What Is Bedwetting?
Bedwetting (also called nocturnal enuresis) is when children urinate while they are asleep.
Is Bedwetting Normal?
Yes, bedwetting is normal in children age 7 and younger. Many children under age 7 wet the bed at least once a week. After age 7, many children stop wetting the bed without treatment. Almost all children stop wetting the bed by age 18.
What Causes Bedwetting?
There are many reasons your child might wet the bed, including:
- Children can sleep very deeply and can be hard to wake up. They sleep through times when they need to use the bathroom.
- Children have small bladders (the body part where urine is held).
- Bedwetting can run in families. If you or another family member wet the bed as child, there is a good chance your child might also wet the bed.
- They might be scared to go the bathroom in the dark. They might also have trouble finding the bathroom in the dark.
- They might not know if it is okay to use the bathroom at night.
- A very small number of children have medical problems in which they cannot control when they urinate.
Does My Child Need to Be Treated for Bedwetting?
Children under age 5 typically do not need treatment for bedwetting. Children under age 5 need treatment for bedwetting only if there is a medical problem that makes them wet the bed. Children over age 7 might need treatment for bedwetting. Your child’s doctor can talk with you about whether to treat bedwetting.
How Do You Treat Bedwetting?
Many times, bedwetting gets better on its own with time. If your child needs treatment, there are 2 types:
- Bedwetting alarms use a small pad that attaches to your child’s underwear. If the pad gets wet, the alarm goes off and wakes up your child.
- Over time, your child’s body learns to wake up before the alarm goes off. Most children do not need the alarm after 2-3 months.
- Alarms can make a sound or vibrate. Alarms with sounds can sometimes wake up other people in the house.
- Alarms can be expensive ($60-90), but you only have to buy it once. They also do not have side effects.
- Doctors prescribe medications only when other treatments, like a bedwetting alarm, do not work. Medications do not cure bedwetting. They only control it.
- When your child stops taking medication, they usually wet the bed again. Your child has to learn how to listen to their body at night for bedwetting to stop.
- Medications can be helpful when children go to sleepovers, camps or other places where they might be embarrassed about wetting the bed.
- Medications can be expensive. They can also have side effects.
Do’s and Don’ts of Bedwetting
- Support your child. Bedwetting gets better if you both work on it. Tell them it is nothing to be embarrassed about.
- Tell your child that they need to wake up at night and use the bathroom by themselves.
- Tell your child it is okay to use the bathroom at night.
- Make it easy for your child to find the bathroom at night. Put nightlights in your child’s room and in the bathroom. You can also give them a flashlight to use.
- Tell your child to use the bathroom before bed even if they do not have to go or does not want to go.
- Keep track of how often your child wets the bed.
- Put a plastic mattress cover on the bed.
- Have your child help change the sheets.
- Have your child wear Pull-Ups® at night while they learn to be comfortable using the bathroom at night.
- Don’t embarrass or punish your child for wetting the bed.
- Don’t let your child drink a lot of liquids 2-3 hours before bedtime. Don’t let them drink liquids with caffeine, like soda, coffee and tea.
Rev. 1/2019. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.