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Bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) is normal up to 6 years of age. After age 6, bedwetting may be a problem that parents and child want to stop.

What causes bedwetting?

There is no one cause of bedwetting. Many things may be a part of the bedwetting problem.

  1. Bedwetting often runs in families and boys are affected more than girls.
  2. Many children have a delay in the control of nerves and muscles needed to stay dry.
  3. Bedwetting may be caused by a medical problem such as urinary tract infection, especially if the child was dry through the night before and just started bedwetting, or if there are also problems with daytime wetting. The doctor can check your child for any medical problems.
  4. Usually, bedwetting is not caused by emotional problems, but it can cause these problems if not handled correctly.
  5. Sometimes bedwetting can be associated with temporary emotional stress (death in the family, birth of a new sibling, or a move to a new house). This type of bedwetting is temporary.

How to help your child stop bedwetting

  1. DO NOT PUNISH YOUR CHILD. Punishment does not help. It may make your child bed wet more due to stress.
  2. Let your child know you want to help him/her get control of bedwetting. Your child is not being “lazy” or “bad” by wetting the bed.
  3. Reasons to have your child checked by a doctor for medical causes of bedwetting:
    • The problem continues beyond age 6.
    • Your child has stayed dry but now does not.
    • Your child has trouble staying dry in the day also.
  4. Do not limit fluid intake during the day. Limit large amounts of fluid intake in the evening.
  5. Cut out caffeine intake in the evening, such as cola, tea and chocolate. Caffeine is known to irritate the bladder so avoiding it near bedtime may help the problem.
  6. Waking your child to go to the bathroom does not really help.
  7. Make sure your child is responsible for helping to change the sheets and pajamas and put dirty laundry where it belongs. The amount of responsibility depends on your child’s age. Do this calmly and without making the child feel guilty or ashamed.
  8. Reward dry nights! (“You did a great job for staying dry!”) Try stickers or a special prize. Use a calendar or chart to reward dry nights and work toward a prize.
  9. Use a plastic mattress cover until there has been no wetting for a month.
  10. For some children over 6 years of age, a special alarm that rings to wake the child when the wetting starts works well. Your child’s doctor will give you a hand out to explain it.
  11. Medicine may be used for some children.
  12. Close follow-up with your child’s doctor is important. Follow-up visits help to check on your child’s progress. Bring your child’s calendar showing dry nights to be reviewed.

Please call your child’s doctor or clinic if you have any questions or concerns.

Disclaimer:This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 08/00

(757) 668-7000