Some families start night EC from birth. Others start around three months or twelve months. Others never do EC at night. You can start whenever suits you. Be aware that some babies will insist that you take them at night. If you find that your baby is not sleeping well, it is worth considering whether it may be partly due to discomfort due to needing to eliminate.
The most important thing when doing EC at night is for it to be quick and easy for everyone involved. Having nightwear that is easy to remove is important - and it often works better to have a potty or bucket near the bed so that there is no need to get up, trot down the hallway to the toilet when it is cold and both you and your baby just want to nurse and go back to sleep.
We do night EC, but with a diaper. We've always used a single prefold with no cover day and night, home and out (until more recently we use training pants sometimes during the day), so at night we would always change him when he was wet, just like during the day. When he was a couple months old, he started sometimes waking us when he was still dry, so we pottied him instead of changing the diaper. Now, we keep a potty by the bed, along with a couple of spare diapers, some wipes, and a book light. About half the time we have dry nights where all the pee goes in the potty.
For a long time we kept the closet light on to make it easier, but about a month ago we ditched that. Now I just use the book light to see whether he's peed yet or not, keep track of the snappi, etc. Getting the diaper back on isn't usually that difficult; half the time, when I lay him back down with an empty bladder, he just goes limp and still (after thrashing around like crazy before he peed). Sometimes it's a little more difficult because he's trying to roll over and nurse ;-) but he stays basically asleep, so he's still fairly easy to deal with. And he goes back to sleep almost as soon as the nipple is in his mouth.
It's pretty warm where we are, so we don't put bottoms on him at night usually, but we've done this with footed one-pieces that unsnap all then way down both legs. We don't do the crotch snaps though.
Our bed goes like this:
So basically, the whole bed is waterproofed under the sheets, and then the other stuff is on top of the sheets to keep the sheets from getting wet if we have a night miss. Works pretty well!
So what about "diaperfying" the bed?
Prepare the bed thus, assuming co-sleeping and no night-time poos:
Keep a bucket by the bed for night-time pottying.
In the morning, empty the bucket and wash any wee-soaked towels and, as required, the fleece layers.
I think night EC is definitely worthwhile. My ds was night-dry with no accidents before he was day-dry with no accidents. At 4 months, your dd may or may not keep with her current no-night-pee pattern.
When we ec'd ds at night (he's 3 now, ec is almost a distant memory, lol) our bed layering went like this:
As my ds is reaching the age where other parents are just getting around to toilet training, let me tell you it is sooooooo worth it to be over and done with it years before, and long before "noooooooo" sets in :) (and for many other reasons too!)
We have had a bit of a breakthrough with our ds (5 mths) and I wanted to offer encouragement to those parents who were struggling with nighttime EC like us.
Ds would scream blue murder when EC'd at night unless he was nursing. For sometime now he has been sleeping pretty much right through and would only wriggle a little before he peed. If we tried to catch it (he is diapered at night) we would create a storm.
So, I had left him, thinking I would try again when he was older. It has bugged me so much not being able to help him at night. So, I decided to make a concerted effort to pee him prior to going to bed myself (around 3 h after he has gone down) and hope that that would reduce the peeing frequency during the remainder of the night.
Well, the first night he screamed and screamed, but e.ve..ntuall...y peed. Second night he screamed, but peed quicker. Third night he grizzled and peed. Now, he doesn't even wake up, just stretches etc, ... and pees. Hallejuhah!!
And it seems to have resulted in longer dry periods - he seems to pee again at about 4.30 am, and sometimes we catch him before he does it, sometimes just after, but at least he is not sitting in pee all night.
The moral of the story?? Even the screamers come around eventually and sometimes maybe you have to wear it for a day or two. I think he is starting to comprehend the concept of EC a bit better too.
We started really late with nighttime ECing. At 17 mo we gradually started going diaperfree during the day. As soon as I stopped using diapers during the day, our catch rate went right up. We were not doing nakeybutt, we were using clothing and undies. At that time, I was not doing nighttime EC at all, and felt that I couldn't cope with ds' frequent peeing and total refusal to potty at night (based on having tried it earlier). We were using a disposable at night (cringe) and not even changing it until morning (cringe). I felt really guilty about using a disposable but we hadn't been able to find a leak-proof cloth solution. And I felt guilty that he was lying in his pee all night, because when ECing one tries to keep baby clean and dry at all times so they are used to that.
Anyway, on his 18 mo birthday I decided that I wanted to deal with the nighttime issue because I felt so good about our daytime success. I decided that he would go diaperfree 24/7 no matter what because I felt that not using diapers was really increasing my responsiveness to his elimination needs. I prepared the bed with a big fleece blanket, then a couple of towels, then another fleece blanket - kinda like a giant fuzzibunz diaper for the bed: the bottom fleece keeps the sheets/mattress dry, the towels absorb pee and can be removed as needed, and the top fleece wicks the moisture away from ds' skin.
Sorry if this is gross, but I just airdry the towels outside during the day if they have pee on them and re-use them on the bed for a couple of days to cut down on laundry (they barely smell if I do that). It sounds silly, but the idea of laundering all that every day was stopping me from nighttime ECing, so I decided not to.
When we started nighttime ECing, I was surprised that he wasn't peeing as often as I had thought, and that I could often potty him if I nursed him at the same time. I keep the potty on the bed and learned that it wasn't that difficult to potty him without turning on the light and that we could both easily fall asleep afterwards.
If I miss a pee, I just mop it up with a cloth, and remove layers if needed. We sleep without clothes so that neither of us gets wet nightclothes in the event of a miss - we are definitely not sleeping in pee at all. We were quite quickly able to get into a routine of having 0-2 misses per night (2 is unusual though). It helps to make sure that ds pees right before bed, and to catch the first pee that usually happens during his first nighttime waking that usually occurs before I go to bed.
