Bed Wetting

By Gabrielle. Image by Justin Hackworth

For a blog called Design Mom, sometimes I’m surprised how little I get into the nuts and bolts of parenting. I suppose it might be because the longer I’m a parent, the easier it is to see that I really have no idea how to do this job most of the time. And that almost nobody does. There’s a lot of winging it going on! But I was having a conversation with a friend, and her kindergartener is having trouble staying dry at night, and I replied, “Oh! I totally I wet the bed till I was in middle school. I even had to see a doctor about it. My parents handled it really well. And here’s how I learned to stay dry…”

Thinking about the conversation later, I realized I’d never talked about bed-wetting on Design Mom before. But I know a tiny bit about it, and who knows, my experience might help someone out there. So if you’re in the mood for a little only-parents-would-want-to-talk-about-this discussion, read on.

Yep. I wet the bed until middle school. And had a few memorable “accidents” into high school and beyond. As a child, of course I was painfully embarrassed about it, but as an adult it’s basically the least traumatic thing in the world. Outside of parenting conversations, I never give it a second thought.

Among my 8 siblings, I’m the only one that wet the bed. I’m sure my parents thought I would just grow out of it at some point. They never made a big deal about it, and were very discreet about the whole thing. My 4 older siblings knew (how could they not notice?), but they were kind as can be about it — they never really even mentioned it. And they certainly never teased or were cruel about it. So I was super lucky. I don’t know if my 3 younger siblings ever noticed or knew.

The only part that I sensed tension at home about, was that my Mom couldn’t keep up with cleaning the sheets. (I say Mom, because my Dad was not a great housework contributor.) On some nights, I would sleep on a towel over dry but pee-stained sheets. And I remember not wanting to talk to my mom about it because I could see it stressed her out. As an adult, I can guess that the stress was that she was feeling guilty that she wasn’t somehow providing fresh sheets every night, and that she didn’t know how to help me stop wetting the bed. Of course, that breaks my heart, because she didn’t need to feel any guilt. Sleeping on dirty sheets is not the end of the world.

Sometimes late at night, when making rounds and tucking people in, my mom would rouse me from bed and sleep-walk me to the bathroom, and then sleep-walk me back. And I would wake up dry the next morning. Most of the time I didn’t even know she’d woken me up unless I asked the next day.

Outside the house, the stress about wetting the bed is what you might expect. It became an issue around 4th or 5th grade when I started getting invited to sleepover parties. So scary for me! I was very social and of course wanted to go. But I was terrified of wetting the bed in front of my friends. So I came up with strategies. They mostly involved not drinking any liquid all day long and praying over and over again that I wouldn’t wet the bed that night. And sometimes it would work. But not always. Sometimes I would wake up and then have to wait until everyone else left the room so I could hide my wet undies, nightgown and sleeping bag before anyone saw the evidence.

Related, I never felt like I could casually hang out with friends in my bedroom. I needed to make sure there were no signs of bed-wetting before anyone came in.

But again, I was lucky. I had about the least traumatic experience with bed-wetting that a kid can have.

So how did I stop? Well, when I was in 6th grade, my parents decided it was time to see a doctor about this. I still hadn’t grown out of it, and it hadn’t even slowed down. Alas, the doctor happened to be the father of a boy in my 6th grade class, which was about as mortifying as it gets for an 11 year old. I was absolutely postive the doctor would be discussing my bed wetting at his family dinner that evening. But aside from that, it was really just a check up. And no, there was nothing in particular that was causing the bed wetting.

The conclusion was that I was simply a really deep sleeper — that I peed in the night and never even noticed it had happened. And this is true. I am still a very deep sleeper. And I love sleep. If I had to pick between sleeping and eating, sleep would win every time.

So what to do about the bed wetting?

Well, the doctor recommended a couple of options. First, there was some sort of device that I could wear at night that would detect moisture. If I started to pee, the device would set off an alarm to wake me up, so I could head to the bathroom. The idea was that eventually my body would learn to wake up at the same time every night and the problem would be solved.

I didn’t want anything to do with option 1. It drew tons of attention to the problem. The alarm might wake up my siblings! And the device was sure to be uncomfortable. And what was so wrong with sleeping through the night? Disrupting sleep seemed like a bad idea. If my parents had forced me to try option one, I’m sure there would have been many, many tears.

So then, it was option 2. With option two, I was instructed to drink whatever I normally drank in the morning (it was the 80’s, so that meant a glass of orange juice made from frozen concentrate). Then, I should go to school, or go about my day, and continue drinking normally (at lunch, at the water fountain during recess, etc.), but I was not supposed to pee until after school, say 3:30 or 4:00 PM. That’s right. I was just supposed to hold it for 8 or 9 hours. The idea here was to stretch my bladder so that it was capable of holding enough pee to get through the night.

So I went with option 2. And except on rare occasions, for the rest of 6th grade and into 7th grade, I never peed until after school.

And it worked!

My bladder grew. And I stopped wetting the bed.

Except for a few “accidents” over the years, including at a babysitting job on a couch, at a sleepover with the two most popular girls in high school during my senior year, and once when I was very pregnant with Maude  — and went to the hospital thinking my water had broke. Sigh.

So that’s it. A pretty simple fix. I’m no expert, and there are no doubt new methods and research about bed wetting that I’m not aware of. But I’m sharing this in case it helps, or offers reassurance to anyone out there dealing with this. No guilt, Friends! It’s going to be okay.

