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Bedwetting: the facts

There is always a supply of confusing, free opinions about how a child’s bedwetting problem “should” be addressed. If you’ve been trying for dry beds for some time, you’ll know by now there are no simple answers.

Everyone’s experiences are different, so everyone’s solutions to bedwetting are different.

Here is some information you can use to make your child’s night-time toilet training experience as positive as possible.

Accept the realities

  • Most children aren’t reliably dry during the day until they’re between 3 and 4 years old, and not dry on most nights until the age of 4.
  • At the age of 5, there will be 5 or more children in a school class of 30 who are still wetting the bed at least twice a week.
  • To be reliably dry at night the bladder has to hold on to a good amount of urine and the person must have the ability to wake up and go to the toilet before the bladder empties.
  • If a child is dry at night earlier than average, luck might be playing a part or these children may have mothers and fathers who were dry at a younger-than-average age. If both parents were bed-wetters, there’s a 3 in 4 chance that their child will be a bed-wetter too.
  • While the washing of bed-linen might seem unending, be patient – or appear to be!

How to prepare for sleepovers

  • Don’t be tempted to live in hope and let a bedwetting child “wing it” on their own.
  • The excitement, extra drinks, and generally strange routine of a sleepover can make them even more prone to an embarrassing accident.
  • Wearing a pair of absorbent pyjama pants discreetly under nightwear, and/or an absorbent product under the sheet are sensible precautions.

Using a bed-wetting alarm

If a child is aged 7 or over, it’s worth trying an alarm. Sometimes, in a well-motivated child from about the age of 5, it can also be appropriate. There are two types of alarms: either a personal alarm with a small sensor, or a bell and pad/mat fitted to the bed.

An alarm program requires commitment, every night, by a caregiver, because the child has to be attended to and the alarm re-set each time it triggers. The child has to be closely involved in its use. You may have to initially wake the child when the alarm triggers. Learning to wake can be difficult for a child – be patient. Properly used and with professional guidance, there’s a 75 per cent success rate for permanent dryness.

The guidance and support of a continence consultant as your child’s “bedwetting coach” is strongly recommended with an alarm program.

Good bladder and bowel health

Like toilet training, achieving a dry bed is another step up the child’s ladder to having good bladder and bowel habits as teenagers and adults.

In the early stages, be aware that your own habits and attitudes as caregiver take hold, so:

  • Explain the whys of bed-wetting – show the child a diagram of their body’s “waste management” system,
  • Explain the input/output process of drinking/kidneys/bladder/weeing,
  • Explain food intake (including the importance of the fibre in vegetables and fruit) and bowel function – and last but certainly not least,
  • Be optimistic, positive and supportive always.


Ditch the perceptions that you’re on your own in this (it’s a very common problem), that your child is too slow becoming dry, that they’re being naughty, that it’s your fault, or that other people’s children seem to become miraculously dry without any bother.

However, if you’ve been coping with bedwetting for some time, it’s wise to seek some professional advice. In seeking this, the clinician might simply provide some comfort that you’re doing all you can, that your child is simply not ready, that there is nothing bad physically or emotionally that is upsetting this “natural process”. But at the appropriate stage, a “bedwetting coach” (such as a GP or a paediatric continence nurse) is an excellent way to go.

– This article is written with information from the National Continence Helpline

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