About one in 10 children wet the bed up to the age of 10. Most children grow out of it.
Your child has no control over bedwetting. It’s important to not blame or punish them for something they can’t control.
Why bedwetting happens
Sometimes children wet the bed because they haven’t matured to the point where the bladder tells the brain it is full.
Or the brain is unable to tell the bladder to hold on to the wee.
The link between the brain and bladder develops at different ages and can’t be changed or hurried up.
Bedwetting can also happen if your child:
- has trouble waking up when the bladder signals it is full
- has a bladder that can’t hold a large amount of urine
- produces more urine at night than other children due to differences in hormone levels
- is unwell or overtired
- has a family history of bedwetting
- has a bladder infection, constipation or other physical issue
- is stressed - eg: living with a new baby, starting school, experiencing family violence or break up.
Children who wet the bed can stay dry when sleeping in a strange place.
They may sleep lightly if worried about it while away but when back home will often wet the bed again.
Read more about toilet training your toddler, including how to tell if they are ready.
How to help your child
Children are often upset and embarrassed when they wake up in a wet bed.
They may also be worried about upsetting you.
You can help them by trying the following things.
Build their confidence
Wait until your child wakes up dry most mornings, and then try a night without a nappy or pull-up.
Prepare the bed so only the top sheet, towel or bed pad gets wet.
If they’re not confident, let them wear a nappy or pull-up until they feel ready.
Make sure they eat and drink well
Make sure your child has five to six drinks throughout the day. Water is best.
Don’t restrict drinks in the evening.
Don’t give them drinks with caffeine - eg: soft drinks, coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
Include more fibre and water in your child’s diet if they are constipated.
Stick to a routine
Stick to a regular bedtime routine that includes a trip to the toilet before going to sleep.
Talk about bedwetting
Explain in simple terms some of the reasons for bedwetting.
For example: ‘While you’re asleep your brain isn’t getting the message you need to go to the toilet and so you don’t wake up’.
Or: ‘Your bladder, where your wee is stored, hasn’t grown large enough yet to hold all your wee through the night’.
You can also:
- leave a light on or give them a torch so they can find the toilet easily.
- encourage them to call you if they need help
- reassure them they will grow out of it - don’t shame, punish, criticise or tease them
- don’t make younger children put wet items in the laundry - it can feel like a punishment
- let them know if someone else in the family used to wet the bed - it can help them feel better
- talk to your child about how they are feeling, and any ideas that could help
- make sure they have a shower in the morning so others don’t tease them for being smelly.
Behaviour change programs like star charts won’t work because your child can’t control bedwetting.
Use a mattress protector
To help save washing you can cover the mattress with a waterproof mattress protector or put an absorbent bed pad, available at pharmacies, over the bottom sheet.
When to see a doctor or health professional
Talk with your doctor or a continence health professional if you have concerns about bedwetting, or your child does any of the following:
- still wets their pants during the day by school age
- starts wetting again during the day or night and this continues
- is wetting the bed after seven years of age and is becoming very upset by it
- is often constipated.
School camps and sleepovers
Your child might try to avoid school camps or sleepovers if they wet the bed.
Try the following ideas to support your child for a school camp:
- talk with the school - teachers are used to dealing with these situations and can help you work out what to do
- pack plastic bags for wet items and enough clean clothing and underwear
- pack some wipes to help prevent your child from smelling.
If your child is invited to a sleepover, talk to the parent in advance. Maybe your child could wear a pull-up for the night.
If your child is still very anxious about wetting the bed at camp or a sleepover, talk to your doctor to see if medication can help them while they away from home.
Find out more, including where you can get support to deal with bedwetting, on the following pages:
- child heath - community care centres, remote health clinics, Continence Foundation of Australia, Health Direct
- counselling and relationships - Parentline
- learning and development - Raising Children Network.
This information was adapted from the Parent Easy Guide series © Parenting SA, Government of South Australia.
Last updated: 14 September 2016