P.S. — I assumed at least one of my kids would have my bed-wetting genes, but not one of them followed in my footsteps. Such a waste of my “vast” bed-wetting knowledge. : )

P.P.S. — TMI warning: As an adult, my 9-hour bladder means I still rarely take bathroom breaks during the day. And never during the night. In fact, during my pregnancies, one of the things I found most bothersome was having to use the bathroom multiple times throughout the day, because the baby was taking up valuable bladder space. Hah! I found it so disruptive.

177 thoughts on “Bed Wetting”

  1. Thanks so much Gabby!! My 5 year old is a bed wetter, and potty trained late. My 9 year old daughter has never had a wet night and potty trained both day and night at 2 1/2. I wake my little one up between 11 and 12:00 midnight to pee, and she usually stays dry till morning, but not always. I will talk to her about trying to hold her pee longer during during the day. I wash her sheets about 3 a week.

    1. We used the alarm with my daughter when she was 5. It is called the Wee Stop I think? Bought it on amazon for about $40. After spending a small fortune in nighttime pullups, this was money well spent. It wasn’t uncomfortable (just a small clip that attaches to outside of underwear that detects wetness). I think she only had to use it about a week and she was no longer wetting the bed. The alarm is a little loud, so it might wake other kids up, but that is about the only drawback.

      1. I had the issue with my eldest as well. After waiting years for it to go away on its own (as the pediatrician said to wait till she grows out of it, which she didn’t) we ended up taking her to a bedwetting clinic. The therapist set her up with an alarm as well, but this one didn’t come in direct contact with my daughter, which made me feel a lot more comfortable with the idea. Thrilled to say that she was completely dry within 3 weeks, able to wake herself up if she needs the bathroom at night, and remain sleeping if she doesn’t have to. The program we followed was, in case anyone is interested.

  2. Thanks for sharing! So I wonder: Has there ever been a time after wearing diapers when you didn’t wet the bed as a kid? Or was that just what happened, straight after you stopped wearing diapers? I have friends with a bed-wetting kid and they are convinvced it is psychological but here it sounds as if it could be simply a physical problem.

    1. After diapers, I wet the bed most nights. At some point, I was simply too big for the diapers available at the time.

      Of course, this was before disposable training pants/pull-ups existed, so there wasn’t really much for parents to do but put a waterproof mattress protector on the bed and wish for the best.

      These days, there are diapers/training pants available in so many sizes, that parents can now keep sheets protected pretty well if the child doesn’t mind switching from underwear to a “diaper” at night.

  3. My daughter had the same problem, although it did end earlier. And luckily there are now overnights that fit much older children. She stopped when she was 8, luckily just when her little brother (there are 4 years between) also stopped. I actually kept him in overnights longer than necessary so that neither of them would notice anything unusual. Our doc’s conclusion was also deep sleep, which I found amusing since at the time it took her 2 hours to get to sleep each night (sensory issues, among other things).

  4. Thanks for sharing this. This is what makes me come to this blog everyday. In my circle of friends this is something you’d never discuss. You make everyone feel like we’re super besties!

  5. Interesting. I too wet the bed, and my parents went the alarm route when I was 5 or so. I remember it being a little scary, having this alarm going off in the middle of the night, but I was so young that I rolled with it.

    Both of my kids were bedwetters too. All of their friends potty trained at night, but not my kids. When my oldest was 5, the pediatrician recommended an alarm. Within two weeks, the problem was solved. I thought the second child would train on his own, but fortunately we had the alarm already, and when he was 5, he trained with the alarm in a week, like magic. I think my kids’ alarm is not nearly as loud as the one I used – mine was a whole insert under the sheet with an alarm box, whereas theirs was just a clip that went on the underwear and a tiny alarm that attached to the pajamas, just loud enough to wake them up to pee.

    We’ve been dry ever since, and it is such a relief not to have to buy the overnight pull-ups. I guess we are all just really sound sleepers!

    1. I love hearing some first hand (and positive!) experiences with the alarm. It sound like it works wonderfully well. Hooray!

      And it’s sounds like it works from a pretty early age too. I imagine I would have been way more open to the idea at 5 years old, than I was at 11.

      1. There have been some serious medical studies that indicate that an alarm can be effective – if the child’s bladder and hormones have developed sufficiently to make it through the night.

        If the child isn’t physically ready, an alarm probably is not going to help.

        Alarms were effective to help my brothers close the deal when they started having dry nights. But all the alarm did for my sisters was announce to the whole family that somebody had wet the bed, and train them to wake up when it was already too late.

      2. I wish I could say the alarm worked for us! My son is such a deep sleeper that he would silence the alarm without ever waking enough to realize what it was. He never even remembered it going off or his removing it.

  6. I had this problem as a child too. The thing I try to tell parents of children with this problem is that it IS a sleep issue and the child truly has no control over it. I remember having terrible instances of trying to wake up and not being able to. Of thinking I was awake only to realize I was still sleeping – like I was lost in a labyrinth! So many dreams of searching for a bathroom… So frustrating.

    What a clever solution your parents found for you. Thankfully, I outgrew it (my sleep became more “organized,” I guess), because I remember thinking those alarms sounded like a terrible idea too! And I think it’s wonderful that you shared all this info. Very helpful.

    1. “The thing I try to tell parents of children with this problem is that it IS a sleep issue and the child truly has no control over it.”

      So important! There would be so much regret if a parent was angry at their child over it, or blamed them, or thought it was intentional.

      Bed-wetting is so common. It really doesn’t need to be traumatic.

  7. My youngest was a bed wetter. It started to really bother him in 3rd grade, so on our doctor’s advice, we tried the alarm. It really is magic! Within a few days he was dry and hasn’t wet one time since then (and that was 3 years ago). I highly, highly, recommend the alarm. Ours came with very specific instructions for the ‘program’, and we followed it exactly. I love this topic, because it’s so rarely talked about, but can be a real issue for many families.

