Patience and tenacity are key in helping children stop wetting the bed

Renee Mercer Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, author of “Seven Steps to Nighttime Dryness” Bedwetting Store, Enuresis Associates
Patience and tenacity are key in helping children stop wetting the bed

Bedwetting is an embarrassing, but common problem that affects 1 in 10 children over 6 years old. It can prevent sleepovers with friends, create an enormous daily laundry burden and wreak havoc with children’s self-esteem, especially as they see same-age friends and younger siblings staying dry at night.

For many years, parents were advised that they did not have to do anything- that their children would “grow out of it”. We now have very effective, research proven, steps you can take to help your child get to dryness more quickly. The following Do’s and Don’ts are a series of tips you should use to help your child stop bedwetting.


Do encourage voiding twice before bed

This healthy habit can begin when children are learning about staying dry at night. Have your child go to the bathroom about 30 minutes before bedtime, then once more before the lights turn off. This insures that the night starts with an empty bladder.

Do encourage increased daytime fluids and regular bowel movements

Have your child drink enough so they have to urinate every 2-3 hours during the day. School age children often do not drink enough in the daytime and take in most fluids after school. Constipation can limit the amount of urine the bladder can hold and decrease the feeling of a full bladder.

Do use waterproof bedding and disposable underwear to help with clean-up

Decrease your laundry burden by using waterproof pads on top of sheets and protection over the mattress. Disposable underwear are fine for children who are less than 6 or 7 and not ready to use a bedwetting alarm yet. Disposables also provide discreet waterproof protection for sleepovers and camps.

Do use a bedwetting alarm for children over 6

Bedwetting alarms help alert children when wetting occurs so they can put together that brain-bladder connection. This is different than setting an alarm clock or parents waking children on their schedule. Moisture sensing bedwetting alarms pinpoint when the wetting happens, which changes from night to night.

Do pick a right time to begin using the alarm

Children need help from their parents when starting to use a bedwetting alarm. They often sleep through the loud sound and should be reminded what to do next. A motivated child, with parents who are able to be awakened for a few nights, will be most successful.


Do not worry if your child is younger than 5-6 because bedwetting can be normal at this age

Many children spontaneously become dry at night between 3 to 6 years of age. As their bladder size increases, they may begin to hold their urine all night. If your child is awake during the night for any reason, remind them to use the bathroom. Bedwetting is defined as children over 6 who have not become dry at night.

Do not forget to rule out urinary problems

A simple urine test can make sure there are no infections or diabetes that could be causing the bedwetting. However, 97% of bedwetting children have no urologic problems. Having a family history, being a sound sleeper, and having a small bladder capacity are factors that may contribute to bedwetting.

Do not belittle or punish your child for bedwetting

Children do not wet their beds on purpose or because they are lazy. Because they are asleep and have no control over the wetting, punishment does not help. Belittling or teasing only further decreases self-esteem. Offer positive support and help with toileting and bedding changes.

Do not limit fluids if your child is thirsty

Setting a cutoff for fluid intake often does not solve bedwetting. Making sure your child is well-hydrated during the day will make them less thirsty in the evening. Allow them to drink water after dinner if they are thirsty.

Do not expect your child to wake independently to the alarm at first

Even though the alarm makes a loud sound, in the beginning children’s brains do not register that this is an important sound to pay attention to. It takes some time for the child to make the connection that a full bladder happens before the alarm sounds. They gradually learn to wake up before the alarm sounds.

Jumping cartoon

While bedwetting can be an embarrassing issue for children, it is not uncommon. When your child is ready to focus on ending bedwetting, alarms speed up the entire process and are the most effective way for children to become permanently dry. Patience, persistence and a positive attitude pay off -- and the average child becomes dry in 10-12 weeks. Following these tips will help your child stop bedwetting.

More expert advice about Children and Sleep

Photo Credits: francisco sleeps by Amanda Truss /clash via Flickr; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Renee MercerPediatric Nurse Practitioner, author of “Seven Steps to Nighttime Dryness”

Ms. Mercer is a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner specializing in the treatment of children with enuresis, or bedwetting. She sees children with bedwetting and daytime wetting in her private practice, Enuresis Associates, in Elkridge, Mary...

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