Does your elementary-school-aged child still wet the bed? If so, you’re not alone. Enuresis (or “bedwetting”) is more common than people realize, with 1 in every 8 children starting elementary school still wetting the bed.

Whether bedwetting happens every night or once every couple weeks, it’s normal to be concerned about the behavior and wonder whether there is something more you can do to help your child stay dry overnight.

The first step is understanding how your child’s body works.

Bothersome Bladders

Bedwetting is usually the result of lack of bladder control, but it can also be genetic, so if you or your partner wet the bed, chances are your child may, too. When we need to urinate, our bladder sends a message to our brain to tighten the muscles around the bladder to hold the urine in. In bedwetting situations, this message is not received and the muscles around the bladder relax and urine is let out.

But even children who generally stay dry overnight can go through bouts of bedwetting during stressful times or when they are feeling anxious or over-tired. Divorce, moving, starting school, or birth of a sibling can all bring about changes to their bodily functions.

How To Help At Home

If your older child is wetting the bed, consider making some adjustments at home:

  • Make sure your child’s bed is easy to get in and out of.
  • Avoid flannel pajamas and heavy bedding—it’s harder to feel when they are wet.
  • Use a nightlight so your child can move through their room easier at night.
  • Protect the mattress with a waterproof undersheet.
  • Have a second set of clean sheets nearby if they need to be changed.
  • Avoid using overnight diapers for children over 3-years old.
  • Have your child urinate right before bedtime.

For successfully dry nights, offer lots of praise in the morning or even a special reward, such as a new book or favorite snack in their lunchbox. You could also use a reward chart for either following a new nighttime routine or for having dry nights.

When Accidents Happen

If you’re woken up in the middle of the night for a bedwetting episode, calmly help your child with their needs. It’s likely that they already feel some embarrassment, so complaining or scolding them won’t help the situation. Tell him that it happens to a lot of kids, it’s not his fault, and nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t make a big deal out of the accident, but do have your child help with the cleanup, such as changing the sheets or getting new pajamas to wear.

Gently explain that learning to stay dry overnight takes time and practice.

Treatments for Bedwetting

If your child is over 5-years old and wetting the bed at least twice a week, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor to rule out any medical causes for it, such as urinary tract infections, diabetes, or even stress. From here, your doctor can determine whether your child needs to see a specialist or try medication.

In addition to your other home treatments, it’s a good idea to:

  • Avoid drinks and foods with lots of sugar and caffeine.
  • Try cutting out other bladder irritants, such as citrus juices, artificial flavorings, red dye, and sweeteners.
  • Increase fluid intake to the earlier part of the day. A good goal is 40% of their fluid in the morning, 40% in the afternoon, and 20% in the evening.
  • Don’t randomly wake your child to use the bathroom in the middle of the night—it’s generally not effective in treating bedwetting.

Your doctor may recommend using a bedwetting alarm, which is small clip-on sensor that detects moisture and anchors to the outside of underwear or on the pad of a bed. When a child starts to urinate, the alarm with either vibrate or make a sound to wake your child out of their slumber so they can finish urinating in the bathroom.

The good news is most children (90%) outgrow bedwetting by the time they are 7. But if bedwetting is currently interfering with their ability to have sleepovers, or your child gets embarrassed about their “wet” clothes, or even if they just want to dry overnight, it’s a good idea to start looking at ways to support their road to dry nights ahead.


This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (  Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website ( or contact us at

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