        1. We have an alarm called Wet Stop. Got it off Amazon. I think it also came with instructions/program.

    1. Becky, could you explain more about what type of device you used and what the “program” was? I have deep sleepers here too.

      1. The alarm we used was SleepDry. They have a website The whole thing sounded strange, but it worked. Good luck!

  8. Thank you Gabrielle. I was just having a conversation about this w/ my girlfriend today as my 5yr old is still in night time diapers. Have always suspected she’s just a deep sleeper because of different “solutions” we’ve tried. I try not to make a big deal about it but inside I worry. You just made everything seem ok, you’re the best!

  9. My friend has a daughter who is 10 and wets the bed not often but on occasion and when it happens it is a soaking event (sorry to be so graphic). I sense from my friend that it can be trying especially the cleanup though she does not draw attention to it or address it in a negative way with her daughter. Her doctor told her that about 10 percent of children aren’t capable of containing it. I will definitely offer your story to her and thank you for sharing. I have another friend whose daughter also wet the bed until she was 9 or 10. That friend’s child wore/wears a pull-up and eventually was prescribed a medicine to help. Right around the time she was prescribed the medicine she started self regulating. She did have sleepovers at our house and we (me, my two daughters) knew about the pullup but didn’t comment on it. Everyone seemed to have a quiet understanding of the situation.

    1. Oh. I feel that. The clean up is not easy as the child gets older! A 10 year old can hold lots more liquid than a toddler.

      I’ve never heard of a medication for bed-wetting. I’d love to learn more about how it works. Fascinating!

      1. One of the main causes of bedwetting is insufficient production of vasopresssin, a hormone that suppresses urine production while sleeping. It takes time for kids to develop vasopressin production; some kids take longer than others.

        Desmopressin is a synthetic vasopressin. If the problem is insufficient vaspopressin, desmopressin can be effective, at least for short periods. Doctors prescribe it for kids going to sleepovers or sleepaway camp.

        Desmopressin has side effects. The most serious is that it can affect the balance of minerals in the body. The nasal spray was banned as a treatment for childhood bedwetting, after a couple of children died and many others suffered seizures. Desmopresssin tablets are considered safe, but they can have some other unpleasant (but not potentially serious) side effects such as headaches, hot flashes and nausea.

        For bedwetting during delta-wave sleep, tricyclic antidepressants (belladonna or imipramine) can be effective. However, they can have a wide range of fairly nasty side effects.

        Before doctors figured out the cause of my bedwetting, I was prescribed all of these things. Some of them reduced my bedwetting, but none of them eliminated it and they all gave me very unpleasant side effects. i decided that if I was going to have to wear something anyway, I wasn’t going to put up with the side effects.

  10. I had a very similar experience! I had a horrible time with bed wetting (and I didn’t have nice siblings who let me go tease-free). My parents tried everything but my first grade teacher was the one who broke it. I always had to pee and she refused to let me go except for once a day! My mom was so angry over it and I had a couple of accidents at school but eventually, like you, my bladder grew and my bed wetting stopped! I still only go maybe three or four times a day and people think that’s so weird. I had the same reaction to pregnancy, too! I thought it very inconvenient that I had to take so many bathroom breaks! Thanks for sharing this!

  11. Former bedwetter here. And sleepwalker- like out on the roof once!
    So out of 5 kids, I have 3 that have steel traps for bladders and 2 not! Still in middle school and working on that problem. We just went to the dr. and he said they’ll grow out if it. Pleh! I know that- hello! former bedwetter here, who had the alarm/being woken up in the middle of the night/constant sheet changing going on.
    Thank you for posting this, because it’s been the 3rd day this week in a row of washing sheets (our bedwetter likes to soak overnight diapers and through the protector pad- yes that’s a lot of pee).
    We must be on the same wavelength.

    1. Sleepwalking! I’ve never done it, but for some reason it’s always mildly freaked me out. Something about the idea of being out of control — doing things you have no idea you’re doing (what’s the name of that curse in Harry Potter?). So glad you didn’t fall off the roof!

      Sending you cheery laundry vibes! And know that if your child needs to sleep on a towel tonight, your family will survive. : )

  12. Thanks so much for sharing your story. My 7.5 year old son is also a deep sleeper — he still wears a diaper at night, as he pees every night. My husband tries to wake him up around midnight to go, but even still he won’t stay dry over night. I like your expanding the bladder solution, will have to try that!

    1. Best of luck!

      And even if the waking up at midnight or expanding the bladder doesn’t work at 7.5 years, the same methods might work at a little older. You never know!

  13. I’ve potty-trained four of mine so far and I have two that can hold it effortlessly at night and two that absolutely cannot (no correlation with gender, since I have both in each category). We have found the most success with waking up the heavy sleeper at the same time each night and taking them to the bathroom…eventually they start waking up themselves at that time and going in. However, we have also found that any obstacles mean that they will pee all over the floor…too asleep to navigate! It happened so often with one of our girls that we made up a jingle to help the sibling sharing her room to remember to leave the door open at night: “you got to open the door, or she pee on the floor!” So ungrammatical, but it fit the little tune and helped the other child remember. :-)

    On another note, Gabrielle, I LOVE the nuts and bolts posts! I would love to hear more about how you organize your life with six kids and how your mental recovery is going. I had my fifth baby seven months ago and really struggled afterwards…antidepressants have helped, but I would love to glean more long-term advice for happily managing my life with children. I know it’s impossible to break down all of the things you do to have your family function smoothly, but I’d love to hear your top three tips. :-) I really admire you as a mother!!

