Moms and dads in our Common Sense Parenting® classes often ask if using manufactured diapers can cause their children to have inconsistent progress in toilet training, especially at night. While there is little if any research to support such a notion, the misuse of any development tool can hinder your child's progress. And with super-absorbent diapers, your child often is not aware of any discomfort, which can lead to ignoring the need to use the bathroom.
Perhaps the better question is whether parents have committed themselves to stop using diapers once their children are ready to be toilet trained. When you think the time has come for your child to transition from diapers to training pants, ask yourself these simple questions:
Is my child ready to stop using diapers?
You must consider your child's developmental ability and his or her motivation to start using the toilet. When children are able to say the word "potty," understand what the toilet is used for, can take off and put on their clothes with minimal help, and are willing to use the toilet, this could be your signal that diapers are going to be a thing of the past.
Is it okay to use manufactured diapers during the night when my child is sleeping?
There is no crime against using diapers during the night when children have not yet learned to control their bladders. You can help your children enjoy daytime and nighttime dryness. Remember: Do not traumatize your child with unreasonable expectations. Follow your child's lead to determine whether he or she is developmentally ready to learn how to stay dry through the night. Do not use manufactured diapers after you have decided to start training your child to stay dry during the night. Invest in bed coverings that repel water until your child gets the hang of his or her nighttime schedule.
What if my child's fear of the dark makes him or her unwilling to stop using diapers at night?
Helping your child deal with his or her fears takes priority over toilet training. Listen to your child's concerns, even if you don't think they are rational. To your child, these fears are very real. If your child is scared to walk to the bathroom, a nightlight or flashlight may help. You may want to leave the bathroom light on through the night for a while. Or, you could position a potty in the child's room that moves closer to the bathroom each week. Giving a child a way to conquer his or her anxieties could make nighttime toilet training a breeze.
When my child is toilet trained, are there times when using a diaper is okay?
There are always some special exceptions to the rule. Children may have a relapse from time to time, especially when there has been a drastic change in their daily routine (going on vacation, changing scheduled activities, etc.), family life (divorce, death, new parent or sibling, etc.) environment (new home, new child-care center, new bed, etc.) fears (darkness, bowel movement, losing attention, etc.) or in their relationships (stress, illness, abuse, etc.).
These and other reasons can cause children to revert back to problems with toilet training. You should remain calm, listen to your children to determine their needs and get professional help if things get worse.
I have difficulty getting up at night to assist my child. What can I do?
If you find it's difficult to stop using diapers on your child because you cannot get up in time to prevent an accident, try these tips: set your alarm clock to your child's wetting pattern; go to bed at a reasonable time; reward yourself in the morning for sticking to the nighttime schedule; and train your child on what to do to go to the bathroom at night, including coming to get you. Also, your child may not need your assistance at night. You can show him or her how to find and put on dry clothing when necessary. Some parents put double linens on the bed, complete with plastic sheet, and the child simply pulls off one layer and they deal with the laundry in the morning. In addition to being practical, this is also a positive way to put the responsibility of toilet training right where it belongs: on your child.