If you don’t want to use diapers at night, want your child potty trained at night, but keep having accidents (or, in elimination communication lingo, “misses”)...look no further. The “dream pee” might just solve your nighttime woes.
Across my own 5 babies, I found that a strategically placed dream pee helped them stay dry at night, and sleep better, during certain times of their baby and toddler years.
What is a dream pee?
The definition of a dream pee, the way I see it, is:
A middle of the night pee initiated by the parent (not the child) that is done without speaking or turning on the lights, with the intention of helping a child stay dry all night.
Whether you should do a dream pee at night
Some parents worry that they’ll fully wake their child if they do the dream pee incorrectly. Others don’t want to disturb your baby’s sleep, at any cost. Still others might benefit from a dream pee.
But first, at what age do dream pees help babies and toddlers? Well, a dream pee can be done (and can be very helpful) with any age baby or toddler. If it helps your family get better sleep and/or stay close to your infant hygiene values, do it!
Typically, however, a dream pee is a useful tool when your child is having daytime success, is walking, and also is moving into a toddler bed. (I don’t recommend waking up a small baby, 0-12 months old, if you can help it!) When babies hit the age of sleeping more soundly through the night, the dream pee is effective. I usually start dream pees at around 15-18 months, and keep doing them as necessary until 24-36 months.
The difference between nighttime EC and a dream pee
There’s a difference between nighttime EC and dream pees though! Nighttime EC is baby-led - so when baby or toddler wakes up, you take them to the potty and then get them back to sleep. This is usually done from birth to 12, 14, 16, 18 months or so. It really just depends.
But when you’re doing just dream pees, you are actually consciously moving from baby-led pottying all night to a “let’s help baby keep dry and not have to wake to pee, by taking him at night in a sleepy state” kind of a thing.
You, the parent, initiate a dream pee, so that’s the main difference.
Of course, there is often a transitional piece in between, and a bunch of overlap.
You can do nighttime EC (responding to baby’s needs to pee at night every time they wake) in combination with dream pees...they can happen simultaneously and eventually, hopefully, the child will stop waking to pee altogether, switching gears to only dream pees (which can prevent night waking because of needing to pee!), followed at some point by the dream pee being completely unnecessary - yes it does happen eventually!
Again, beginning dream pees can help the baby not wake to pee, and sleep more soundly through the night. Hope all that makes sense!
Okay...so now for some...
Reasons you might want to do a dream pee
- You don’t want to use diapers at night
- If your baby or toddler wears diapers at night, and you’d like them to stay as dry as possible
- You want to support your child in being dry (and comfortable) all night
- Your child’s sleep is regularly disturbed from being wet
- Your child wets the bed each night but does not have medical bed-wetting issues
- You are tired of changing wet sheets/wet diapers all night!!
- Your baby or toddler is dry during the awake hours but not-so-much at night
- You have a deep sleeper on your hands, one who sleeps straight through peeing their bed, despite being soaked.
Okay, so if any of these are “you,” let’s learn how to do a dream pee.
How to do a dream pee
- Pick a time to do it - common times include when you, the parent, go to bed, such as within the 10pm-12am range. Other times include very early in the morning, such as 4 or 5am. I recommend doing it when you go to bed.
- Set up the night potty environment in the bedroom (if possible)
--Set up the night potty station (this is ours, below) - for a young toddler, this would be a small rug, a mini potty, a lamp with dimmer or a dim nightlight, wipes or toilet paper if they typically poop at night; for a baby who is still ECed in-arms, you’d either potty them in-arms, in the room if possible, over a top hat potty, a mini potty, or at the sink or toilet.
--Double-make the bed by layering in this order: mattress, mattress protector, fitted sheet, mattress protector, fitted sheet, top sheet, blanket or comforter. If you have a miss in the night, remove any wet bedding, remove the top fitted sheet and top mattress protector, and there will be a dry sheet below it!
--Have a fleece blanket nearby in case you don’t want to change sheets in the middle of the night if there’s been an accident - in this case just throw the fleece blanket on top of the wet area and your child can sleep on the fleece without it soaking through.
--Use a baby monitor so you can see and hear if baby is tossing and turning from either being wet or needing to pee
--Install a dimmer or nightlight in their room that is not so bright that it disturbs sleep, but that will enable you to see to potty baby at night (if their room is really dark).
--Use white noise - this gives them a sound to focus on and creates consistency in the sleep space (almost like a hypnotic state that can’t be broken even with a dream pee!).
--Choose your back-up - do you want to dress baby in a diaper at night or undies only, undies and pants, or pants only? Or do you want them to feel the opposite of a diaper and sleep naked from the waist down? Choose whichever back-up most inspires your child to stay dry, enables her to sleep longer and deeper, or is the easiest to remove at night. There literally is no wrong answer here!
An example from yours truly: I’d much rather re-use the same disposable diaper night after night than clean wet sheets every day - and often I’ve observed that my babies keep a diaper dry but without it, they don’t. My 5th baby started doing great without a diaper at 17 months, so we have ended night diapers earlier with her. But the other 4? They did best with a diaper back-up until about 26 months of age, and it was usually dry (unless I didn’t use one - then they’d wet the bed!).
