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How long should my toddler wear diapers or pull-ups?

By BabySleepAdmin 7 years ago

Brett R. Kuhn, PhD

How long should my toddler wear diapers or pull-ups?

Your toddler can wear diapers or pull-ups until he or she is ready and receptive to begin daytime toilet training or until he or she becomes dry at night.


Daytime use

There is really no reason to eliminate diapers or pull-ups during the day until s/he is developmentally ready for successful potty training.  This means that your child displays readiness in the areas of physiological maturity (bladder and bowel), cognitive development, gross and fine motor skills, and behavioral skills. In other words, this means that your little one is starting to do things like recognize when s/he has to use the bathroom or is communicating to you when s/he has gone, can be seated on a toilet and has the beginning skills to learn to undress/dress herself when she has to go (undo fasteners, pull-down or pull-up pants with some support, wiping), and is motivated to learn how to be toilet trained (sometimes with the help of an extra reward and praise).  You, the parent, must also be ready to begin toilet training, which includes being “ready” to remain calm while tolerating wet pants and wet floors for a while.  Typically-developing children are usually ready to begin between 24 and 30 months of age. Girls tend to be ready earlier than boys.  Once training begins, you must fight the urge to place your child back in pull-ups when accidents are “inconvenient,” as this sends mixed messages to your toddler and delays the acquisition of toileting skills. One exception to this rule is that pull-ups can be used at night and during naps while your child is sleeping. Many children continue to urinate when asleep for some time after getting the hang of it during the day.

How about at night?

Compared to daytime toileting, staying dry overnight has less to do with “training” and more to do with genetics and biology. At 6 years of age, up to 25% of boys and 15% of girls continue to wet the bed.  Some children do learn to stay dry overnight once pull-ups are removed. You could try it for one week and monitor your child’s response, but do not hesitate to go back to overnight and naptime pull-ups if he or she continues to wake up wet.  In the meantime, encourage your child to use the bathroom before bedtime and praise dry mornings.  Above all, avoid all forms of punishments including criticism and teasing from siblings.  At around 5 or 6 years of age, you can approach your health care provider (medical and behavioral) to discuss treatment options including urine alarms and certain medications.

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