Nighttime Potty Training: Is the ‘Dream Wee’ Technique for Children Effective? Pros, Cons, and 5 Top Tips!

by | Jul 11, 2024 | Flexibility, Toddler, Top tips

Introduction

As a Child Sleep Specialist, I frequently receive questions about nighttime potty training, especially from parents of children aged 3-5. Many families I speak to have been taking their child for a “Dream Wee” (also known as a “Dream Pee” or “Lifting”) for months or even years and are unsure how or when to stop. Others worry about exacerbating sleep issues by removing the nighttime nappy, especially if they’ve already faced challenges with their child’s sleep and are considering the pros and cons of the Dream Wee.

Understanding “Dream Wee” or “Lifting”

When it comes to nighttime potty training and still ensuring everyone sleeps well, many parents have questions about the concept of a “dream wee” or “lifting.” Perhaps they’ve heard it’s worked well for a friend or read it online. 

You may hear it called a “dream wee”, “dream pee”, or “lifting”. This technique involves waking up the child just enough to sit them on the toilet or potty and encourage them to wee, but they remain in a sleepy state and can easily fall back to sleep when returned to bed. Typically, parents do this just before they go to bed.

dream wee

The Next Big Milestone! Nighttime Potty Training

Nighttime potty training is a significant concern for many parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers. Transitioning from a nighttime nappy to being nappy-free can feel daunting, even if the child has been dry during the day (and even at night) for a long time. Parents often worry about the impact on their child’s sleep, the potential for waking up wet, and/or the need for additional trips to the loo during the night.

So, how do we manage nighttime potty training without causing disruptions? Is the  Dream Wee technique the way to go? I ask Children’s Research Nurse, Potty Training Expert and Founder of Little Bunny Bear, Rebecca Mottram.

Rebecca Says…

Understanding Nighttime Dryness

Being dry at night relies on the brain-bladder connection, which develops alongside daytime bladder control. This connection helps children wake up to the sensation of a full bladder. Night time dryness is the result of this connection and the fact that our bodies produce less urine at night, thanks to a combination of natural hormones that help regulate autonomic functions.

You may have been told that  children cannot be dry at night until their hormones change at a certain age. The ADH hormone does play a role in night-time dryness, but this hormone is actually present from birth! There are a small number of children (less than 5%), who do have a problem with hormone production, and misrepresented data from studies about these children is where this myth comes from. 

Research* shows that the earlier you begin potty learning, the better your child’s bladder and bowel health will be. So the bottom line is: the sooner you begin, the less likely you are to encounter problems.

The capacity for night time dryness usually develops around 6 months after daytime dryness is established for children who begin potty learning after the age of 3. For children who begin learning potty skills earlier, they may have the bladder capacity to be dry at night much sooner. The key is: being dry at night is a skill you can teach your child. 95% of the time, hormones will be doing their job, and you don’t need to “wait” for some internal switch to take place.


Pros of Lifting

Lifting can help avoid a wet bed, providing temporary relief for parents and children.

Rebecca’s thoughts: 

Lifting is not a recommended strategy to teach night time dryness. The recommended approach is to promote optimal bladder health by ensuring sufficient daytime fluid intake, promoting healthy bedtime habits and teaching the child to use the potty or toilet upon waking. Parents may help rouse the child sufficiently so as to be able to sit unaided on the potty or toilet but they must have the awareness of what is happening.

How or When to Stop a Dream Wee

If you’ve been helping with a dream wee for a while we recognise stopping lifting may bring some doubt and anxiety. Make sure your child has been to the potty last thing before bed and that you’re prepared with a mattress protector and change to hand if needed. Often children will be dry overnight and they can visit the toilet first thing in the morning on waking.

If after a week of no lifting and no nappy at night, they have had wet beds EVERY NIGHT, it may be worth stopping and assessing if there is an underlying reason for the wetting. Common causes include constipation, not drinking enough, or drinking too much at bedtime. 

Otherwise, if the trial of a week without night nappies and without lifting they are not wetting every night, this shows progress and you should keep going whilst maintaining good habits around night time.

Top 5 Tips for Nighttime Potty Training

  1. Ensure Sufficient Daytime Fluid Intake: Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. This helps maintain optimal bladder health and prevents your child from drinking large amounts before bedtime.
  2. Establish a Consistent Bedtime Routine: Create a calming and consistent bedtime routine that includes a final toilet trip. This helps signal to your child that it’s time to settle down and prepares their body for a restful night’s sleep. Use my bedtime flashcards! You can include a trip to the potty or toilet before the bath and also the last thing before bed (it’s amazing how much wee can be generated in this timeframe!).
  3. Use Protective Bedding: Use waterproof mattress protectors and absorbent bed pads (puddle pads). These can make clean-up easier and less stressful in case of accidents, ensuring that your child’s sleep environment remains comfortable and dry. You may want to make up both sides of the mattress so you can take the wet sheets off and flip it over to a clean, dry and pre-prepared side.
  4. Promote Independence: Encourage your child to go to the toilet as soon as they wake up, whether it’s during the night or in the morning. You can also use nightlights to make the path to the bathroom safe and easy to navigate. Some families may be comfortable making a little potty zone in the child’s bedroom.
  5. Stay Patient and Positive: Be patient and maintain a positive attitude. Nighttime potty training is a gradual process, and setbacks are normal. Praise your child for their efforts and progress to build their confidence and encourage them to keep trying.

These tips, combined with a supportive and understanding approach, can help make the nighttime potty training journey smoother for both parents and children without the need to introduce a Dream Wee.

If Bedwetting Persists:

If bedwetting is an ongoing problem, a programme of night time training is recommended. You can link to Rebecca’s podcast and go potty guide.

Conclusion

In summary, while lifting might offer short-term relief by preventing a wet bed, it does not help the longer-term goal of establishing a reliable brain-bladder connection. To work on your child’s bladder health, nighttime dryness and maintain healthy bedtime habits, teaching children to respond to their body’s signals are crucial steps in nighttime potty training.

Nighttime potty training can feel challenging, but with patience and the right strategies, parents can help their children achieve nighttime dryness. Balancing persistence with patience is key, and it’s important to remember that every child develops at their own pace.

Resources

For further information and support on nighttime potty training contact Rebecca at www.littlebunnybear.com

Get in touch!

If you are experiencing difficulties with sleep – whether a regression or something else, please get in touch, follow me on instagram, or read my other blogs.

*Evidence base:

Lifting and waking in the management of bedwetting – Nocturnal Enuresis – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)

Nocturnal Enuresis: The Management of Bedwetting in Children and Young People.NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 111.

National Clinical Guideline Centre (UK).

London: Royal College of Physicians (UK); 2010.

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Hi, I’m Gemma, your sleep consultant

I am a certified baby and child sleep specialist who works with families all over the world.

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