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When Is Bedwetting In Kids A Concern?

Written by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Updated Sep 15, 2022

When Is Bedwetting In Kids A Concern?

Parents understand everything about sleepless nights. Babies, after all, cry, get hungry, and need changing even in the middle of the night. But, in a few years time, they’ll have a more regular mealtime and outgrow their diapers. Does that mean there’s no more bedtime problems? Not really. There’s still the issue of bedwetting. 

In this article, let’s talk about why bedwetting happens, how parents can help, and when they should step in. 

Is Bedwetting Normal For Children? 

Are you worried that your child’s bedwetting is a sign that there’s a problem. If so, put your worries to rest. It is, in fact, an expected behavior among children.

The fundamental reason for bedwetting is the child’s immature bladder-control, especially at night. Physiologically, bladder control is reached at a certain age and is actually a milestone generally reached by the age of 5. Note that bladder-control at night is both neurological and muscular in nature. 

And just like with other developmental milestones, some kids don’t develop like others do. That means your child may fully develop their bladder control earlier or later than some children. 

About 10% of healthy children don’t develop nighttime bladder control by the age of 5. About 5% don’t develop it by age 10. So, if your child is past the age of 5 and still bedwets, understand that it is really a possibility.  

Lastly, please understand that bedwetting is more common among boys.

Possible Causes of Bedwetting

If your child experiences bedwetting, below are the potential causes:

  • Anatomic or neurologic concerns: Structural defects in urinary tract, relatively slower maturation of nerve cells that control the bladder, can cause bedwetting. 
  • Family history: Nightly bedwetting or nocturnal enuresis is autosomal dominant in nature. That means if one of the parents experienced it, the child will most likely experience it, too. 
  • Fluid overload before sleeping: Drinking more water or milk before bedtime can trigger bedwetting. 
  • No bathroom habits: Bathroom habits help build bladder control. If a child has no established routine, then they might wet the bed. 
  • Certain illnesses: Infections, hormonal imbalance, diabetes, etc. can also lead to nocturnal enuresis. 
  • Stress, anxiety, and other emotional disturbances can also cause bedwetting. 

When Parents Should Intervene

Since bedwetting is an expected behavior among children, parents should not panic about it. However, there are instances where they need to step in. 

  • Anytime that the child suffers, is bothered, and feels bad about himself and his bedwetting.
  • By age 7 years, it is worth looking into.
  • Child has been dry previously (even just for 6 months), then started to bed wet all of a sudden again.
  • If bedwetting comes with other symptoms such as pain, discharge, behavioral changes, etc.

How Parents Can Help

Even though bedwetting is generally not a cause of concern, there are still some things that parents can do to help their kids. Consider the following measures:

  • Maintain the child’s hydration throughout the day. This is best for overall bladder health and development over time.
  • Form regular toilet habits. Time spent in the toilet should be relaxed too.
  • Reduce fluid intake 1 to 2 hours before bedtime. Avoid items that could unnecessarily “activate” the bladder, too, like sodas, caffeine, etc. 
  • Consult a doctor if danger signs are present. They may advise bedwetting alarms and medications, as necessary.

Key Takeaways

Bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis, is an expected behavior among children. Hence, it’s usually not a sign of an underlying problem. In most causes, it happens simply because the child’s bladder control is not yet fully developed, especially at night. Still, if you are concerned about your child’s nighttime enuresis, don’t hesitate to bring them to the doctor, especially when they are past 7 years old.

Learn more about Parenting here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


Updated Sep 15, 2022

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