What is bed-wetting?

Nocturnal enuresis, or bed wetting, is a condition in which your child cannot control their bladder while they are sleeping, and end up urinating (peeing) during their sleep. Bed-wetting is very common in children under the age of 6 years old, however 7% of 7-year olds, and 1% of 13-year olds still wet the bed. Generally children begin to stay dry during the night when they reach the ages of 3 to 8-years old. Unintentional urination at night is part of growing up, and a normal thing that each parent will encounter during their child’s development. Generally daytime toilet training is established well before a child stays dry at night. Each child is unique, and is toilet trained at their own pace, so it’s important to be patient during this time in your child’s life.

What are the causes of bed-wetting?

There are a few different things that can cause bet-wetting. First, your child may be a deep sleeper, and so when their bladder becomes full while they are sleeping, they do not wake up, and end up wetting the bed. Second, your child may have a smaller bladder. Third, your child may produce more urine at night, which usually improves as he or she continues to grow and mature. Fourth, bed-wetting can run in your family. Finally, if your child is constipated, the pressure of the bowel pressing on the bladder can cause your child to wet the bed.

Does bed-wetting need to be treated?

Typically bed-wetting doesn’t need to be treated, it is something most children will eventually grow out of. Some typical treatments that your doctor may recommend include:

  • Bed-wetting alarm system – this wakes your child up while they are sleeping when they begin to urinate and helps to teach them the feeling of having a full bladder.
  • Desmopressin – this is a medication that can help treat bed-wetting, usually used temporarily for things like sleepovers and overnight camp.

What can I do to help my child?

  • Establishing a routine of using the bathroom during the day and before bed.
  • Remind your child to use the toilet before bed.
  • Avoid drinks before bed (especially caffeinated ones, like soda).
  • Use a plastic cover on your child’s mattress.
  • Use training pants.
  • Make sure the pathway to the bathroom is well lit for the child to access the bathroom in the night.
  • If your child can, have them aid in the morning cleanup, and help them to understand the facts about bedwetting.
  • Make sure to reassure the child that bed-wetting is not their fault.
  • Be sure to not get angry, humiliate or punish your child for bedwetting.

When to see your doctor?

If your child has any of the following, it’s best to see your doctor:

  • Daytime accidents.
  • Previously was dry during the night, and then begins wetting the bed again.
  • Exhibiting other symptoms along with the bed wetting, like a burning sensation when peeing, or increased frequency of peeing.
  • Wetting the bed past the age of 5 or 6-years old.
  • If your child is developing anxiety or self-esteem issues related to bed wetting


– Dr. Christine Cesareo and Dr. G Paul Dempsey

[Feature image: Amanda Truss]


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