    1. Oh my goodness! That jingle is hilarious. I can totally relate to being too asleep to navigate. I really am on another planet while I sleep. It’s not uncommon to wake up and realize one of our kids has climbed into bed with us some time in the night and I had no idea.

      And thank you for the kind words about the nuts and bolts posts. I confess, sometimes I think of a good one, but then put it off because I’m such a slow writer. I’m pretty quick at designing things, but writing is not a natural skill for me, and I really have to labor through it. So these long posts can be killers! But I like the idea of doing more. I’ll see what I can come up with.

  14. The parallels between each family’s bed-wetting story are amazing, but it’s also amazing how many different reasons there are for kids wetting the bed. In our case, our daughter had a sensitivity to dairy, citrus fruit, and wheat. Whenever she ate foods with those ingredients, she always wet the bed. It started at age 4 and persisted until she was almost 9. It took about 4-6 months of carefully avoiding those foods in her diet for her system to heal and for her to stay dry consistently. She is now enjoying sleepovers and is thrilled to have friends hang out in her room. I was so happy for the end to the late night “sleep walking” to the bathroom and sheet washing. Your mom sounds like a wonderful lady!

    1. I had no idea diet could affect bed-wetting. Once again I’m fascinated! I don’t think it ever would have occurred to me to track diet changes and see if it made a difference. That is some serious sleuthing!

  15. I don’t have kids and I didn’t struggle with this as a child…BUT…

    We just moved in next door to our best friends. We share a bathroom wall (paper thin!) and a few mornings ago I overheard (I tried to stop listening, but I couldn’t, so instead I announced myself!) the husband explaining to his wife why all her clothes and shoes were soaking in the bathtub. He proceeded to tell his wife the most hilarious story about how she woke up in the middle of the night and peed in their closet in her sleep! He tried to stop her, but she just kept saying, “It’s ok! Pee closet! Pee closet!”

    She slept-walked and wet the bed as a child but this was the first time it resurfaced as an adult. She is a fantastic sport and herself thinks it is hilarious. But we’re all crossing our fingers it isn’t a trend :)

    I knew living in close quarters with our best friends would bring many joys, but I didn’t know tears of laughter even before breakfast would be part of the fun!

      1. Imagine my surprise as i innocently scan through the comments and find my pee closet story among them! Love you, Liz. I’m actually quite proud of how optimistic and reassuring I remained in my sleep. “It’s ok, babe, it’s just a pee closet. I’m just using the pee closet.” The biggest casualty was the leather shoes…

    1. One of my girlfriends had a sleep-walking, middle-of-the-night-peeing child. He would go into the bathroom, but peed anywhere except the toilet. So, when I found a stray cat and gave it to her, the night that her son peed in the catbox, she was trilled!

  16. My daughter is 10 and autistic. The usual things do not apply with her. I found that the more I made a fuss about it (not to her, but just complaining about yet more laundry) the more she would wet the bed. I now make no mention of the wet sheets and simply put her in the shower as we start the day. This seems to have lessened the amount of bed wetting incidents each week. I realize this is a completely different situation than yours but it is kinda comforting to know I don’t have the only 10 year old still having issues with bed wetting. Thanks for talking about things in such an open way.

    1. I know so very little about autism, and my apologies if this question is dumb or out of line. Is bed-wetting a typical behavior of someone on the spectrum? Or is it as random as it is with non-autistic children?

      And I’m glad you found a way to improve the situation!

      1. I have a child with autism and know just about as much as you do about it! The most used expression is ‘when you know one child with autism, you know one child with autism’. I am just happy that I managed to potty train my daughter by age 4. I have seen children still in diapers as teenagers so I count my blessings where I can. My answer would be that it is probably more typical for bed wetting to continue for longer but it is not always the case. Again, I am just so happy to see this addressed here. You rock.

  17. Thanks so much for sharing this! I have never read anything like option 2, but it totally makes sense.

    1. It makes sense to me too, but it also makes me wonder about other internal organs. I know stomachs can change size, but can you expand your liver? Or your kidneys? Or your lungs?

      I have no idea!

      1. When I read your story of “enlarging your bladder” I was a little concerned about how this might impact your health long term. I say this because until now my only knowledge of an enlarged bladder was as a serious medical condition in an older male. His bladder wasn’t being properly emptied and so over time it did expand causing health issues. I guess emptying the bladder completely is the key? Generally whenever we hear of an “enlarged organ” it isn’t a positive story.

  18. wow- I am amazed that such a simple solution worked. That’s awesome. None of my kids wet the bed, but if a friend asks, I’ll be happy to share this.

    I have heard of kids wetting the bed due to food allergy and chronic constipation.

  19. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have an 8 year old that still wets the bed. We have tried the alarm and it did work for awhile, but like you said, he does not like that it draws more attention to the problem. I will definitely be trying your second option – bladder training :) Hoping it does work because I am tired of all the laundry!

    1. I hear you on the laundry! With six kids it’s a daily fact of life at our house too. Crossing my fingers for you on the “bladder training”.

    2. I feel like I am in the same boat – my 8 year old still wets many nights, we tried the alarm last year, but he was very upset by it (it was loud!). I try not to show frustration, but that laundry is a bummer!
      Thanks for sharing your story!

