Night-time EC: Tips & tricks to help you and your baby sleep better

nighttime-EC-hold-baby-over-bowl
This is a guest post from our Go Diaper Free Certified Coach Trainee, Maja Kresotova, who hails from Croatia. Thank you, Maja, for a very insightful post and lovely pictures!

When my daughter was about 9 months old, I was a sleep-deprived wreck. For the past 5 months we were taking hours to fall asleep, waking every 45 minutes with a cry and, as the morning approached, sometimes every 10 minutes. I’ve tried all the advice I could find to improve my daughter’s sleep, short of CIO, but nothing worked.

In one of the articles I stumbled upon when my daughter was around 6 months old, the author claimed that children pee in between the sleep cycles and that some babies dislike soiling themselves so much it makes them cry and fuss. I immediately felt that this could be it for us, but the idea of getting up to offer the potty at night, on top of everything else, seemed like a nightmare - and like a sure way to spend even less time sleeping. Little did I know that this was exactly what we needed to improve our sleep!

I hit rock bottom at about 9 months old, recalled this article, and tried to give it a go - figuring out the how-to’s as we went, which I’ll lay out below.

(For those that might be wondering at this point, we did not start EC until our little one was 6 months old and we started accidentally - by taking of dd’s diaper and holding her in EC hold for her first “solid food” poop - and then she never looked back. Our sleep troubles started much earlier and were not the result of practicing EC.)

Looking back at our experience, I know exactly when and what went wrong. Our problems started when I stopped changing my daughter’s night diaper based on advice I got from other mummies. They said that at 4 months children can stay in the same diaper overnight, and since my daughter was dry overnight at that time (3 months old) and I changed her diaper after the night feed, I thought their advice made sense.

My daughter started (or continued) to wake when she needed to pee/ feed, but as I did not change her like I used to, she would fall asleep nursing and wake after every sleep cycle, feeling discomfort. I would respond by breastfeeding, worried she was hungry (I was battling supply issues), and that created a never-ending vicious cycle of exhaustion. Things would get even worse for us when my daughter was going through a developmental leap, growth spurt, or teething, as that’s when babies tend to pee more at night.

Meanwhile, I labeled it a never-ending sleep regression. And naturally, having labeled it wrongly, I did not address it properly.

If you recognize yourself in our story, read on – I hope you will find a solution to your sleep deprivation. If you are lucky enough not to experience the same problems, but intrigued to know how to manage night-time EC, you will find useful tips-and tricks in continuation!

How to start night-time EC?

In our case, I started by removing the diaper cover (we used cloth diapers) to verify that my daughter is really waking before or while she was peeing. Once I confirmed my suspicions I did what any sensible, sleep deprived parent would do – went out and bought a pack of disposables diapers, hoping that the super-duper stay-dry effect would make my daughter sleep through the sensation of peeing. :) So after about a week of hoping, I had to come to terms with the fact that wet cloth diapers had nothing to do with my daughter’s waking up. It was really, and only, the sensation of peeing that was waking her up and making her/us miserable.

The next couple of nights were a bit difficult as we were all getting used to new routine and trying to come up with an approach that wakes us all up the least. Any transition or changing a habit takes about a week, and so did this. However, within the next 3 days we were sleeping 1.5 – 3 hour stretches and night pottying made such a huge difference for us! (So, of course, I got greedy and tried the ‘sposies again, hoping she’d sleep even longer, to no avail!)

After that, I was committed to night-time EC. My daughter got used to our new routine quickly, and would fall asleep as soon as I would put her in the EC-hold above our night receptacle. The whole routine was very short and we were both able to drift back to sleep quickly.

nighttime EC pottying baby

If you are wondering how to pull it off, here are the tips-and-tricks to make your night-time EC easier.

