Bedwetting in Children and Teenagers
Explanation of common symptoms/ problems
Bedwetting in children is slightly more common in boys than in girls. It has been shown to still affect up to 15% of children by the age of nine and is still present in 2% of late teens (wetting more than three nights each week). It may be more common if there is a family history of bedwetting and sometimes happens around the time of changes in a child’s routine e.g. anxiety about a new school or sibling. However, there are underlying causes that are not the fault of your child/teenager which are often to blame:
- their bladder doesn’t stretch out and relax enough to hold their wee overnight
- they produce a lot more urine at night than we would like
- they don’t wake easily enough when their bladder sends a signal to say that it’s full
Self help / Advice
Once you have discussed these symptoms with your GP/healthcare provider and have ruled out any underlying issues which may need further investigation or treatment, the following advice may be helpful:
- How their bladder works in the daytime has a huge impact on how the bladder functions while they sleep. See our Daytime Wetting section for more information.
- A child should drink enough fluids, ideally water, spread throughout the day. A good estimate of intake would be 30ml for every kg your child weighs. Perhaps have times/situations throughout the day that are reminders to have a cup of water or drink from their water bottle. Using a star chart or rewards system may help.
- Avoid giving your child / teen caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, cola, energy drinks, hot chocolate, green tea), fizzy drinks or sugary juices, or drinks with artificial sweeteners (light, diet or zero drinks).
- Water is best, but some no-added-sugar cordial can add some flavour if needed, or occasional apple or grape juice would be better than citrus juices, especially if slightly watered down.
- Avoid large drinks within three hours of bedtime.
- Go to the toilet for a wee every 2 – 3 hours during the day. Plan a routine or make a schedule for your child, perhaps in line with their school day e.g. morning, first break, lunchtime, after school, before dinner, before bed. Children often get distracted and forget to go until the ‘last minute’. Tick charts or reward cards may help alongside a toilet schedule.
- Encourage your child/teen to recognize that feeling of needing to wee and acknowledge that sensation.
- Encourage your child to sit well on the toilet and use a footstool under their feet if possible. Take their time, breath into the tummy and do not force or strain to empty, try to just relax. Remind them to use this strategy at school or anywhere they may need to go. Try to remove any negativity about toilets outside of the home and talk about going for a wee regularly at school, at home or when visiting other people’s homes as a normal thing to do.
- For girls, make sure they know to wipe from front to back after a wee or a poo.
- If necessary speak with any teachers, sports coaches etc. to ensure the child is free to use the toilet when needed.
- In the evening use a bedtime of routine of going to the toilet before he/she gets ready for bed (pyjamas, washing face/teeth, reading etc.) and then go to the toilet again just before turning the lights out.
- Make sure there is easy toilet access at night, perhaps a night light in the hallway, leaving the bedroom door ajar and wearing pyjamas without any zips or buttons will help. If the bathroom is downstairs or the child is fearful of walking around after dark put a potty into the bedroom.
- Encourage them to be open about any wee or poo accidents and discuss what they are to do when this happens e.g. changing their own pyjamas and sheets, having towels or wipes within reach for cleaning. Give them this responsibility or at least be an active part of it if it is a younger child. Try not to talk about it as bold, dirty or lazy and don’t punish the child. It is often useful to refer to these as ‘leaks’ rather than ‘accidents’.
- Constipation or difficulty having a poo can have a negative impact on bladder symptoms and is a really common culprit in bedwetting problems. Ask your child/teen about this and encourage them to tell you when they have a poo and what it was like. Adequate fluids, a balanced diet with enough fibre, fruit and vegetables, as well as regular exercise can help. Click HERE for more information about bowel dysfunction in children and teenagers.