  20. I love that you shared this. You are brave and wonderful. We don’t have a huge bed-wetting issue at our house (my deep-sleeping son eventually learned to wake up to pee because my husband or I would wake him up around 10pm every night, and eventually his internal clock woke him up on his own… and my daughter is only just getting to this age), but it was awesome hearing about a piece of your life- and a fairly intimate one to boot. Makes you more real. :)

    1. You’re sweet to think I’m brave (and I’ll take the compliment!), but in this case it did not make me nervous to share this at all. For whatever reason I feel absolutely no embarrassment about my bed-wetting. If it’s easy to share, can I still get brave credit? : )

  21. I am always interested in your posts, but I have to admit, I was SUPER excited to see this one… My 6 1/2 yr old wets the bed most nights. He had a solid ten dry nights this summer and so we let him stop wearing pull ups. But since then it’s two nights dry, three nights wet, etc. Like your mother, I was getting overwhelmed with laundry. Getting everything into the washer was one thing, but I was always scrambling to re-make his bed every night before bedtime. They now sell disposable pads that adhere to his fitted sheet and make everything much easier.
    When I spoke to our family physician about his bed wetting last year (or maybe the year before), she asked if my husband had wet the bed, since it often runs in families. I came home and asked him and he had all these sad stories about sleepovers and sleep away camp. He’d never told me!
    My six year old thinks his dad walks on water, and so knowing that he went through the same thing helps. We are as neutral as we can possibly be about dry v. wet nights. I don’t make a big deal when he’s dry, because I don’t want him to think it’s his fault when he’s wet. And as far as I can see, he doesn’t feel sad about it (even though his younger brother has been able to stay dry for years), and after hearing the hard time my husband has, that sense of “it’s okay” is my primary focus.

    1. So glad you found out about the hereditary connection! What a comfort that must be. Your husband is proof you’ll make it through this in one piece.

      1. Hi Tracey – so glad you mentioned the fact that you don’t make a big deal out of it when your son is wet OR dry. I realised I was praising my son too much when he was dry, and worried that he might think wetting the bed is a terrible crime! Which of course, it is not. So now I stay neutral too and if he mentions it I just smile and give him a little squeeze. Parenting is such a minefield!

        As usual, thanks Gabrielle.

  22. Wow Gabby…. It was like you were talking about one of my kids! It was really uncanny to read all you said and my daughter could be you and I could be your mother in your post! She was a very deep sleeper also! The exact same things happened with sleepovers and invites to her room! And while we only had 6 kids, there were times when you just had to put a towel down and make it through the night! She did however use the device you talked about and it really did help! She also had an extremely expensive vial of medicine that she could take a dose of if she had a sleepover and it would “usually” help to keep her dry! Hugs!

    1. “there were times when you just had to put a towel down and make it through the night!”

      I agree. I have to take the same approach when several of my kids are sick at once. My cleaning standards have to take a dive while we just endure.

  23. My husband was a bed wetter until he was 9 or 10, I think. And, my second daughter was a bed wetter too- until 9 years old. She was, and still is, the deepest sleeper I know, and I knew that was the reason for the bed wetting. Also, she had just the tiniest bladder and couldn’t hold it for very long. Anyways, I played it very cool during those years- just keeping it all quite discreet and low-key. I knew she would eventually grow out of it, so we didn’t make a big deal of it and honestly, until you wrote about it today, I hadn’t thought of it in years!

    1. “I hadn’t thought of it in years!”

      I know what you mean. It can feel like such a BIG deal when it’s happening, but if you can be patient, it will very likely eventually go away, with no permanent ill effects.

  24. this is my favourite kind of post! i’m the first of my friends to have kids and don’t have many mom friends, so these parenting posts and comments are basically my support system.

    my 16 month old is still in diapers (who knows, he may be a future bed wetter!), and i don’t know anyone who’s faced this problem, BUT i can relate some advice from a book i read about kids and various issues with sleep, bed wetting being among the most common ones. it suggests a slightly more gradual approach to bladder training. now, i lent the book to a friend so i can’t tell you exactly how it goes, but what i remember is you reduce your child’s liquid intake a couple hours before bedtime. you do it gradually, a set amount of liquid less each day, reducing the amount of liquid they drink in the evening until they stop wetting the bed. then after they haven’t wet the bed for a solid two weeks, you start increasing the amount they drink every night by small amounts, increasing by say 1/8 cup every three or four days (again, i don’t have the book right now so these are not exact numbers, but as gabrielle said, winging it does the job. the book is by a serbian author, no english translation, so i can’t really point you towards more precise information). anyways, at the same time as you increase their liquid intake, you get them to practice holding in their pee during the day – i guess gabrielle you were pretty big so you could just go straight to holding it in all day, but a smaller child might find it easier to make baby steps. the whole holding-it-in thing can even be turned into a game. for example, you could compete with your kid to see who can last longer before going to the toilet during a day out. you could also get your kid to make little pauses while peeing – pee a little then stop the stream deliberately, then continue, then stop again… i remember doing that while i was pregnant to strengthen my pelvic muscles. i get my son to do it when i give him his bath in the hope that it’ll help him potty train more easily (and prevent bed wetting).

    i hope this helps someone. i was amazed when i read how many kids, especially boys, wet the bed. the statistics really make it seem like a perfectly normal “problem”. i’m an advocate for taking it easy with kids. there’s no reason why a child who is physically capable of not wetting the bed shouldn’t learn to stop doing it, but pushing them too hard and turning it into an ordeal only makes matters worse.

  25. Thank you for posting this! It’s an issue we’re dealing with right now with a five-year-old and pretty much exactly what I needed right now! Thanks again! :-)

  26. This was so refreshing to read!! I have a 10 year old who still wets the bed every night! Luckily now there are pull-ups for big kids but they don’t always work. Thanks for talking about this…sometimes I feel like we are all alone in this battle!

    1. I wish it was discussed more openly, because it affects so many families and you are definitely not alone. I swear, when you start talking to people, you realize it’s common as can be.