Step 1: Prepare

To make the transition to a night-time EC routine easier for everyone, plan ahead and prepare:

  1. Extra waterproof and absorbent layers to protect the bed.
    • Put a waterproof cover over the bed, then an absorbent layer (like a towel), and then the bed sheet. And then repeat one more time. This way, if the upper layer gets wet, you can remove it and have your bed readymade.
  2. Fleece blanket.
    • Fleece is not a natural material, and I generally do not prefer to use it. However, it can be a life saver if you are having a bad night. If the bed is wet, you can throw a fleece blanket over the wet part and it will act as a stay-dry layer, keeping the moisture below the blanket - and your bed will seem dry. This is very practical for children who have small bladders, but might not work for older kids.
  3. Clean diapers.
    • If you are using diapers as a backup, prepare a stack of clean ones next to the bed.
    • My advice would be to be brave and try to go diaper free at night as soon as you have worked out your routine, to avoid night-time diaper changes.
  4. Potty or receptacle you are going to use.
    • We actually use a shallow washbowl, or the removable part of one of the potties we have as it is very easy to sleep them bellow baby’s bum while nursing or holding in a cradle position.
  5. Potty cozy in case your baby does not like the feel of a cold plastic potty (who could blame him!).
    • There is a DIY tutorial for making your own potty cozy out of a t-shirt here
  6. Extra pajamas for you, too (at least until you have perfected your routine).
    • It takes some time to learn how to aim, especially if you have a boy!

Step 2: Test what works and what doesn’t

In this stage you will need:

  1. Patience.
    • It will take some time to figure out what works best for you, and then another couple of days to a week to fall into the new routine.
  2. Confidence.
    • I know exactly how crazy and counter-intuitive waking and getting up to offer the potty can be, and the risk of having to spend even more time putting baby back to sleep is the last thing you want to face, but you may be surprised by how easily and quickly babies go back to sleep once their needs are met!
  3. A dose of healthy humor.
    • I am sure there will be some situations that will put a smile on your face years after you’re done with night-time EC. Like this one time, when I held dd above my flip-flop instead of our night-time receptacle and did not even realize it until I passed the flip-flop to my husband to go and empty it in the bathroom. :)
  4. Creativity.
    • Try different receptacles: potty, washbowl, bathtub, sink
    • Try different locations: bedroom, bathroom, bed
    • Try offering a pottytunity before, after, or during breastfeeding or night bottle to see what your baby responds best to.
      • Often it will be easiest to offer while breastfeeding/bottle-feeding at first, which is perfectly OK. If you are uncomfortable with that, disassociate it once you have your routine worked out (or use a pacifier while pottying).
nighttime EC nurse baby over bowl while pottying
  1. Observe. 
    • Like with day-time EC, you can rely on generic timing, natural timing, intuition, and/or baby’s signals to determine when she needs to eliminate.
    • If you are co-sleeping, you may notice that baby starts to move, kick legs, roll, or generally become restless after a period of sound, peaceful sleep – this is your cue to offer the potty.
    • If baby is in another room, unless he is very vocal about his need to eliminate, you will rely more on generic timing and can offer “dream pees” (you can also use a baby monitor to listen in).
  2. Cue.
    • Use the same verbal or onomatopoeic cue you are using during day-time EC and baby will respond, even in sleep.

Step 3: Stick to your new routine

When you find a system that works, stick to it. You will probably discover night-time patterns are more regular than day-time.

Sleep vs. Night-time EC: What to prioritize?

There is no right or wrong answer – choose whatever makes most sense for you and your family. For some families it is night-time EC, for others it is diapering overnight.

If your baby wakes at regular intervals, too frequently for it to be due to hunger, medical reasons, developmental leaps, or growth spurts, and if your baby becomes even more restless as the morning approaches...or if you recognize yourselves in our story...I encourage you to try night-time EC.

If you sleep well, but feel this is a logical next step for you EC – go for it! You can always change your mind if it doesn’t work for you.

If you are lucky and your baby sleeps soundly through the night and you do not want to mess with that, you can continue to diaper at night and EC during the day, guilt-free, until your toddler naturally stays dry overnight, or until you are ready to night-time potty train.

I do hope you found this article helpful. Please feel free to comment below and share your night-time EC experience! Tell us what night-time EC tricks you use that simplify your life?

Maja Kresotova

About Maja Kresotova

After months of making it very clear that she does not to intend to soil her diapers with poo, I finally got the message when my daughter was 6 months old. My initial shock and disbelief turned into curiosity and thirst for knowledge, which has since grown into a passion for teaching parents how to navigate Elimination Communication - this incredibly simple, yet to us Westerners, so foreign, alternative to full time diapering. Now, I am a Go Diaper Free Coach in training, helping parents and their children (regardless of their age) become diaper independent either by practicing EC or through gentle potty training (making the world a greener place in the process). Serving Croatia and surrounding areas. See my coach profile and Facebook Group here.

