Sunday, August 5, 2012

Nightime Potty Training and Bedwetting - How to Stay Dry!

My family was on vacation, and the six of us were packed into a small studio apartment.  Some of us were sleeping on inflatable mattresses, and my two older sons were sleeping on a futon on the floor.   One night, my husband and I woke up when we heard our 4-year old start to move around.  Wondering what was wrong, we watched speechless as he proceeded to climb out of bed, stand up, take his pants down, and pee… on his older brother who was sleeping on the floor futon.

“Noooooo!” shouted my husband.  “Stop!”

My 4- year old, startled awake, looked up at him with big eyes.  Then he calmly pulled up his pants, turned around, and crawled back into his bed. 


And my oldest son, now a little damper than a few minutes ago, was still snoring away!

I guess it’s best that he not know what happened to him.  

We’ve been working on nighttime potty training with my youngest for the past several months.  He can make it through most nights dry now.   That was actually the first time he woke up on his own to go pee in the middle of the night.  So… we were kind of happy that he did that.  But not so happy that he chose to do it on his brother!

Every child learns how to keep dry at night at a different age.  My oldest son took forever it seemed.  He is a very deep sleeper which makes it harder for a child to recognize that he needs to go in the middle of the night.  My second son and my daughter did it nearly instantly.  And it looks like my youngest one is going to be somewhere in between.

In general, children achieve nighttime dryness by five to six years of age.  

How do you start nighttime training?

1.     1.) Limit fluids after dinner.  Any fluid that your child drinks will become urine in the next few hours.  If she drinks a lot before bedtime, she will have to pee in the middle of the night.  Give your child plenty of fluids during the day.  If your child says she is thirsty before bed, limit fluids to a small sip just enough to wet her mouth.
2.       2.) Have her go to the bathroom before going to bed.  This will empty the bladder and improve chances of success.
3.       3.) Wake your child to go to the bathroom before you go to bed.  Assuming that you go to bed at least 1-2 hours after your child, you can help your child empty her bladder of the urine produced from the liquids that she drank in the evening.  Don’t expect your child to be fully awake.  Just guide her to the bathroom and help her go.
4.       4.) Training pants – these are an easy way to prevent having to change the sheets in the middle of the night.  However, since they are absorbent, your child won’t notice the wetness.  This will not really help with nighttime potty training but will keep the bed clean.  If your child is mostly waking up with dry training pants in the morning, then you are ready to switch her to regular underwear at night.
5.       5.) Waterproof pads – These are great for making changing wet sheets at night a simpler process.  Just put one on top of your bedsheet.  If it gets soiled, just pull it off and instantly the bed is dry again!  I highly recommend buying an oversized one like the one shown to cover more area on the bed since children tend to move around on the bed in their sleep. Summer Infant Ultimate Training Pad Waterproof Training Pad

For children who are heavy sleepers, it can take longer to potty train at night.  Sometimes bedwetting alarms can help if your child is old enough (usually eight years or older).  Also if your child is taking medication that can make him drowsy, such as some cold or allergy medicines, he may sleep through the feeling.  

Fifteen percent of children are still wetting their beds after the age of 6 years.  So, don’t get too frustrated or angry because your older child is still bedwetting.  It can be very normal.  The age for being nighttime dryness can be genetic.  So, if either parent was a late bedwetter, then the child may also take longer to learn to stay dry at night.
If your child used to be dry every night and is starting to wet the bed regularly, then there may be a problem such as a urinary tract infection and you should take your child to the doctor.  Or if your child is wetting so often that he cannot participate in activities such as sleepovers or overnight camp, then your child’s doctor may have medication to temporarily help him stay dry.  The good news is that everyone manages to stay dry at night eventually!
Sleep well, and thanks for reading!


  1. I read your articles regarding tips for stopping bedwetting and felt inclined to respond.

    I work with the Enuresis Treatment Center, which deals only with bedwetting cases. We have treated thousands of children, teenagers, and adult bedwetters, tracking all related symptoms. Our extensive research validates bedwetting as a problem caused by abnormally deep sleep, which doesn’t allow for the bedwetter’s brain and bladder to connect so they can effectively respond to each other.