    2. Hi we have also a 10 almost 11 year old that still wets her bed almost every night. After growing out of pampers we started with overnight pull ups. But like Paige it doesn’t always works. I feel your battle! Since last Holliday we are back to taped diapers. Sometimes hard to see that she has normal diapers but for now it is the best choice.
      We don’t want it to make it a big issue and tried lots of things. Nothing realy works for her. But the small size adult diaper is the only way to give her a good time sleep.

      1. Have 9 and 7 year old’s that both wet the bed as did I until almost 11. My mom was very understanding about bedwetting as she too had done it. So it does run in families and I am patient with my kids and use cloth diapers and plastic pants. There have been very few leaks and both kids get a good nights sleep which is so important at heir ages.

  27. My ped described bed-wetting as a “switch” that goes off in the brain. This is the difference between sleeping through it and waking when you have to pee.My 5 year old still has an accident once a week or so (and we restrict liquid after 6 pm). The led said for boys it routine until age 6 or 7. So – the laundry is a pain but we just live with it.

  28. I also had a problem with bed-wetting as a child. My parents tried the alarm option–in our case a sheet that would detect wetness and alarm. The first night it was on the bed, I had a tantrum at dinner time and ran to my room crying. When my tears hit the bed, the alarm went off. Needless to say, we didn’t use the sheet overnight. Eventually, I started taking ritalin and it solved the problem.

  29. I have a 5 (almost 6!) year old who still wets the bed at night. We get her up around 11 pm and sleep walk her to the potty. Any later than that and we usually end up washing sheets. Our pediatrician also said that this is totally normal….and might last until middle school.
    It was interesting to read the “solutions”. Thanks for posting this!

    1. You’re definitely not alone! I think if I had a bed wetter that was 5 or 6 I would do the same thing. I’m up that late anyway, it wouldn’t be hard to walk them to the potty each night.

  30. Thank you so much for this post. I have a bed wetting 7 yr old who potty trained in a day and is dry at night probably half the time. He isn’t self conscious about wearing a pull up so I try so hard not to project my uneasiness about it. His doctor also says it’s physical and to not worry until about 12 yo. She then sends her patients to a sleep specialist who works on training techniques – one of which is to have the child wake up to pee but then also associate that time with something, e.g look at a toy. The idea is to wake their body up just enough when they pee at night to train themselves to wake. The strategy you used sounds like it’s worth a try. I think people are so reluctant to talk about this but you are right – it’s no big deal!

    1. “I try so hard not to project my uneasiness about it.”

      Oh man. That’s the trick, right? I’m the worst at this. I’m glad you have a good doctor!

  31. Thank you for sharing! I was a bed-wetter until I was 7 or so… at that point there were diapers that fit (barely), but I vividly remember the embarrassment of going to sleepovers and having to excuse myself to put my diaper on, then coming back in hoping they wouldn’t hear the crinkling sound, which always seemed so VERY loud to me. No one every said anything, and my family was great about it. I don’t even remember what helped me stop, although I think my mom did limit liquids after dinner. My 4 year old still wets the bed every week or so, and it does not seem like a huge deal to me at all. I love your suggestions, though!

  32. Thank you so much for posting this! Our 6 1/2 year old potty trained before he was 2, but has always been a bed-wetter. I was also, and I don’t remember when I stopped. I just remember my mom being frustrated and angry with me (single mom with 3 kids – I was the only bed-wetter). And, I remember not being able to accept sleep-over invites for a very, very long time.

    There was a time I was also frustrated – when he was 3 years old and all his friends were completely out of diapers. But, now I’ve come to realize that it’s just one of those things he inherited from me, along with his strong emotions and desire to make friends with everyone. :)

    So far, our strategy has been to just buy pull-ups and hope he will grow out of it. Perhaps we will look into the bed alarm too – he’s really interested in sleep-overs but doesn’t want to do any until this is resolved.

  33. I’ve always thought that holding your pee for hours and hours was bad for you. Who knew?! My girls are not bed wetters but they would never go to the bathroom if I didn’t make them, LOL. I’ve never been a bed wetter either but if I do get awakened at any point in the night, my urge to go is fierce! I can’t possibly go back to sleep until I’ve peed.

    I peed my pants when I was pregnant, too – because I was laughing so hard at a comedy special. :)

  34. This is so amazing. Thank you for sharing your story – one that so many wouldn’t want to share. One of the many reasons I follow your blog daily!

  35. I love this post! I read your blog regularly and never comment but feel compelled to do so now. I am also a “recovered bed wetter.” My siblings were both bed wetters and my mom thinks it’s a miracle that none of my kids wet the bed (I still have a baby so I suppose there’s still a chance). I remember trying to keep friends from entering my room and being so worried about the smell. Sleepovers were a nightmare too! I actually took a nasal spray that helped me stop when I was in Middle School (not sure if it’s still prescribed today). I was visiting my hometown this summer and ran into my pediatrician- I jokingly told her that I no longer wet the bed and she and I had a good laugh!

  36. Timely post since I have a 5 year-old who wets the bed relatively frequently. It doesn’t happen as much as it used to but just when I think we’re finally in the clear, it happens again. And ugh, yes, the laundry! It seems to happen when she’s sleeping deeply and she tends to get thirsty in the evening after dinner so she likes to drink a lot of water. I haven’t been overly alarmed by it yet, but I’ve wondered about the cause since her twin sister seems to sleep as deeply but doesn’t have the same issue. Thanks for writing about this and being so open about your own experience!

    1. I think you’re wise not to be alarmed by it. Such a common problem. Maybe she’d be open to some sort of overnight pullups to save you some laundry.