I do think that ds sleeps better now, not being in a wet diaper and fully releasing his bladder when pottying. Ds often resists pottying and that's usually when we have nighttime misses. I can only potty him when he wakes at night, not when he's in a deep sleep. It hasn't been as difficult as I thought it would be, and now we are both used to it dry bed nights are getting more and more frequent, though ds does still really needs to have one or two pees during the night on the potty because he nurses a lot before bed and in the night.
Some foods like watermelon will cause a lot of nighttime peeing so beware!
I love having a pretty and pristine bed, so I am having to let go of that for a little while. But it's so worth it to help my ds stay clean and dry all night. And he is more aware of his nighttime peeing and sensitive to my preference for keeping the pee in the potty, LOL.
Anyway, I would never have tried this if I hadn't been inspired by all the mamas on this list who are totally committed to EC. I hope my experiences inspire some of you!
Sophia (25 months) woke in the night and said ³I have to pee pee, want to pee on starfish potty² and then actually allowed me to take her to the big toilet, sit her on the toilet insert and peed! I stayed really close to her, cheek to cheek, in the dark and used our "pssss" cue which I haven't used since she was tiny. She's been using it with other babies and dollies lately, so I thought it might help. She slept nakey butt after that and was dry all night (2:30 am to about 8 am before she peed again) - whoooooot!!
It was great on so many counts because she has never verbally communicated at night, nor has she wanted to sit on a potty in the night since she was around 6-7 months old, and also because she normally is afraid of the big toilet altogether! So there were so many previous hurdles cleared in one glorious swoop! Not sure if it will be a permanent thing, but just so happy that kind of progress has started! She's also been wanting to sleep naked a lot lately, but I've been using diaper backup because of too many previous soggy beds.
I was trying to think of what might have helped this happen, and realized that for about 2 months, I have been telling her that I was going to go pee in the potty and would be right back to nurse her, because we have generally both been waking at the same time, her wanting to nurse and me having a giant full bladder. So I have been communicating verbally about my need to pee and where I am going, initially to help her learn to wait for the nursing and understand that mama's body has needs too. But I think there was a secondary benefit of C-ing about E-ing at nighttime, which for some reason, I had never done before. So I think she got it that we can talk about having to pee at night too (we've been working on that a lot in the daytime...duh sleepy mama, nighttime could be the same too!) and she just imitated what was being modeled for her.
I included that for any of you who are struggling with nighttime EC...so maybe you don't forget about the "C" part like I did, in your sleep deprived haze! If I'd been doing that more consistently earlier, who knows how much earlier our nighttime EC progress would have been.
There is one definite advantage: It is easier to "waterproof" a small crib instead of a whole family bed. My favorite setup evolved over time and now looks like this:
In case of an accident (Jutta didn't have one at night for months, woohoo!), I would take the wet towel off, use a dry end to mop leftover wetness from the wool blanket, put on a new towel on and presto - fresh bed. (Or I would just leave it and take Jutta to bed with me :-) Or I would just put a folded dry towel on the wet spot and put dd on top.)
I would only wash the wool blanket occasionally, not after every pee. I just took care that it did really dry during the day.
Jutta has been wearing two piece pyjamas most of the time. She slept in a sleeping bag for a bit less than the first two years of her life - with a zipper in front. If she had to pee, I would unzip the bag (my best one would unzip from the bottom up, so I'd only unzip a bit), get her lower half out of the bag, pull down pjs (and remove diaper as long as she was still wearing one) and pee her.
In her second summer Jutta got used to sleeping without the sleeping bag and couldn't be convinced to sleep in it again - too restrictive. So now she's just wearing pyjamas, with a T-shirt under the top for a little bit of extra warmth as she is not always using her covers (and as she regularly plays in her room in pyjamas for one or two or more hours before going to sleep. (A few nights ago she dressed up in an owl's mask she has and came to me saying: "I'm a little owl!" I wholeheartedly agreed - it was 11.30 pm...)
I never night eced my children if they didn't wake to nurse anyway. With Wolfgang I did no nightime ec in the first 8 months - I hadn't even thought of the possibility before I joined this list - and everything turned out just fine. He slept without diapers from 16 months old and actually had less accidents at night (1 or 2 a month) than Jutta had at the same age, and she had been night eced right from the beginning. So if you don't get around to night ecing right away, I don't think you'll have to worry about ruining everything by sending mixed messages.
When did I offer the potty?
When my baby called me, I got up to nurse. Wolfgang would want to pee while nursing, so I undressed his bottom, sat down with him to nurse, whe he got wriggly I held his bottom over a big bowl standing next to the nursing armchair, aimed his penis and he'd pee without letting go of the breast and while nursing through it. We'd then return to a more comfortable nursing position and when he didn't wear diapers anymore, I'd pull up his pants and close the sleeping bag while he nursed back to sleep. With diapers I'd put him back in them and dress him when he was done nursing and already (at least half) asleep. Jutta on the other hand was a "nurse first, pee later" type. She'd nurse, then pop off when finished, then squirm around. Then I would undress her and pee her. In the first weeks or months I took her to the sink as she was still also pooping at night. We got almost all nightime poos right from the beginning which was great to prevent a diaper rash. Later I'd use a tiny bowl to hold her over or sit her on between my legs. No splashguard necessary for girls. Later we used the potty (BBLP) most of the time. Very frequently Jutta would go back to deep sleep while still on the potty - as soon as she finished peeing she'd just go all limb in my arms and start snoring. Too funny.
From experience I would learn if they really had to pee with every nursing at night or just every second nursing or just the first nursing and then again in the morning. I adapted my offering to those changing rythms. Both children stopped peeing at night (in a "normal" night) before they stopped nursing at night.