When should a child stop wetting the bed?
Bed-wetting is common in young children. It occurs in about 15% to 20% of
5-year-olds and gradually decreases to about 7% of 7-year-olds, 5% of
10-year-olds, and 2% to 3% of 12- to 14-year-olds.1
Because children grow and develop at different rates, bed-wetting will usually
stop over time without treatment. Bed-wetting is rarely related to a medical
Treatment for bed-wetting is not a cure. The goal is to
reduce the number of times the child wets the bed and to manage the wetting
until it goes away on its own.
If bed-wetting is related to
stress, the child will usually regain bladder control
when the stress is relieved or dealt with.
How effective is treatment for bed-wetting?
Devices and treatments that can be used at home vary in their
effectiveness. Many treatments help the child learn how to notice the signals
sent by the bladder when it is full. Treatments can be used alone or in
combination and may include:
moisture alarm. This device is worn on the body and
makes a sound when urine first touches the child's underclothing. The child is
encouraged to try to "beat the buzzer." Moisture alarms are the most successful
treatment for bed-wetting, especially in children age 10 and
- Motivational therapy. This method involves parents
encouraging and reinforcing a child's sense of control over bed-wetting.
Parents repeatedly tell their child that he or she can master bed-wetting. And
they also work with the child to design a reward system that will encourage and
motivate the child to stay dry. Counseling sessions with a trained professional
may also be involved. This treatment works best for children who want to take
part in it.
- Self-awakening training. This is a
method of helping a child awake from sleep. It involves having the child
practice getting out of bed to go to the bathroom. This type of training works
well when both parents and the child are motivated, and usually this is more
likely with children older than 6.
- Dry-bed training.
This method consists of following a strict schedule for waking the child up at
night until he or she learns to wake up alone when needed. The dry-bed training
program is implemented over 7 nights. After training is complete, the steps are
repeated if the child wets the bed 3 nights in a row. Dry-bed training may take
less time and have greater long-term success when it is combined with other
treatments, such as a moisture alarm or self-awakening
- Desmopressin and
tricyclic antidepressants. Although medicines help
some children with bed-wetting, the wetting usually returns after the medicine
is stopped. Medicines are usually used with children age 8 and older after
other treatments have failed. They may be used in combination with other
treatments or when needed on a temporary basis, such as for an overnight event.
Sometimes, medicine may be given for a few nights as a way to encourage or
motivate a child by helping him or her experience nighttime dryness.
What new problems could develop if I treat my child's bed-wetting?
Depending on how you manage it, your child might
feel punished or feel as though attention is being drawn to the wetting.
If you choose to use medicines to treat your child's wetting, he or she
may have side effects from the medicines, such as an irregular heartbeat. Some
of the medicines must be kept out of the reach of children because they can be
very dangerous if taken in large doses.
What are the risks of not treating my child's bed-wetting?
As long as your child's bed-wetting does not have a
specific medical cause, deciding against treatment does not increase his or her
risk for physical problems.
Bed-wetting may affect the child's
self-esteem and relationships with peers and with family members. But you may
be able to help prevent these problems. Reassure your child that it is normal
for some children to take a little longer than others to gain bladder control.
Ask what the child would like to do to manage the problem until it goes away,
and expect him or her to take responsibility for it (with your support).
If you need more information, see the topic