Bedwetting in children

Bedwetting happens when the bladder empties involuntarily during sleep. It can often be a source of worry for parents and children who are affected but help is available. 

  • For parents: the main concern is often the emotional and social effects that bedwetting has on their child. 
  • For children: they can experience feelings of embarrassment over their bedwetting that can lead to low self-esteem. 

Most children will be dry through the day by the age of three and dry at night by school age. It is important to remember that all children develop at different rates and some children may experience accidents from time to time up until the age of seven or eight years.

WHY CHILDREN WET THE BED

Common causes

There are three main causes of bedwetting:

  • the inability to wake to a full bladder
  • the bladder becomes overactive at night and cannot store urine (wee)
  • the kidneys make a large amount of urine at night that the bladder has difficulty holding.

Bedwetting is NOT caused by:

  • being young for your age
  • laziness
  • bad behaviour
  • rebelliousness, or
  • drinking after dinner.

Some illnesses are linked with bedwetting, however most children who wet the bed do not have major health problems.

Read our tips for parents page for more information.

Treatment

If a child is over the age of seven or eight, the problem  may  not get better by itself. Some common ways of treating bedwetting are:

  • Bedwetting alarms teach the child to wake up to the feeling of a full bladder by waking the child with an alarm when they wet the bed. The alarm can be used on the bed or in the child's underpants.
  • Medication that reduces how much urine is made through the night may be prescribed. Your doctor will talk to you about the correct use of these medications.

Learn more about bedwetting alarms and medications.

Seek help

It is important to seek professional help for bedwetting if:

  • the child who has been dry suddenly starts wetting at night
  • the wetting is frequent after school age
  • the wetting bothers the child or makes them upset or angry
  • the child wants to become dry.

Speak to your family doctor or contact a health professional with special training in children's bladders. The National Continence Helpline (1800 33 00 66) and our service provider directory can provide further information on the assistance that's available in your area.

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Last Updated: Wed 15, Jul 2020
Last Reviewed: Mon 23, Mar 2020