Just as sleeping patterns seem to vary (see post Sleeping Patterns Do Differ), there appears to be different East versus West conceptions of the appropriate time to wean a child from the diaper. From what I’ve heard from relatives and friends living in Asia, there is a general more relaxed attitude towards toddlers who wear diapers (unless of course, you live in a country where it’s not a customary practice for infants/children to wear diapers in the first place). Usually children are allowed to continue to wear an overnight diaper until they are at least 5 or 6 years of age. The reasoning is that by this age the child would have gradually established better bladder retention and thus wake up with a dry diaper most nights of the week. In other words, children stay in diapers at night until they gradually wean themselves out of needing it. On the other hand, it appears that in most western cultures, there is the perception that the sooner a child is out of diapers the better, so more pressure exists to get a child completely out of diapers.
Our toddler was potty trained in the daytime at approximately 2 ½ years old, but didn’t really get the hang of ‘wearing a panty and not wetting the bed’ during the afternoon naps until she was about 3 years old. Then at 3 years and 3 months of age, I finally started on the last process of diaper weaning – getting her to stop using an overnight diaper. I admit – there is some maternal grandmother pressure on this front – but I also feel cognitively and developmentally she is probably ready for the challenge now. After all, she has been picking up other skills quickly like how to brush her own teeth, wipe her face, fold clothes, button her jacket, etc.
I admit, I’ve been putting off the process a little bit due to existing fears. The biggest one is: “What if I wake her up and she refuses or has trouble going back to sleep?” After having a toddler who sleeps soundly 10-11 hours at night without much fuss, giving you the parent much need time to relax and rest, it is intimidating to think that you can be now ‘disturbing the peace’. After all, why disrupt what is working well? Another thought is: “Now I will need to get up a few times at night to help train the child, so I will be losing my own long stretches of sleep, and may have trouble getting back to sleep!” A third thought is: “Great, now I will have to do more laundry and deal with wet bed sheets, clothes and unhappy toddlers…” I know, I know, these are all pessimistic and selfish thoughts. But I know that letting something continue just for one’s own comfort and convenience may not be in the best interest of the child from a developmental and psychological perspective. I’ve heard of cases where the child continues to sleep in the same bed as the parents though the child is over 8 years of age, simply because that has become what the child is used to, and is now difficult to change. I know I need to overcome my own convenience and fears for the sake of the child.
So what did I do? Instead of going immediately cold turkey with the diaper, I decided on a gradual ‘night time diaper weaning’ approach. Sure this method may take longer, but I think I can live with that. See the upcoming Part 2 post to find out the actual process I undertook!