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May 22, 2024

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How to Handle Your Child’s Bedwetting

Bedwetting is twice as common in boys than girls. The key factor in parenting through it is to not blame your child.

Nocturnal enuresis — bedwetting — is when children old enough to control their bladder wet the bed at night when they’re asleep.

Bedwetting happens twice as much in boys as it does in girls, and it when it occurs, it’s usually seen in children between the ages of 3 – 6 years. The important thing to remember is, like other childhood stages, this too shall pass.


“Bedwetting usually happens at some time in all normal young children,” says Evan Allie, M.D., pediatric emergency medicine physician at The Children’s Hospital at TriStar Centennial. “Persistent or new bedwetting can be a sign of other problems including a urinary tract infection (UTI), constipation, diabetes or emotional problems,” she adds.

Several factors play a role in why a child wets the bed at night, including genetics.

“If one parent was a bedwetter, there’s a 50 percent chance the child will be as well. If both parents wet the bed, there’s a 75 percent chance,” says Abby Taylor, M.D., assistant professor of pediatric urology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Other factors may be a child’s poor sleep habits, overactive bladder or small bladder capacity. Some heavy sleepers experience brain-to-bladder signals for relaxation that are not yet coordinated.


Children who have negative potty-training experiences or even a traumatic experience of any kind can develop a resistance to achieve nighttime dryness, says Allie, although it may or may not be intentional by the child based on his developmental age and situation.

If a child experiences daytime issues like urinary urgency, urinary frequency, incontinence, painful urination, UTI or constipation, Taylor says bedwetting can result.

“You must address and resolve the daytime issues prior to starting treatment of the nighttime symptoms,” says Taylor.


While you may deal with moments of frustration, blame and punishment are not the answers. Stay positive and keep it light with your child. Reassure him that it is common and he’ll grow out of it. Taylor says to use positive reinforcement on dry nights. Both Taylor and Allie offer these tips:

• Make sure your child has regular bowel movements. Constipation can trigger bedwetting.

• Restrict fluids at least two hours before bedtime.

• Avoid drinks with sugar or caffeine.

• Never shame, use Time Out or any other punishment to “teach” dryness.

• Take your child to the bathroom before bedtime.

• Improve daytime urinary and bowel habits; void every two to three hours while awake.

In addition, it’s a good idea to invest in a bedwetting alarm/vibration system. These devices have sensors that detect the first drop of urine, and they sound an alarm to wake the child so he can make his way to the bathroom. Also, pick up a waterproof mattress cover.

“Bedwetting alarms are the most efficacious long-term management of bedwetting, with a 60 – 70 percent success rate when used correctly,” says Taylor.

Should your child continue bedwetting past age 6, contact your pediatrician.



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