not, and how to go about it (or how not to!) so EVERYONE gets the best sleep possible.
You will hear:
- when to do nighttime EC (and when NOT to!)
- how to spot sleep deprivation in yourself and how it presents in baby
- the ultimate goal of nighttime EC
- how to pick your path of nighttime EC
- when to consider sleep teaching
- how to evaluate if co-sleeping is right for you
- when to reconsider your nighttime/sleep philosophy
- how to do nighttime EC with your child in a separate room
- what to do if all else fails
Links and other resources mentioned today:
- Previous Nighttime EC Podcast
- Baby Sleep Site
- Bringing Up Bébé (French parenting book)
- Baby Wise (minus the cry-it-out part!)
- Dream Pee Podcast (for 12+mo)
- Nighttime EC 101 MiniCourse
- Dyper (biodegrable diapers)
- Go Diaper Free Book
- Find a Coach for one-on-one support
Download the Transcript
If you can't listen to this episode right now (um, sleeping baby!?)...download and read the transcript here:
Welcome to the show. Today we're going to talk about a few thoughts on nighttime EC. You can look at the show notes at godiaperfree.com/193 and you can leave comments or ask questions, whatever, and also read the full written transcript if you'd like to. Enjoy.
Hey there, welcome to the Go Diaper Free podcast. I'm Andrea Olson, your host, author and mom of five babies all EC from birth, all out of diapers by walking.
Hey you guys. Today, we're going to be talking all about nighttime EC. I know I've done a podcast on this before and video on this before, but I have a few follow up points to make. I'll definitely link to the other episode or episodes in a moment. But right now I just want to talk to you about if you feel like you're being lazy or judging yourself for not doing nighttime easy, what do you do with that?
So, first things first. This one woman wrote to me and said, "I just feel like I'm too lazy to take her in the middle of the night. I just nurse her back to sleep and ignore her potty needs and I feel really guilty about it. How do I deal with this guilt?" So if you've ever felt this way before, about anything with EC even during the daytime or on outings or whenever, and you just purposefully ignore one and let it go and then try to pick it up the next time, this is actually called part-time EC. It's also just selectively picking and choosing when you're going to be doing it or not. There is nothing wrong with that at all and first of all, I just want you to stop being so hard on yourself.
There is no perfection in EC, and in fact, if you try to be perfect, you're going to end up... Well, it's going to backfire and you're going to end up learning the lesson hard and fast that nothing in parenting, nothing in motherhood is or can be perfect. Literally, everything is a learning process. There is only feedback of hey, this worked or hey, this didn't work or hey, let's try something new or let's keep doing what we're doing. All right.
I also want you to do nighttime EC only if it gets everybody in the family more sleep. This is super important. Sleep deprivation is a real issue and it's not just, oh, I'm tired every day, but you start to get this brain fog. Some of you might know what I'm talking about, where you literally cannot find the word for something, or you stare into space and you're like, oh my gosh, what was I doing? I can't even remember. But other side effects of having sleep deprivation include clumsiness, forgetfulness like we just talked about, but also moodiness. Real short fuse, little bit snappy, a little bit irritable and definitely trying to escape by scrolling through Instagram or just laying down on the couch and letting your baby play, trying to cope.
Basically you're at a deficit when it comes to your self care number. So my self care number has been anywhere from zero to nine or 10 throughout my whole journey of having five children. I have to say that the closer it is to 10 being awesome, the better off I am. But most importantly, the better off my children are. They get a better version of me. So the more sleep I get and I happen to be an eight hour a night kind of gal. If somebody's interrupting my sleep throughout the night, which has happened for 12 years, I usually need to get a little bit more sleep like nine hours, knowing that I'll be up a couple times throughout the night.
In any case, sleep deprivation in children can result in super fussy behavior, just an unwillingness to cooperate. It's like they're going one direction and you're constantly going the other direction, a lot of butting of heads and just really a lot more clinginess. They want to be held more often, which is great and wonderful and we totally want to be responsive and hold our babies. It's going to pass so fast. We need to do this, right? But it's also when there's too much of that separation anxiety, it can really wear a mom out super duper fast, especially if you're the only one around all day long day in and day out. You just start to feel drained and overwhelmed.
