Bedwetting is not a serious medical or emotional condition, but it can be a challenging problem for children and parents.

Bedwetting is when children, who are old enough to control their bladder, pee at night during sleep. It is common in children, especially those under 6 years old.

Though most children are toilet trained between 2 and 4 years of age, some children may not be able to stay dry at night until they are older. Children develop at their own rate.

Why Does Bedwetting Happen?

It is not known for sure what causes bedwetting or why it stops. It is most common in young children, but can last into the teen years. Bedwetting may occur because:

  • Your child is a deep sleeper and does not awaken to the signal of a full bladder.
  • Your child is constipated. Full bowels can put pressure on the bladder and lead to problems with holding and emptying urine well.
  • Your child’s bladder is small or not developed enough to hold urine for a full night.
  • Your child has a minor illness, or is overly tired.
  • Your child’s brain is not yet sending messages to the bladder and this may take some time to develop.
  • There is a family history of bedwetting. Most children who wet the bed have at least one parent who had the same problem as a child.
  • Your child has a sleep disorder such as sleepwalking or sleep apnea.
  • Your child’s body makes too much urine at night.
  • Your child has an underlying medical problem.

Your child feels stressed. Many social stresses can affect bedwetting, such as:

  • A new baby in the family
  • Sleeping alone
  • Starting a new school
  • A family crisis
  • An accident or trauma

Never punish a child for wetting the bed

How to Cope With Bedwetting

Bedwetting is an issue that many families face every night. Children can feel embarrassed and guilty about wetting the bed and anxious about spending the night at a friend’s house or at camp. Parents often feel helpless to stop it. Bedwetting usually goes away on its own, but may last for a while.

Be sensitive to your child’s feelings

  • Reassure your child that bedwetting is a normal part of growing up and that it is not going to last forever.
  • It may comfort your child to hear about any other family members who had this when they were young.
  • If you do not make a big issue out of bedwetting, chances are your child will not either.

Protect the bed

  • A plastic cover under the sheets protects the mattress.
  • Have your child help you change the sheets, but NOT as a punishment. It may help your child feel better knowing that they helped out.

Be aware of your child’s routines 

  • Most children wet their beds during toilet training. Even after they stay dry at night for a number of days or even weeks, they may start wetting at night again.
  • Try to have your child drink more fluids during the daytime hours and less at night.
  • Avoid caffeine-containing drinks.
  • Establish a regular bedtime routine that includes going to the bathroom one final time before bedtime.
  • Wake your child during the night before they typically wet the bed and take them to the bathroom.

Beware of “cures”

  • Many of these products make false claims and are expensive. Your child’s doctor is the best source for treatment advice.

Bedwetting that begins suddenly or happens with other symptoms can be a sign of another medical condition, so talk with your doctor if your child:

  • suddenly starts wetting the bed after being consistently dry for at least six months
  • complains of a burning sensation or pain when peeing;
  • begins to wet their pants during the day;
  • is drinking or eating much more than usual;
  • has swelling of the feet or ankles;
  • is concerned or upset by the bedwetting; or
  • is seven years of age or older and still wetting the bed.
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Last updated: 2019-07-23