    In 99% of all bedwetting cases, (based upon our research of tens of thousands of documented cases) the root cause is sleeping so deeply. It is an inherited deep-sleep disorder that results in bedwetting and more importantly...a fragmented, non-restorative, sleep.

    This compromised sleep can also result in daytime symptoms; difficulty awakening, fatigue, memory difficulty, irritability, difficulty concentrating. These symptoms can increase as a bedwetter reaches adulthood.

    There is No guaranteed that someone will outgrow bedwetting, in fact after the age of seven, it is less likely. 1 in 50 teenagers, as well as 1 in 100 adults still wet the bed. More importantly, if someone were to outgrow this problem, they are then left with a sleep disorder, along with possible challenging symptoms that can no longer be treated.

    Proper treatment is never simple. Self-treatment programs alone do not address the sleep disorder. Studies show a very high rate of bedwetting relapse with alarms, which gives another failed experience. Bladder capacity and proper muscle strength must also be included during the course of treatment, regardless of the age, to ensure all bedwetting/sleep disorder symptoms’ are completely addressed.

    Many medical professionals misinform patients when they blame a small bladder as the cause of bedwetting. It is actually a RESULT of the bedwetting. Moreover, restricting fluids causes further underdevelopment of the bladder, as well as dehydration.

    If drugs are prescribed or considered to be at all effective, consider that once the drugs are discontinued, the bedwetting will likely resume.
    Drugs may serve as a temporary fix for a complicated problem, and drugs clearly produce side effects, some as yet unknown.

    For 37 years, the Enuresis Treatment Center has been ending bedwetting for children, teenagers, and adults who thought there was no hope. Our research and experience has validated that bedwetting can be treated without drugs or invasive surgery.

    Lyle Danuloff, Ph.D.

  2. Thanks for your informative comment! Your organization sounds like a great resource for parents who have children who continue to wet the bed despite multiple methods of training!

  3. Dr. Sandy,

    Thanks for getting the word out that bedwetting in school age children, although common, is something that parents can help their children overcome. As you mentioned, and research demonstrates, bedwetting alarms continue to be the most effective cure for bedwetting. Even the treatment centers use bedwetting alarms as part of the treatment plan to help children put together this important brain-bladder connection. Tens of thousands of families have been successful using bedwetting alarms to speed up the establishment of dry nights, and can save several thousand dollars by buying an effective alarm and using it on their own. As author of the best-selling book on bedwetting, “Seven Steps to Nighttime Dryness”, I have laid out easy to follow steps to assist families in getting their child dry at night.

    It sounds like your youngest son is well on his way to dryness, but continuing to offer a non-medicinal solution, such as a bedwetting alarm, to your readers and patients who have bedwetting school age children is great advice.

    Renee Mercer, MSN, CPNP
    Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

  4. Renee, thanks for your great comment! I really liked your book and used it along with the bedwetting alarm very successfully with my oldest son. Thanks for writing such a great resource!

  5. i like your post.really loveaval post and all information are very usefull .

  6. Mind-boggling job mates, I take pleasure in longing your articles.
    Developmental Pediatrician Central NJ

  7. I love this so much! The pediatrics clinic in Fayetteville, NC would love to see this blog. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Hi, Elijah,
    Unfortunately I do not personally know of any pediatricians in Columbia, MD. Often the best referral is from someone you know in your area who takes their kids to a pediatrician they love. Look for a pediatrician who is Board Certified which will mean that they have had to meet certain standards of knowledge and practice. Hope this helps!

  9. I think pediatricians are amazing. They take care of some many problems that we have and they have to deal with everyone's health issues. I really hope that I don't ever get them sick by them helping.

  10. Can bed wetting be hereditary in some way? It seems like my children all have problems with this issue and it has gotten so bad we took them in to see a children's doctor to see if they could suggest some help. I didn't ever have a problem with it, but it seems like they just don't have a lot of control.

    Zach |

  11. Hi, Zach,
    Bedwetting definitely has a genetic component. In particular, children who have at least one parent with a history of bedwetting is much more likely to have trouble with bedwetting than children with no family history of this. The good news is that almost all children outgrow this eventually. Good luck!

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