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16 Comments

  1. Little Bunny Bear on February 26, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    This is an excellent article and should inspire anyone who hasn’t already started or tried night time EC to give it a go. I think it’s important to remember to tune into and work out your own babies individual messages and I think this is an excellent example of how to do that. It’s not often enough that we do this now, as modern mothers are not often encouraged to do this.
    I also thought the preparation section especially good, although I was surprised to see no mention of a wool mattress protector /puddle pad here. If you haven’t already tried one I’d highly recommend, as they not only soak up and hold a large amount of liquid if necessary, but they do not require washing after each wetting. And of course they are a totally natural material. Do get in touch if you want to sample one. Best wishes, Rebecca

    • Maja Krešotova on February 28, 2016 at 8:33 am

      Thank you for bringing wool puddle pad / mattress protector up – I’ve heard all great things about it, but never had one unfortunately, so I did not remember to include it in the list. I’m a big fan of wool, we used it a lot as a cover for cloth diapering and now we use it a lot during cold weather.. would love to test it as mattress protector, too!

  2. Jennifer on February 26, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    I may have to try this. My son fusses off and on all night. I’ve always assumed it was gas or teething. I have tried nighttime EC before and he gets so upset. It has been quite a while though.

    • Brittany on February 27, 2016 at 6:07 pm

      We started EC at 2 weeks old with my LO. All went well (and we were dry, or almost entirely dry most nights) until he got older, and didn’t need to nurse every 2 hours. Then he was still waking every 2 hours, not always needing to nurse, but still needing to pee! He would get so upset from me trying to only potty him, though, that it would take a long time to get everyone back to sleep- unless I nursed him, and then that meant we were up every two hours nursing or peeing or both. It was getting super exhausting because we were only getting about an hour to an hour and a half of sleep at a stretch! I’ve heard that boys don’t always take as kindly to nighttime pottying as girls do. Anyone else seen that correlation?

      Not pottying him at night didn’t work so well either, because he would wake just as often, upset that he had to pee, and then that he was wet. Sometimes he would wake more often because he was doing mini pees each time.

      I had to laugh when I saw you tried disposables. That was one of our last ditch efforts, too! Unfortunately, just like you, our baby woke up needing to pee, not just from the wet diaper, and he wouldn’t go back to sleep until we changed even his disposable diaper.

      After we had discussed lots of different options and tried lots of things, my husband made the suggestion that we just gradually, gently space out his night feedings so he doesn’t drink as much at night, and doesn’t need to pee as often. Since our LO is plenty old for this, it seems to be helping so far.

      I’d love to be able to do nighttime EC- saves lots of diapers!- but we’re taking a break from it for now. I’ll probably try again when our little guy is a little older, just to see if he can handle it without getting wound up!

      • Corinne Burr on March 17, 2017 at 2:19 pm

        I am definitely in the same boat as a lot of you here. I have a daughter, now 15 months old, and I don’t feel like we ever get more than an hour of sleep at a time. I am constantly nursing her all night (cosleeping), and as some of you have mentioned, she gets so upset when I try to EC her at night that I have stopped. She is super strong and I am no match for her if she starts resisting. But the idea that was mentioned about a baby responding to the cue even when asleep has got me thinking. I always know when she starts wiggling because it wakes me up immediately, so I am going to try to EC when she is still asleep and see if that works. I have been trying to use pull-up cloth diapers during the day, but when she lies down they tend to leak. But if I can just have them on her as a back-up at night, I could still easily EC her and catch most of the liquid if I do miss. Thanks so much! This is the first time I’ve been optimistic that I might actually get some sleep!

    • Maja Krešotova on February 29, 2016 at 7:08 am

      I remember how tired I was then.. and it’s not easy at all. You have my simpathies. There is no universal solution for sleep (as we both probably know all too well), but if you do decide to give it a go, I hope it will make a difference for you too! xx

  3. Kadi on February 26, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience :)we are just starting back our nightime ec after taking a break. I really enjoyed the organized steps. I’m going to share this with my mom group on FB:)

    • Maja Krešotova on February 29, 2016 at 7:13 am

      Thank you! Really glad to read you liked the article! Hope it will help make your night-time EC a pleasant experience! :)

  4. Heidi on February 27, 2016 at 4:29 am

    Thanks for sharing your tips for nighttime EC! I started nighttime EC with my son when he was 1-month-old. I would hold him over the insert from his potty. We always used cloth diapers as back-up, but I like your advice of going diaper-free as soon as you establish a routine. Removing and replacing the diaper was the most difficult part. I’m glad we did EC both day and night. By the time my son was 16-18M old, he was able to hold it through the night without needing to use the potty, and I was able to get more sleep!

