When Your Child Has To Go Potty In The Early Morning

Podcast

Apr 4, 2024

Does your potty trained child wake between 4-6AM needing to go potty?! IYKYK! 

I can handle how to help the early morning pee needs, but what if they gotta poop that early! How do we help their bodies adjust to a poop schedule?! 

I asked Allison Jandu, The Potty Training Consultant to help share how to help your little one with this issue.

I’m not talking about early morning diaper changes, y’all. I’m talking about your nighttime potty trained child who has got to go at 4am or 5am. Allison is the one to talk to us about this and she’s giving us insight, some actionable how to’s, and even some tips on how to help them go and then ideally go back to sleep.

So, what steps can you take if your child is waking to go potty in the early morning? Let’s jump in!

 

STEP 1: WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

I know this is not something you really talk about with your mom friends, but after hearing from several families about this situation, I wanted to bring Allison on to ask her about how to handle your child waking up needing to go poop between 4-6am. So, if this is your child, what is going on? Why is this happening? 

It can be really hard to pinpoint exactly what’s going on with our kids, but there can be multiple causes for this recurrence. 

First, you want to rule out any potty training related problem or medical situation that is happening. There could be things like constipation –  if they’ve been holding it through the day for whatever reason and they’re getting backed up, that could be a reason for the disruption in their schedule. 

Or, they could have a stomach bug with an urgency to get up and go, waking them up from sleep. Teething can cause issues sometimes with all the extra drool and similar things that go along with teething that can kind of contribute to looser stool sometimes. 

Another situation could be that your child is going through a growth spurt and it’s changing your child’s digestive system. Just like how growth spurts can impact your child’s sleep, it can also change their digestive system and how they’re processing or digesting foods.

The good thing about all of these things is that they’re temporary! It’s a short-lived situation usually and can resolve on its own within a few days or after other symptoms have resolved. 

So, the first thing you want to evaluate or figure out is why that’s happening and from there you can determine the best ways to treat the situation.

 

STEP 2: WATCH THEIR PATTERNS

If we’re 3 weeks into an early morning poopy situation, this is a habit. And this can be so frustrating for parents because now your child is waking up, fully awake to go to the potty. This is not a dream pee situation, they’re in tune and alert, and it can be so hard to get them back to sleep. They probably already feel rested enough to be up for the day.

So pay attention to what’s going on and when they’re needing to go early in the morning or how often this is happening.

For the initial potty training time, we do not want to prompt or do the timers because we want your child to experience the sensations and the feelings of needing to go to the bathroom on their own without being told to do so first. 

From there, once you notice their patterns with how often they tend to need to go, if they’re still struggling with self-initiation beyond that point, then you can prompt them. That way you know you’re prompting them at the right time instead of too often or too little.

 

STEP 3: ADJUST THEIR SCHEDULE

When it comes to readjusting their schedule, just like with nighttime potty training in general, it takes a little bit of experimentation to see what works. Usually, if you make some dietary changes throughout the day, introduce high fiber foods or even high fat foods at different times of the day, or adjusting mealtimes here and there a little bit can actually really help. 

So if your child’s getting most of their fiber at dinnertime, and they’re pooping in the early morning, then you may want to consider introducing more fiber earlier in the day, instead of at dinner before they go to bed. 

Or vice versa. If they’re getting a lot of fiber in the mornings, and then it’s taking that amount of time to process until the next day, then you’ll want to switch it up and give them more high-fiber foods at dinnertime. 

You might have to track that for a few days to see what your child’s patterns are so you can adjust. As with every child, everyone’s body is different. The time that they take to process their food is different. 

Keep in mind that it’s not a miracle cure. It’s not like an instant fix. It’s going to take a few days for that to kind of work itself out.

 

STEP 4: GIVE THEM MORE INDEPENDENT PLAY TIME

Another thing that you could potentially try to do is to give your child some more alone, independent playtime during the day. A lot of times kids get the urge to poop when they’re alone and they have that privacy. 

When they’re obviously alone in the room in their crib, in their bed, they have that privacy, and that can trigger the feeling to go. 

So you can try adjusting their daily schedule to offer more independent playtime during the day.

 

STEP 5: BE PATIENT

Remember, this is not going to be an overnight solution. I know. You’re probably tired of waking up at 4:30AM to deal with this. 

You’re not going to be punishing them while this happens. You don’t want to discourage them from going to the bathroom just because they got up before their toddler clock light turned green. They’re doing the right thing by telling you that they need to go to the bathroom instead of the alternative of just having an accident. 

So find the balance between rewarding and encouraging the behavior while trying to change things up a little. 

Remember – kids aren’t robots!

 

TIPS FOR OLDER KIDS

Let’s say that maybe it’s an older child, maybe you have a 4 year old or 5 year old, so they can handle this a little bit more on their own. 

TIP #1 – GIVE PRACTICE RUNS

You could probably teach them the same way that you would teach them potty independence during the daytime. The best way that you can do that is through practice runs. 

Play it out during the day, because kids love anything that seems like a game! The best way that they learn is through play. So you’ll want to act out how it would go when you guys are playing.

Have them lay in their bed, pretend to be sleeping, maybe tickle their belly a little bit and say, “Oh, you need to poop! Let’s see what happens!” Have them get up, have them follow the path that they would take to their potty or the bathroom, sit there and pretend to poop, go through the wiping and everything if they’re at that stage, and then get back into bed.

Walk through all the steps a few times, until they start feeling comfortable with it on their own. If you just tell them to go to the bathroom in the morning, without any kind of practice, or forewarning, they’re probably not going to be too comfortable. 

Most kids won’t want to get out of bed while it’s still dark out without a parent. It may take a little time for them to master on their own, but that is one way that you can encourage them to do it by themselves.

Just like we teach in our toddler and preschool programs, it’s all about role play! You can’t spring it on them and expect them to do it themselves. Practicing during the daytime is a great step for older kids.

TIP #2 – MAKE THE BATHROOM ACCESSIBLE TO THEM

Sometimes when it’s dark, an older child who can do it themselves, even if they’re 4 or 6, they may still call out because it’s dark. There are some ways you can make the bathroom more accessible.

So whether you use a potty torch, as one of the Little Z’s members calls it, or a battery powered flashlight or lantern they can grab and use, that can help encourage them to get out on their own. You don’t want it to be bright enough that they’re fully awake, but they can see where they’re going. 

You can also use a potty in their room if they’re young enough to get more used to a more convenient or less scary adventure than going all the way to the bathroom on their own.

 

CONCLUSION

So, what can you do if your child is waking up at 4 or 5 AM to go to the bathroom? Here are some steps you can take according to Allison Jandu, the Potty Training Consultant:

  • Step 1. Figure out why this is happening! Usually it’s a phase, but there could be other things at play.
  • Step 2. Watch your child’s patterns. What are they eating, and when? When are they calling out for you to go to the bathroom?
  • Step 3. Adjust their schedule based on those patterns.
  • Step 4. Give them more independent play time during the day so they can relax in their own privacy!
  • Step 5. Be patient. Remember, kids aren’t robots!

For older kids, here are two bonus tips for you! First, do a lot of practice runs so they can role play and get used to it during the day! Then, make the bathroom accessible overnight so they can get up on their own to go.

And remember, when sleep is a thing, you can stay happy, healthy, and well-rested, even when you have a phase like potty in the early morning! You can do this!

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Is your child waking to go potty in the early morning? Here's 5 steps to take...

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