Passing urine during sleep is called “bed-wetting” when it occurs after age 5 or 6. Children are usually expected to have nighttime bladder control by this age. Bed-wetting is a very common problem. In the U.S., 5 to 7 million children have it.


Enuresis is a medical term for bed-wetting. {Note: Bed-wetting itself, can’t be prevented, but damage to a child’s self- image can. Explain that bed-wetting is not his or her fault and that it will get better in time.}


Children don’t wet the bed on purpose. These are causes of bed-wetting:


•  A lot of urine is made in the evening and during the night. A full bladder does not wake the child up.

•  A child’s small bladder does not hold urine for an entire night.

•  Other conditions, such as a urinary tract infection and diabetes. (Daytime wetting and other symptoms occur with these conditions.)

•  For children who have been dry at night for 6 or more months, sometimes, emotional upsets and major changes can cause bed-wetting. An example is having a new baby in the house.

•  Children are more likely to wet the bed if both parents did when they were children.



Most of the time, children outgrow bed-wetting. Until then, self-care measures help with the problem. Medication can be prescribed when no other treatment works.

National Kidney Foundation

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Questions to Ask

Self-Care / Prevention

Be patient and give your child lots of support. Children who wet the bed can’t help it. Getting angry only makes the problem worse.

Until Your Child Outgrows Bed-Wetting

•  Do not blame or punish your child for wetting the bed.

•  Limit fluids in the evening, especially 2 hours before bedtime. Ask your child’s doctor how much your child should drink. Don’t give drinks with caffeine, such as colas.

•  Have your child urinate in the toilet right before getting into bed.

•  See that your child can easily get to the toilet during the night. Keep the path clear. Use night lights, etc. If needed, put a portable potty close to your child’s bed. Assign a place the potty can be moved to for daytime, if your child wants to do this.

•  Tell other members of the household that “teasing” about bed-wetting is not allowed. Respect your child’s privacy and feelings.

•  You may want your child to use pull-up (training) pants when he or she sleeps away from home, camps, etc. On a regular basis, encourage your child to wake up to use the toilet.

•  Keep a change of pajamas, a flannel covered pad, clean sheets, dry towels, etc., near your child’s bed. Show your child how to use these when he or she wets the bed. Include your child in the clean-up process.

•  Have your child rehearse getting up from bed and using the toilet. Do this at bedtime. Do it during the day when your child gets the urge to urinate. Have your child lay down in his or her bed, wait a few minutes, and then get up to urinate in the toilet.

•  If your child is 5 years old or older and he or she agrees to it, get a bed-wetting alarm. The child wears the alarm on his or her underwear. The first drop makes the alarm buzz. This wakes the child up. After awhile, the child learns to wake up when he or she has to urinate. Some of these alarms help prevent wet beds 85 to 90 percent of the time.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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