Nearly every parent eagerly awaits the day that our child starts using the potty consistently.   In our family, we even do a little dance of excitement. But parents always ask “what about nighttime?” When can my kids stop sleeping on a big sheet of plastic? Or wearing night diapers?

While most children “potty train” while awake around age 2 or 3, many children don’t achieve consistent nighttime dryness until much later.

The numbers for isolated nighttime wetting (only have accidents at night):

  • 5 years old: 16% still wet the bed
  • 6 years old: 13% still wet the bed
  • 7 years old: 10% still wet the bed

Nighttime bed wetting is 2 x more common in boys than girls. The vast majority of these cases of isolated nighttime wetting resolve on their own with time and have no underlying problem.

Parents are sometime to blame… OK, maybe your genes are to blame. I know that I am not bringing helpful genes to the table.  According to my parents, it took a long time to have me night-trained, and I vaguely remember that when I did start waking up to go to the bathroom, I often confused the closet for the potty. (See, it really could be worse).  If neither parent is a bed-wetter, the chances of having a prolonged bed-wetter is only 15%. But, if both parents were prolonged bed-wetters, the likelihood of your child wetting the bed is 70-77%.

How do we “fix” it?  Most of the time we just need to wait and it will go away on its own.  The most important rule is DON’T PUNISH YOUR CHILD!  They aren’t doing it on purpose and punishing them DOES NOT DECREASE BEDWETTING!

What works?  Here is a parent handout that has treatment recommendations. The key points are Behavioral Management, Motivational Training, Bladder Training and Alarm Therapy. The data on the effectiveness of these methods is inconsistent. There is some evidence that biofeedback may improve symptoms.  Be sure to talk to your pediatrician if bed-wetting is limiting your child’s ability to do sleepovers, camps, etc. because there are medications that can be very helpful in these situations.  As always, talk to your pediatrician about any other concerns you might have around bed-wetting.

So the good news is that the bed-wetting will almost definitely end at some point, but maybe you should put a potty in the closet just in case.