  37. Anyone thinking of trying this may want to hold off on it if your child is very young, say 7 or under. For an older child it may be fine, but with the very young you may just be teaching them how to have other types of accidents. I know from experience…

    I was a really good ‘holder’ as a kid. Starting at around 4 I would hold on to pee for hours and hours because going to the bathroom interrupted far more important things, like Barbie’s umpteenth outfit changes from work attire into a ball gown and back again, and sesame street. I had the occasional accident not because I didn’t know when I needed to go and could not hold it when I did need to, but because I ignored the cues until it was just way too late to get to a bathroom.

    My mother found out that I was holding onto pee for long periods of time when a friend had me teach her how I did it, and one day sometime later held it too long and then could not go. Had to be taken to the hospital, where the story eventually came out (as well as the pee) about how she learned to hold it. Her parents then told mine, and I got a lecture on potential bladder issues.
    I think I was mad at her ‘forever’ for telling on me (in other words a week or so, which is forever at 6).

  38. Thanks for sharing your story. My girls recently went through a bed-wetting spell and we tried a number of things. We soon realized my husband wasn’t remembering to have them go to the restroom before bed. Once we started reminding them every night, the accidents all but stopped. I also think some of the wetting had to do with my Kindergartner starting school and being so exhausted with her new schedule. She definitely goes to sleep faster and is harder to wake up.

  39. Thank you for posting this! I love the way you are willing to bring the unmentionables out into the open.
    And I’m fascinated by the expandable bladder theory! I’ve struggled with the typical inconvenient incontinence lingering years after childbirth, and recently a urologist told me–quite literally– that it was all in my head. At first I was peeved, but then I tried to listen to what he was saying which, essentially, was that the control is largely the psychological over the physical.
    Then one of my daughters started to have issues at school with needing to urinate exceedingly frequently (multiple times an hour). When I mentioned it to the Ped, he pulled out a flyer. I gather this is typical for 5-7 year olds. And again, the prescription was mind over matter. Learn to hold it more and you’ll have less problems.
    And wouldn’t’ you know, it worked. And not just for my 6 year old, but for me too!

    1. Kari,
      I have read every comment on this thread and yours is the only one I can fully relate to. I have a 6 yr old that potty trained before 2 yrs. she fills, I mean fills a pull up every night. she also has never been able to “hold” her pee very long, has special pee privileges at school since she has to go so frequently. I have had many Drs say she’ll grow out of it eventually, but give no other advice, or they say they don’t worry about it until age 8. I would love to know more about what you did for your child to help them stay dry?

      1. Hi Anna,

        What our pediatrician told us was that she needed to be discouraged from going all the time. (And she was going ALL the time. It was disrupting her learning.) And that for some children — especially in the 4-8 year old range, I gather–this is a nervous condition. Thus, just gently teaching them that it will be okay, and if they can hold on just a little bit longer. (we started with 5 minutes, then 10, etc. But usually she’d forget quickly!) A year later it’s not a problem at all any longer.

        Don’t worry! it will be all right!

  40. I never had a child that wet the bed, however I did have a sleepwalker. We were at a hotel and the phone rang in the middle of the night. It was the front desk asking me if I had “lost” my son! I did not even know he had left the room!
    Thanks for a great blog post.

  41. Thanks so much for sharing! I am really surprised so many have had or are having the same experience. (I have only discussed it with family before.) Our youngest was dry at night the same week he moved on from diapers. Our oldest, while always dry during the day, was still wetting the bed most nights at 8 years old. Besides the extra laundry it created, he would lose sleep when he woke up early, soaking wet. My husband convinced him it was within his control to stop the cycle, if he would just try harder. So much stress – all because he is just a very sound sleeper.

    While our pediatrician said it was still normal for a small percentage of boys his age, a nurse recommended the wireless alarm (green one). I wish we had known about it years earlier! The small device clips on and detects a tiny drop, then sounds a loud (adjustable) alarm. Not pleasant to wake up to, but within a few weeks he was getting up on his own and staying dry through every night – truly amazing after 8 years!!!

    If you are in a similar situation, I would highly recommend looking into it. The price tag is high, but the money saved in daily loads of laundry quickly adds up. Not to mention the extra sleep. He may have eventually outgrown it, but that alarm accomplished what might have taken years, in just days. It has now been over 1 year and he had only had a few slip ups when he was extremely tired. In fact, he just got up a little while ago to sleepwalk to the bathroom and then back to his dry bed :)

  42. Both of my children potty trained at a regular age, but continued to pull ups until they were 8. Over the last year I remember reading about the connection between constipation in children and bed-wetting. I just googled it and found this overview of that study:
    The thing that was interesting is that the chidlren didn’t show signs of being constiapted (they still had regualr bowel movements), but xrays showed they were and their full rectums were decreasing their badder space. At the end of the link it’s noted that the study was small and some parents won’t want to have their kids scanned, so gives other ideas.

    1. Now I’m doubly fascinated. I commented on a related comment below that constipation wasn’t an issue for me, but it sounds like I could have been constipated and never shown signs of it. Who knew?