Let's be honest, that's not fun for anybody including the baby. So the baby's mood will improve the more sleep they get and the more unbroken sleep they get and the mother's mood as well. Then let's talk about fathers. Fathers cannot go out and pursue their vision and their work in this world if you have a father in the picture or your masculine partner, whatever you call this other person in your house, doesn't matter. What matters is that if there's somebody who is taking care of providing for the family besides you, and you have the primary responsibility of taking care of this baby, we need that provider to get plenty of rest as well.
So our goal with nighttime EC is to limit the disturbance of sleep as much as possible. If it helps them to get back to sleep with less effort and everything is a little bit more smooth by doing nighttime EC, then we definitely want to do it. Another question I get a lot is how often to do nighttime EC? Why would our child be dry for a month and then we catch nothing at night and they're wet all the time? This happens a lot around 10 or 11 months where they'll be dry and you're like, oh great. I can stop using diapers. Then you stop using diapers and they wet the bed every night and then they never really go back to being dry.
For my experience over hundreds of thousands of people with my own children as well, is just a time when maybe your baby's not creating that much waste. Maybe they're getting deep sleep because they're going through a growth spurt. It is something developmentally and it is something that is usually an anomaly. At the same time, it's always good to do an experiment. Try not using the backup for a couple of nights and see what happens and you might find that they're actually just going to be dry all night. That's what happened with one of my five children. At 17 months we forgot to put a diaper on her at night because she had been coming up dry for three months at that point. We never had to put another diaper on her at night since then. The only accident she had actually was a couple of weeks ago because she had a UTI.
So how often do we do it? We want to figure out the answer to that question by addressing your goal. Is your goal good, good sleep for your child? Or is your goal to keep them dry all night? That would mean having some pottytunities or opportunities to go to the bathroom for them. So we have a lot of people on different parts of the spectrum. You guys, a lot of you are very much responsive parents and attachment parenting oriented. Some of you are more on the... If we look at a scale of parenting, and there's no right or wrong, but there's some that are more passive. Some that are more assertive, some that are a little bit more overbearing and helicoptery.
But the super passive, if you have a laissez faire kind of style to your parenting, which again is fine, you might not be that into making sure your child gets unbroken sleep during the night. If you're of that mind, but your life is also slowly deteriorating before your eyes because you are really sensitive to losing sleep, you might want to look into sleep teaching. I don't call it sleep training because you're teaching your child how to connect the sleep cycles throughout the night. The best resource, and I'll link to this in the show notes as well, that I have found for this is the Baby Sleep Site. If you go to godiaperfree.com/babysleepsite, that's my special link that goes right into their program.
Their program has actually helped me with two of my kids, getting them help with sleep at seven weeks old and another one at a few months old. I've never been good at sleep training or sleep teaching. I don't condone crying it out, but I have learned over the course of having five children that letting them cry for about five minutes, just not crying out of pain or crying like, oh my gosh, something's wrong. But just fussing. For mom, fussing sounds like extreme crying, right? But you know the difference between pain and just, I really am not happy right now. So if you let them fuss and I read this in Bringing Up Bébé, the French parenting book, let them fuss for five minutes. It's called the pause and if you do that over and over again, pretty soon it becomes three minutes. It becomes two minutes. It becomes one minute. It becomes no minutes and they start to attach their sleep cycles to one another and sleep through the night.
I'm overly simplifying it, do your own research but another book that I like except for the cry it out part is Babywise. But what they do have that's valuable is telling you not to nurse your baby to sleep during the daylight hours. In that case for your naps, you're going to be putting them to bed by rocking them or swaddling, pacifier, whatever you use. With a first time baby I understand that the boob is the answer for everything. I totally get it. I've been there and done that, but you might want to try that because it helps them at night, not wake to look for that boob.
The other advice I can give you is when you start waking each other up, if you're co-sleeping, that might be a sign. Even if you're dead set on, I'm going to co-sleep forever. It might be a sign that you might sleep better in separate beds in the same room, or it might be a sign that their baby's smelling you and might do better in a separate room in their own bed. Be it a Montessori floor bed, or a crib or whatever you want with a video monitor, I highly recommend, of course.
