News & Media

12 March 2020

Bed wetting: how you can help your child stay dry at night

Most parents feel (quite rightly) like celebrating once they’ve survived the days (well, months) of toilet training. No more nappies + no more soiled pants = less work for us, right? That might be true during the day. But at night, some children may take a little longer (and even a few years) before they can stay completely dry.

Girl lying on bed

Wetting the bed is pretty normal for kids aged 2-5. In fact, about 25% of 4-year-olds; 20% of 5-year-olds; 15% of 6-year-olds and 8% of 10-year-olds continue to wet the bed. Even though it’s normal, it can be frustrating for both you and your little one. So we’ve asked our Continence Nurse Advisor, Trish, for some advice.

Why do kids wet the bed?

There are lots of reasons why a child may wet the bed long after they’ve been toilet-trained and well into their teenage years. Bedwetting is not a mental or behavioural problem; in fact, it can be genetic or due to the body not functioning as it should.

Here are a few causes:

  • Deep sleep is one of the most common causes of bedwetting. When the child is sleeping, their brain can’t recognise the need to do a wee, and so the child won’t wake up even if their bladder is full.
  • The body isn’t slowing down urine production at night, which means their bladder fills up more quickly than normal.
  • Overactive bladders can lead to kids needing to go to the loo frequently throughout the day and overnight.
  • Anxieties in a child’s life – such as a new brother or sister or starting school – can delay dry nights or trigger bedwetting incidents.
  • Constipation can lead to a build-up of pressure around the bladder, reducing the amount of urine the bladder can comfortably hold.
  • If one or both parents wet the bed after the age of 5 years, their children may also take longer to stay dry at night.
Girl sleeping on bed

What can we do about it?

Creating healthy toilet habits is a great starting point. This includes things like changing what your child is eating and drinking, as well as praising your child for drinking enough water throughout the day or going to the toilet before they go to bed.

Encourage your child to drink water regularly. We recommend 6 – 8 glasses a day, with 2 – 3 during the school day. Fill a drink bottle at the start of the day, and encourage your child to fill it up once or twice at school. Water is best.

Don’t overload on fluids before bedtime. We don’t want to restrict fluid intake, but make sure your little one isn’t guzzling down a litre or two right before bed. It’s best to ease back on the fluids after dinner.

Fibre and fluid promotes healthy bowels and bladder. Constipation can irritate the bladder and lead to quite frequent toilet visits. Feeding your child plenty of fruit and veggies, wholegrains and legumes – combined with plenty of water – can help prevent constipation.

Praise your child. Most children respond positively to praise, but you can set up a more formal reward system. It’s really important that rewards are only given for goals a child can reasonably achieve, such as going to the toilet before bed instead of for dry nights. Use praise when your child does have a dry night or wakes themselves to go to the toilet at night.

Are there treatments for bedwetting?

Medication is available for kids who wet the bed, but it’s not the first line of treatment. Also, medication doesn’t necessarily address the cause of bedwetting – it helps ease or stop symptoms while taking the medication, but these can return as soon as the medication is stopped.

Bedwetting alarms are suitable for kids aged 6 years and older, provided your child has the motivation and your support to use it. You’ll need to prepare for a few disrupted nights of sleep until a routine is established. You may need to use an alarm for three to four months before your child stays completely dry at night.

Bed wetting detector

How can I support my child?

First things first: try not to show anger or frustration when your child wets the bed. Talk calmly about the situation, and you may learn about fears or anxieties the child hasn’t yet shared. Reassure your child there are probably others the same age who are going through the same thing. Find out if your child really does want to be dry at night, and you can talk about setting up a rewards system and healthy food and water habits.

If your child doesn’t seem that bothered by wetting the bed, it’s best not to pressure them too much at this stage. This may only lead to more stress, which won’t help the situation at all. Instead, encourage them to think about why it’s good to be dry at night.

Patience is key. If you need more support, seek advice from your community health centre or maternal and child health nurse. Good luck!

Help is available.

Our children’s continence service provides support for people aged 2 to 17 years. We can provide advice and support for bed wetting (six years and older), daytime wetting (four years and older), constipation, soiling / loose bowels, and difficulties.

Our children’s continence service mostly provides support for individuals and their families in the Latrobe Valley. A continence advisor provides assessment, management and education of issues related to continence.

For more information on continence services visit Continence or call us on 1800 242 696.