Bed wetting

by | Jun 7, 2020

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Potty training is a process with many steps to it, the last of which is dropping the night nappy. Don’t be alarmed if your tot goes through a bout of night-time of accidents, as Kerry McArthur explains.

Bedwetting is something that millions of families deal with every night. It is very common, especially among young children undergoing potty training, but can also extend into the teen years. Even in this day of medical advances, doctors are not sure what causes bedwetting or why it suddenly comes to a stop. It is a normal part of the developmental process, and most children will grow out of it. There are, however, times that bedwetting is a sign of a deeper medical or emotional issue, but this is not common.

Dealing with a period of bedwetting can be stressful for the whole family. Children feel embarrassed or even guilty, and the anxiety it brings often results in them not wanting to spend nights over at families, friends or camps. As parents, we feel helpless as we don’t know how to stop it.


Bedwetting, also called nocturnal enuresis, is involuntary urination that occurs at night, after a child has been potty trained to the point where he is able to control his bladder during the day. It is most common in children under the age of six years, but it can occur in children over the age of 6 also.

Bedwetting is nobody’s fault, nor is it laziness or attention seeking – some children just don’t yet have the control that is necessary to wake up when their bladders are full. Children who wet the bed tend to sleep more heavily and are often harder to wake up. These children may even stay dry when sleeping in strange place, this is because they won’t sleep as deeply and will be able to a wake up easier.

Bedwetting generally runs in families, so if a parent, uncle or aunt was a chronic bedwetter it can be expected that your child will also wet the bed.

A medical condition can be the underlying cause, such as producing more urine at night due to a low level of the hormone that controls urine production. If you suspect there could be an underlying cause, see your paediatrician or a urologist experienced in treating children.

A traumatic event or a major change in the family can trigger bedwetting, even in a child who has been dry at night. These could be anything from the death of a family member, a school move or the arrival of a new sibling.


Punishment won’t work in this case, as bedwetting is not something that a child can control.

You can take some steps to help prevent it from happening as often:

  • Limit your child’s fluid intake at night, especially in the two hours before bed time.
  • Caffeine increases urine production so don’t give your child drinks that contain caffeine, like tea, coffee, cool drinks.
  • Remind your child to go the toilet at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and then again just before they get into bed.
  • You can set an alarm to wake your child up once or twice during the night to go to the toilet, which will help him get them into the habit of getting up.
  • In many cases the bedwetting occurs in the hour before waking up. Try to get up earlier to catch him just before he would normally wet the bed, this will “train” his brain and body to wake up by recognising the urge to urinate.
  • Never belittle, embarrass or punish your child for bedwetting, it will only make it worse.
  • Leave a night light on in the room and in the passage or bathroom so your child won’t be too scared to get up.
  • Reward any dry nights immediately, don’t wait until later in the day.

In the event of severe bedwetting, there are alarms that can be used, which are normally recommended by your doctor.


If your child is still wetting the bed by the time they go to school, or if your child has been dry at night for more than year and suddenly starts wetting the bed, it is important to chat to your doctor. Finding the root cause of the bedwetting will help to ultimately treat it.


Bedwetting is a normal part of development – it is not something to be ashamed of and your child will eventually grow out of it. Hang in there.