    • Maja Krešotova on February 29, 2016 at 7:14 am

      Amazing results! Good for you! :))
      (and I simply must say: I wish I knew about EC back when my LO was an infant! I am convinced it would have made a huge difference for us)

      • Chanel on March 23, 2016 at 4:56 pm

        I just started nighttime EC again and did my first night of diaper less. It is so much easier to not have to change the cloth and put a new diaper back on each time. However, she had several misses though we caught a ton in her potty. Much more than any other night we ECed with a backup on. Was your little dry more than not before you made the plunge to go diaper free at night?

  5. Lilli on February 27, 2016 at 7:55 am

    For us we did night time ec only when my daughter insisted we did- at about 9months- and only started because she had to poo and didn’t want to poo on herself. I have often wondered if I had done it earlier if our sleep journey/ lack there of would have been different! I hope to do it with our next from newborn. ?

  6. Wiebke on April 22, 2016 at 8:04 am

    Hi Maja,

    Thanks for sharing your view on nighttime EC. I absolutely recognize ourselves in your story! My son (11 months) wakes between 4 and 8 times a night — often with a little cry and always after 20 to 90 minutes into the night. And he gets restless from around 5 AM on. I know for sure that he needs to pee then, for the rest I don’t know yet. We are only ECing in the morning and have done so succesfully for the past 4 months or so. I am working during the day and never found enough time for the observing stage, but I have read Andrea’s book and would like to EC my next child from birth.
    So far so good, he comes my concern: I understand that offering my son a potty when I know or suspect that he needs to pee might be nice and rewarding. But he would still wake up everytime no matter whether it goed into the diaper or the potty — right? We co-sleep and all he needs to go back to sleep is nursing (baby makes noises, I roll over, he starts suckling, we both fall asleep). So I do not spend any time out of bed. If I would offer him the potty then I would need to do that. Thus, although I would like to see a solution in ECing for the frequent wakings, I cannot. Did your daugther stop waking after every sleep cycle because she did not need to pee anymore?
    You described your preperation and implementation so well, but I would appreciate it so much to learn more about the effects EC had on your nights/sleep problems. =)

    • Sarah on June 30, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      we*ve got exactly the same situation than yours here, Wiebke – so i’m very very interested, whateffects of ECing during the night Maja observed with her child, too.

      Greets and Love, from Germany

      Sarah

  7. Nidhi on November 4, 2016 at 1:27 am

    I find myself in the same situation as you. Lucky to have found this article. I am inspired to try out nighttime EC now!

  8. Jill on August 23, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    We sort of fell into EC by accident, and nighttime is how it started. Our daughter went from a once-a-day pooper to pooing All The Time after we started to introduce solid foods at 6 months, and got her first real diaper rash as a result. She had been sleeping without diaper changes but with frequent nursing (we bedshare) for several months, but when she had that rash I just couldn’t leave her sleeping in her pee all night when she woke up fussing.

    So I went to change her and she fell back asleep as soon as the diaper was off! I barely even wiped her, as she tensed up when I tried. So we put some more towels under and over her, and all went back to sleep… until morning! It was the longest night stretch I’d had without nursing in a while, and her rash looked so much better, and — the part that piqued my interest — she hadn’t peed in her sleep, either!

    I started looking into EC, and had a perfect opportunity to do bare-bottom observation while we let that rash heal, including a night where I just switched out a towel each time she peed. After that we got a potty and although the first time I turned on a light and got her up to offer it she was a little WTF about it, she did pee (we had had a couple of good EC daytimes by then, too) and sure enough, slept better afterward.

    Just like that, our nighttime nursing sessions were cut in half! Although I now have to sit up to offer the potty instead of just rolling over and shoving a boob in her mouth, she had been nursing every two hours and sometimes more, especially toward morning. Waking up twice instead of four or five times is wonderful. So to those wondering about making more work for themselves with their all-night nurslings — give it a shot! My baby was definitely using boob to soothe herself back to sleep when her bladder made her uncomfortable, and of course that was just making it worse.

    Our EC journey is still really just starting and our days tend to be hit-or-miss — but we are acing nighttimes and it is super satisfying.

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