So with my first baby, I didn't do this. I co-slept for two years, nursed every two hours and pottied every two hours, 24/7 for two years. Let's say I was a hot mess at the end of this. I was sticking to my values, you guys, but I definitely was a hot mess. I had developed postpartum depression, probably due in part to this and it wasn't pretty. So with my next four babies, I decided at three or four months to put them in their own crib in their own room and we all got better sleep. How do you do EC when your child's in the other room? Use a video monitor and at night, if they wake up dry, you potty them. If they wake up wet, you potty them. You just offer them a pottytunity without turning on the lights. You just do it super calmly. Don't talk at all and they might go and relieve themselves and get back to sleep better.
If you're finding your baby wakes up in the middle of the night and they don't go back to sleep very well, then that might be hey, let's try a pottytunity. Now we troubleshoot a lot more of nighttime stuff. With any of the resources you've purchased from me, I also have another podcast on the Dream Pee, which is more for 12 months and up. But we have a lot of resources, especially including the MiniCourse called Nighttime EC 101. Definitely get that if you don't have it. It compliments my book and it just takes nighttime just a little bit more on a deep dive.
So if our goal is sleep, we want to change maybe when they're wet and not offer the potty. If our goal is dryness or pottytunities, then we would like to probably offer every time they wake during the night, just to try to help them. Then we nurse or rock or whatever we do after, or lay them down if that's you after offering the potty during the middle of the night. We also want to use the backup that creates the best deepest sleep while simultaneously bringing about the least stress for all of you. Again, I'm telling you, after 12 years of doing this and now being a single mom, I really need everything to be as low stress as possible.
The first child is the hardest, in my opinion, and anybody who has over four children will tell you it gets easier by child number four, drastically. So what I have learned from this and my clients is that we want to use a kind of backup that enables everything to be more smooth at night, because sleep is so precious. So that could mean a cloth diaper. It could mean a disposable diaper. I'll put a link in the comments or in the show notes for Dyper with a Y it's godiaperfree.com/dyper. These are biodegradable, compostable. They're real. They don't leak. They're great. You can get them as a subscription and just use those for nighttime if you're doing cloth diapers during the day.
You don't really have to bend your values that much to make it work, but want to use the backup that works the best. If you want your baby to stay dry all night and signal and do pottytunities and all that, doing nighttime EC full on, wonderful. I totally support you 100%. Use whatever backup helps to make that the best, most likely outcome. Usually biodegradables are the ticket for that. Or even a Seventh Gen. You've got something that's not very absorbent. It's going to still feel wet, but it also doesn't leak. So there's some options for you there.
I mentioned the Dream Pee podcast. I'm definitely going to link to that in the show notes, but you can always do a dream piece. You can just do whatever gets you through to 12, 13 months. Then once they're hitting toddlerhood and everything, you can potty them when you go to bed at 10 o'clock after them. You can potty them at 4:00 in the morning if they are wetting the bed, right when they wake up. There is a lot of information in that episode. I'll let you listen to that whenever, and also that's in my book if you have that, which currently comes with the audiobook version. So you can listen to or read about that.
The worst case you guys, and this is super important, is I want you to diaper in a way that works for you both and your other person, people and other children in the house as well to get the most sleep at night, because sleep deprivation is a real downer. It can lead to so many neurochemical imbalances. We all need our sleep. It is a gift to teach your baby how to sleep. If I have sparked an idea in your head that says well, I was never going to sleep train, but now I kind of feel like my baby might be happier, full permission granted, I won't tell anybody.
So that's what I wanted to say about all of that. Just a few more thoughts on nighttime EC. Definitely check out the MiniCourse. If you need help, we have certified coaches that woman the comments over there at our MiniCourse for help with that. But we really also just want to do what feels right to us as a family, no judgment at all. I don't care which you select on this spectrum of possibilities. I just want you to be fully informed about all the possibilities.
Thank you so much for listening and watching. I'm Andrea Olsen of Go Diaper Free. All right. This has been episode 193. Again, you can look at the show notes at godiaperfree.com/193 and come over there and ask us any questions on nighttime EC, and we will answer you. If you have any other comments on what's worked for you at nighttime, please add those to the comments over there as well. Thanks again.
Thanks so much for listening. This is the Go Diaper Free podcast at godiaperfree.com. We'll see you next time.
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About Andrea Olson
I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my 5 children (all under 10 yo) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)