Children Bedwetting: Causes and Solutions

Author Name: Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Until age 6-8, children bedwetting is no cause for alarm as it mostly resolves itself. Understanding causes, solutions and knowing when to seek medical advice helps you guide your child towards dry nights.

Yes, it's still normal for a 6-8 year old to wet the bed.

No, medical treatment is usually not necessary.

Gentle guidance that avoids shame and guilt is crucial, and most effective

Bed wetting, also called nocturnal enuresis, is a sleep disorder classified as a parasomnia .

It disturbs your child's sleep as he/she often wakes but doctors are almost sure it is not related to how he/she sleeps (even if we often think it's because they sleep too deeply).

Girls are usually dry by the age of six, and most boys by the age of seven. About 10% of all children still wet the bed at 7 years old, 5% at 10 years old. [1] So keep in mind: on any primary school bus there will always be several kids who are not dry all night.

Group of five children

As a parent guiding your boy or girl, your single main task is to avoid that he or she feels ashamed or guilty about it .

It's is a condition that he/she cannot help: it's a physical development that just has to happen, and happens later for some than for others. It can become psychological though by stigmatizing, and that's what you want to avoid.

So: be casual about it, act casual even if you worry, don't make it into an issue and don't let it dampen the family's spirits. The less you make a fuss out of it, the faster it'll resolve.

Children bedwetting solutions

Because the exact cause is not always clear, there is not a single solution that guarantees results. But there are effective ways to guide and treat including behavioral guidance, medication and surgical treatments.

With any solution, it's most important not to make the kid feel ashamed and guilty. It's usually not a behavioral ( ill will ) or psychological problem but it can become one if the child is made to feel bad about it.

Children bedwetting causes

Scientists use the term primary bedwetting if there have not been dry nights before. This is the most common case. Secondary bedwetting is when a boy or girl starts wetting the bed after having been dry for 6 months or more.

Primary bedwetting causes

Most researchers agree that an important cause of primary bedwetting is a delay in producing the vasopressin hormone in the kidneys. This hormone regulates urine production at night. Children bedwetting usually haven't fully developed this hormone-producing process. But they do develop it one day.

This shows so nicely how most bed wetting is not a behavioral thing, and how it simply resolves itself, in due time.

There are also other possible causes, one which may be genetic. That means a boy or girl whose parent(s) was dry at night relatively late, has a larger chance to have the same.

1% of children bedwetting, has an underlying medical cause (such as an infection or a structural issue). It is also one of the signs of sleep apnea ; in combination with other symptoms like snoring and breathing difficulties, bedwetting can point towards apnea in children .

Secondary bedwetting causes

Sometimes, a child will suddenly wet the bed again after having been dry for a good while.

This has the typical example of starting to wet the bed again at the birth of a younger sibling, or when starting school: emotional stress is then a common cause. But in some cases, an infection or a structural physical problem can be responsible.

When to seek medical advice?

When should you go and see a doctor? Of course, the rule of thumb answer is: when you worry . But bear in mind that there is usually no reason to worry, and definitely not too early on.

The general advice is to take a bedwetting girl or boy of 6 years or more to the doctor. He will check whether there is a medical/structural cause and may suggest a treatment to follow.

If no physical cause is found, you are good to simply do the gentle guidance and take a relaxed attitude towards it, you will be surprised how effective that can be.

If you're unsure what to do about your child's bedwetting, you're most welcome to ask me here so we can discuss.

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Article Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD - Founder, senior sleep consultant

Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Heidi Holvoet, PhD, is the founder of the Baby Sleep Advice website and movement, an award-winning author, baby & toddler sleep consultant with 15+ years experience as well as a certified lactation counselor.

Over the years, Heidi has received several awards inluding a Mom's Choice Award (MCA) and National Parenting Awards (NAPPA) for her Baby Sleep Advice website, programs and books. Also, Baby Sleep Advice was awarded "Most Trusted Infant's Sleep Solutions Company 2023" in the Benelux Enterprise Awards 2023.

Heidi continually conducts personal research and participates in continued education and in that way stays up to date with current scientific and pyschosocial infant care.

Association of Professional Sleep Consultants

She is also a member of the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants of which she was one of the earliest contributors. She obtained her PhD degree in physics at the University of Ghent in Belgium.

Heidi is passionate about helping babies and their parents sleep more and better, with her trademark approach that has been proven and praised time and again by parents worldwide to be effective and truly no-tears. Respect for you as a parent and your baby, is at the heart of Heidi's warm and kind support. Her approach always keeps in mind a baby's needs and abilities at any given age, is based on pediatric science and the most up to date knowledge in infant care and sleep science.

As well as the award-winning baby sleep programs, Heidi offers popular 1:1 consults and easy-access 30-minute SOS Sleep sessions.


[1] Nocturnal Enuresis on Wikipedia (opens in new window) .