A Bed-Wetting Survival Guide for You and Your Child

In the middle of the night, your toilet-trained 3-year-old cries from her bed complaining of wetness. For some reason, she didn’t get up to go the bathroom. So you get out of bed, calm her down, change her pajamas and her bed sheets, and somehow get back to sleep. The next night, it’s the same story all over again.

Is Bed-Wetting Normal?

Nighttime bed-wetting, also called nocturnal enuresis, is common among young children. In most instances, the problem will go away even if parents do nothing, so patience and support are the key ingredients to waiting out this problem. But there are a few steps parents can take to make things easier for the child and themselves:

  • Have your child go to the bathroom twice before going to bed.

  • Have your child drink most of his or her liquids during the morning and early afternoon.

  • Have your child avoid caffeinated and carbonated drinks, citrus juices, and sports drinks.

  • Protect the bed. Put a rubber or plastic cover between the sheet and mattress until your child can stay dry during the night. This will protect the mattress from getting wet and smelling like urine.

  • Leave out dry pajamas and towels for easy nighttime cleanup.

  • Reward your child for remembering to use the bathroom before bed, helping to clean bedding, or having a dry night. But do not punish after wet nights.

Most children are fully toilet-trained between the ages of 2 and 4, but some may not be able to stay dry during the night until they are older. 

Should You Call the Doctor?

Call your pediatrician if your child has signs of a medical problem, such as a bladder infection. These symptoms include:

  • Pain or burning when urinating

  • Crying while urinating

  • Urinating more often than normal

  • Dark, cloudy, bloody, or foul-smelling urine

  • Restlessness

  • Fever

  • Pain in the lower belly or back

  • Weak urine stream

In addition, contact your child’s provider if he or she starts wetting the bed again after being dry at night for some time. Your pediatrician may take a urine sample from your child to diagnose bladder control problems and to check for signs of an infection.

If a health condition is causing bed-wetting, it usually clears up when the condition is treated.  In rare instances, your pediatrician may prescribe medication when no other form of treatment works. Most children, however, just need some coaching from their parents. Here are some hints:

  • Be sensitive to the child’s feelings. Emotional support will help your child feel better. Emphasize that bed-wetting is not your child’s fault, that it’s very common, and that it will eventually go away. Be understanding if your child is embarrassed about spending the night at a friend’s house or going to summer camp.

  • If your child is age 4 or older, involve them in finding a solution. Ask him or her for ideas on how to stop or manage the wetting. This can give them a sense of control.

  • Set a no-teasing rule in your household. Parents, caregivers, and siblings need to understand that the bed-wetting child doesn’t have control over the problem.

  • Try a bed-wetting alarm device. This device sets off an alarm when it senses urine, so that the child can wake up to use the toilet.

If you have any questions or concerns about bed-wetting at any age, call your pediatrician. Just remember that time is on your side, because the overwhelming majority of children eventually outgrow the problem.


Online Medical Reviewer: Godsey, Cynthia, MSN, APRN, MSHE, FNP-BCTrevino, Heather M, BSN, RNC

Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2019

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