Facts for Families on Bedwetting or Enuresis

Adapted from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) HealthyChildren.org:

Although most children are toilet trained between 2 and 4 years of age, some children may not be able to stay dry at night until they are older. Children develop at their own rate. For example, studies have shown that between 10-15% of 5- and 7-year-olds wet the bed. But by age 15, fewer than 1% wet the bed.

Bedwetting is not a serious medical condition, but it can be challenging for kids and parents.

Reasons for Bedwetting

Here are 3 of the most common reasons for bedwetting, according to the AAP:

  1. Communication between the brain and bladder. If the bladder signals the brain that it’s filling up with urine—and the brain doesn’t send a message back to the bladder to relax and hold the urine until morning—bedwetting will happen. Likewise, if the bladder signals the brain that it’s filling up with urine and the brain doesn’t hear the signals, especially during deep sleep, bedwetting will happen.
  2. Stress or trauma. Some​times when children experience stress, traumatic events, major life changes (moving, divorce, new school, etc.), or when they get sick or constipated, children who have previously been dry at night can have bouts of bedwetting. This is a different problem than the child who has never been dry at night. Children with these short-term episodes of bedwetting usually have dry nights when the underlying problem resolves.
  3. Medical concerns. Rarely, some children begin to wet the bed as a result of a serious medical problem.

How Parents and Caregivers Can Help

Most children wet their beds during toilet training and in the year afterwards. Even after they stay dry at night for a number of days or even weeks, they may start wetting at night again. If this happens to your child, simply go back to training pants at night and try again another time. The problem usually disappears as children get older. If children reach school age and still have problems wetting the bed, it most likely means they have never developed nighttime bladder control.

If your child is bedwetting, be sure to offer support, not punishment or shaming. You can buy a mattress protector and extra sheets to make clean-up easier, remind them to use the toilet before bed, install night lights along the path to the bathroom, and enforce a no-teasing rule in your household (especially for older siblings!). Bedwetting alarms can also help your child wake up from a deep sleep when they need to use the bathroom.

If your child is well past the toilet training stage, you may also want to ask them if anything is bothering them or causing them stress.

If you are concerned about your child’s bedwetting or your child expresses concern, talk with your child’s doctor to get additional support and rule out medical or behavioral health causes.

Possible signs of a medical problem

If your child has been completely toilet trained for 6 months or longer and suddenly begins wetting the bed, talk with your child’s doctor. It may be a sign of a medical or behavioral health problem. However, most medical problems that cause bedwetting to recur suddenly have other signs, including:

  • Changes in how much and how often your child urinates during the day
  • Pain, burning, or straining while urinating
  • A very small or narrow stream of urine or dribbling
  • Cloudy or pink urine​ or bloodstains on underpants
  • Daytime and nighttime wetting
  • Sudden change in personality or mood
  • Poor bowel control
  • Urinating after stress (coughing, running, or lifting)
  • Certain gait disturbances (problems with walking that may mean an underlying neurologic problem)
  • Continuous dampness

If your child has any of these signs, please contact a pediatrician.

Remember: bedwetting is extremely common, and in most cases, it decreases as the child’s body matures. By the teen years, almost all children have bladder control for dry nights.

Visit the link below to learn more about bedwetting from the American Academy of Pediatrics.