Tip: read your child my Night Potty Board Book before bed so they can see the night potty station in action before they experience it!
- How to do it, step-by-step. At the time you’ve selected, go to your child’s room and quietly pick them up from bed. Don’t say anything unless you want to make shushing or soothing noises. Do not turn on any lights or otherwise change the vibe of the room. Hold them close and, if possible, remove the pants and any diaper back-up while you’re standing and holding them close, with one hand (practice this during the day when you can see what you’re doing, and obviously be careful!). If you’ve just got them commando in pants-only, stand them up in front of the toilet while they lean on you and pull the pants down and/or diaper there. (TinyUps are a great cloth pull-up/cover alternative). Set baby gently on the potty and squat in front of it yourself, letting their head lay down against your knees if that helps, and gently say “pssss” or “shhhhh” or “go peepee” and relax...if they need to go they will go. (Remember, this is a “pottytunity” - an opportunity to go potty - so if they don’t go it’s not a big deal.) Then gently pull pants back up and get them back to sleep however you usually do. With a young toddler who is no longer nursing, place them back into bed quietly and quickly and leave the room without a word. It’s like it never happened. ;oP
If the dream pee doesn’t work - troubleshooting!
If the middle of the night pottytunity is not working for your baby or toddler, here are some ideas of how to make the dream pee work:
- Babies - never wake a baby to pee! If you’re waking up a 0-12 month baby to pee at night, please consider doing Nighttime EC, which is baby-led, instead.
- Try a later time - sometimes we are just offering too soon in the night, so set an alarm for 1 or 2am and see if that works
- Try early in the morning instead of late at night - some babies soak their diaper right before waking in the early morning, so you can help them stay dry by offering at 3 or 4am. I wouldn’t offer at 5 or 6am because often a baby will not go back to sleep - and we definitely don’t want that!!
- Try two dream pees instead of one - if you’re set on this working and you don’t mind disrupting your own sleep, offer once when you go to bed at 10 or 11pm and then once more at 4am or so.
- Moms: have your husband or partner potty them at night instead of you - it may be less disturbing if mama doesn’t come into the room to do this.
- Change your back-up - go back to a disposable if you find that they deter wetting more than whatever you’re using now - I recommend the biodegradable disposable diapers by Dyper if you’re going with this option, as no other diaper ever biodegrades! If moving to commando or naked at night is something you want to try - go for it! If your child is in Tiny Undies and pants during the day, and is regularly dry, try that at night, too. Often a child gets used to a backup and will prefer it day and night, but has no way to tell us about their preference. Use whatever works, no judgment.
- If they refuse the mini potty or simply won’t go on it, try in-arms for a younger baby over the sink or toilet or mini potty, or bring them to a nearby big toilet with seat reducer on it (this is not preferable, but give it a try). During the day try to train them on using the mini potty so at night it is more useful.
- If you’d rather follow your child, potty them anytime they wake up at night, if they’re willing. This is what we call “nighttime EC” and you can get my Nighttime EC 101 minicourse if you want more info on how to potty at night, or see my book Go Diaper Free for 0-18 months or The Tiny Potty Training Book for 18 months and up.
- If everyone’s sleep is ruined and/or you’re sick of wet sheets or middle-of-the-night toddler parties...or resistance...stop! Do not do any more dream pees for several months, if ever again. Use a diaper as a back-up for now and be sure to do the before-bedtime pee, limit fluids for the 2 hours before bed, and then potty immediately upon waking. You’ll eventually be out of the woods, naturally, so do not fret and just pause the night for now. :)
What next? Do we do dream pees forever???
No, you won’t have to do the dream pee forever! If your baby stops going when you offer at night, or majorly refuses, just stop and see what happens. Use the backup that works best for you both, double-make the bed if necessary, and only potty at night if it makes baby or toddler more comfortable...especially if YOU are the one initiating it!
If dream pees DO work for you, you can choose to gradually offer later and later in the night or later and later in the early morning until the dream pee is no longer necessary - the habit to stay dry will stick and your child will also outgrow this phase.
If they don’t outgrow it, and your child is wetting the bed at 5 or 6 years old, please see your pediatrician to rule out the possibility of medical bedwetting.
If you need help with sleep training that does not include cry-it-out (CIO), please visit my friends at The Baby Sleep Site and get a customized sleep plan, or pore over their comprehensive blog. We got a custom sleep plan with two of ours and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! Your baby deserves sleep and so do you...and some babies are trickier than others. Trust me, everyone wins when baby deeply sleeps at the appropriate ages!!!
And that’s it. The dream pee - the parent-initiated, help-baby-stay-dry-at-night, middle-of-the-night pottytunity (or opportunity to go potty)...in a nutshell.
Now I’m eager to know:
Have you tried the dream pee? Are you gonna try it tonight? Let us know how it goes, and also if you have any other tips to share, they are always welcome - add them to the comments below!
PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)