Bedwetting and the Older Child

Facts and Helpful Hints

If your child is five years of age or older and still wets the bed, first understand     that this is very common and does not mean your child is lazy or is doing it on purpose. Experts estimate that 15 to 20 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 7 years wet their beds at least occasionally, and this percentage drops steadily as children age, with around two percent still wetting the bed at age 16.1

For most children, bedwetting is simply due to normal developmental issues, and the child will most likely outgrow it. This is called primary bedwetting, and can be due to the following:2

  • Having a bladder too small to hold urine all night
  • Being a heavy sleeper and thus not waking when the bladder is full
  • Drinking a lot of fluids at night before bed
  • Ignoring the bodily cues to urinate during the day.

A very small number of children (only about 1%) have what’s called secondary bedwetting. This is when a child who was previously able to stay dry throughout the night for a significant period of time (at least 6 months) suddenly starts to wet the bed. Secondary bedwetting can indicate an underlying medical condition, such as the following:2

• Urinary tract infection

  • Constipation

• Diabetes

• Structural or physical abnormality • Neurological problem

• Emotional distress

If your child was able to stay dry at night for an extended period of time and then suddenly starts to wet the bed, it is recommended you take your child to the pediatrician or family physician for an evaluation.

Regardless of the cause, bedwetting can be frustrating for both parent and child. Here are some tips that might help reduce bedwetting frequency and allow the child to feel more in control of the situation:1–3

1. Do not blame, shame, or punish your child for bedwetting. Encouragement and support are what your child needs.

2. Have your child create a daytime schedule that allows for frequent bathroom breaks. Experts recommend that your child urinate at least every 2 to 3 hours during the day, even if he or she doesn’t feel the need to, and then urinate twice right before bedtime.

  • Have your child use a calendar to keep track of bedwetting frequency and other pertinent factors to help identify patterns and/or triggers.
  • Instruct your child to avoid consuming anything that can irritate the bladder, such as caffeinated  beverages or foods (e.g., chocolate milk, chocolate candy), citrus juices, and artificial flavorings, dyes (especially red), and sweeteners.
  • Encourage your child to stay well hydrated throughout the day and limit fluid intake in the evenings. If his or her school permits it, give your child a water bottle to carry throughout the day to make it easier to drink water. Staying hydrated during the day will help reduce thirst in the evenings.
  • Don’t wake up your child during the night to urinate. This can cause sleep problems and frustration for your child.
  • Put two layers of waterproof pads/ mattress covers and washable, absorbent sheets on your child’s bed. If the child wets the bed during the night, he or she can then easily strip off the wet layer of sheets and pad and have clean, dry sheets and pad already on the bed. This not only makes clean up easy and helps reduce nighttime disruption, it helps your child develop independence.


  1. Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania site. How to Help Older Children Overcome Bedwetting.13 Nov 2018. health-tip/how-help-older-children- overcome-bedwetting. 21 May 2019.
  2. Cleveland Clinic site. How to help your child stop wetting the bed. 5 May 2014. https:// child-stop-wetting-the-bed-2/. 21 May 2019
  3. WebMD site. Sleep disorders: What causes bedwetting. 18 May 2018. https://www. bedwetting-causes#2. Accessed 21 May 2019.

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