  43. Thank you for this candid post! I too was a bedwetter and I was one of the ones given medication ( I was at least 10 when finally my mother took me to a Dr). For many years I took my problem to be psychological/emotional and in hindsight it probably was a combination. It certainly informed the way I treat one of my twins who at age 7 is still wetting. I think it was very reassuring for her that it happened to me too. I think it important for kids to know that there are probably a few kids in every clasroom that have the same problem at night- important for siblings to understand that everyone grows differently. I wish the topic was mentioned in class and reading books a little more openly. This twin was a really heavy sleeper – if we woke her before she was ready she would be just so angry – we learnt to never wake her up when she was a baby/toddler (unless we used a 6ft pole) even if it meant missing a meal. She decided to stop wearing nighttime diapers about 6 months ago after a couple of random dry nights. Unfortunately she still has little control but is amazingly co-operative about being woken at 11.30pm and 3am – she has to be steered in the right direction which is a worry. I am a little torn about what way to go- I sense her Dr will be reluctant to prescribe medication- apparently I was given some form of antidepressent and the medical profession doesn’t know why it works. In my case it was something like 3 days and I was “cured” which to my mind seems like a reasonable solution! On the other hand perhaps my issues are not the same/were more complicated than my daughters? There is definitely some gentic link at play. She seems to have a small bladder- holding on and frequency have been her issues but as she ages things have gradually improved during the daytime. We use disposable sleeping pads (sold next to the overnight diapers) which keep her bottom sheet dry but the problem still remains for wet sleepwear and blankets. Having experienced the nasty siblings and shame myself, and having fraternal twins really lends a different perspective to the issue. Her twin sister was day and night time dry at 2 and has always been able to “hold on” as required. As was their older sister. I never expected them to be nighttime dry at the same time as they were day time dry so they wore night diapers probably longer than necessary and both informed me they they didn’t need to wear them. We have discouraged any sibling attempts to tease. When they go to camp with their Dad it is not too difficult to manage discreetly either by using a pullup or waking her. They both take after my husband in appearance and I think their “insides” are like him too. So I guess this twin is phyisically more like me than I previously thought- thinking about her skinny little legs – of course she is LOL! I think our next step is to use a small alarm (on an ipod) and see if she can get up on her own whilst seeing if we can get her to gradually enlarge the capacity of her bladder at the same time.

  44. our second son had a bed wetting issue into 2 grade. Plus, he had warts on his hands. I took him to the naturopath and she did a vega test and found out that he had a fungal infection. He took some tincture, the warts went away, and he never wet the bed again. Magic!

    1. A fungal infection causing bed-wetting? I had no idea that was even a possibility! I feel like I want to do a bunch of research now. Very interesting.

  45. This is so timely for us. I was a bed wetter. I had vivid dreams of going to the bathroom sitting on the toilet and…… I ended up soaked. Awful. My parents got so mad at me I would wash the sheets in the middle of the night too scared to let anyone know.
    My daughter is going through this now. I’m not making a big deal about it. She is a deep deep sleeper. The good thing is that our crying 20 month old doesn’t wake her up. The bad side is she doesn’t feel the need to go. She doesn’t want to try the alarm so your option sounds good. We talked about it in the car today. I can’t thank you enough and I LOVE, LOVE , LOVE, LOVE how honest and uncomplicated you are about the whole matter. Makes me feel better. xo

    1. Oh. Your story about washing sheets in the night breaks my heart. I’m so glad you can be gentle about it with your own daughter. Best of luck as you sort it out!

  46. I love this article — so full of grace for the parent and the child. I might not have read it except I just stripped sheets off my kindergartener’s bed not ten minutes ago. ;)

    1. Again, fascinated! I’ve never heard of a connection between the two. Constipation was never a problem for me, but if it was, I wonder if it would have been brought up during my doctor visit, and if there was already an established connection at that time?

  47. What a relief to know someone else went through this! I have never heard someone else say… “and praying over and over again that I wouldn’t wet the bed that night.”
    Because I used to pray that before every sleep over and every night at away camp.
    I think around 6th grade I stopped wetting the bed. I guess my bladder just caught up with my body and I also would go a long span of time during the day without peeing.
    So it’s also funny when you say it was a disruption during pregnancy to all of sudden have to pee more frequently!
    It was like a whole new world for me! :)

    1. Sleep away camp! I attended a week long church girls camp starting at age 12. But if I had still been wetting the bed, that would have been my worst nightmare. The prayers would have never ended!

      1. I was at a church camp too, so I felt like my prayers HAD to be heard there!
        Now that I think about it, I don’t think I ever had an accident!
        Thank you Jesus! :)

  48. Both my kids were bed-wetters as was my husband. He has vivid memories of the shame he was made to feel about a situation he had no control over. So sad. Needless to say, we treated it as no big deal with our two. When my oldest (my daughter) was 8 or 9 (she’s 25 now) I told her we could check it out with our pediatrician whenever SHE decided. It was probably 6 or 8 months later when she decided we should talk to the doctor – which we did. Thankfully, he was wonderful about it and prescribed a nasal spray, DDAVP, which triggered something in her brain that wasn’t being triggered (and something about once triggered then the brain learned to trigger itself – amazing!). Her younger brother was also given the nasal spray (Hey – if his wonderful sister was going to do it, HE was going to too!) and both kids were dry through the night in ? – gosh, now I can’t remember but it was maybe 4 to 6 months.

    It’s funny – but it’s so true that parents should learn to not sweat the small stuff and though bed-wetting might not seem so small when you’re constantly changing sheets and doing laundry – it really is, and some day you’ll add a comment to a honest, down-to-earth, lovely blog like DesignMom and not remember the details and shake your head and wonder why you ever spent a single moment worrying about it!

    Hugs to you all!

  49. My daughter was a bed wetter, she was in kindergarten and still setting the bed on most nights. She couldn’t stand to wear pull ups, and they couldn’t hold all the pee anyway, so I bought several waterproof mattress pads and had them all on the bed at the same time so in the middle of the night or morning we only had to strip it off the bed and there was a fresh one underneath. We tried to not make a big deal of it and take her to the bathroom before we went to bed. Thankfully she outgrew it before she entered first grade and only very rarely has an accident now.
    Oddly enough, my twin boys had no problem with it. As soon as we took away their diapers at night they were dry through the night or got up to pee. Never had an accident with them!

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