Most children outgrow bed-wetting on their own. If treatment is needed, it can be based on a discussion of options with your health care provider and identifying what will work best for your situation.
If your child isn't especially bothered or embarrassed by an occasional wet night, lifestyle changes — such as avoiding caffeine entirely and limiting fluid intake in the evening — may work well. However, if lifestyle changes aren't successful or if your grade schooler is terrified about wetting the bed, he or she may be helped by additional treatments.
If found, underlying causes of bed-wetting, such as constipation or sleep apnea, should be addressed before other treatment.
Options for treating bed-wetting may include moisture alarms and medication.
Here are changes you can make at home that may help:
Limit fluids in the evening. It's important to get enough fluids, so there's no need to limit how much your child drinks in a day. However, encourage drinking liquids in the morning and early afternoon, which may reduce thirst in the evening. But don't limit evening fluids if your child participates in sports practice or games in the evenings.
Avoid beverages and foods with caffeine. Beverages with caffeine are discouraged for children at any time of day. Because caffeine may stimulate the bladder, it's especially discouraged in the evening.
Encourage double voiding before bed. Double voiding is urinating at the beginning of the bedtime routine and then again just before falling asleep. Remind your child that it's OK to use the toilet during the night if needed. Use small night lights, so your child can easily find the way between the bedroom and bathroom.
Encourage regular toilet use throughout the day. During the day and evening, suggest that your child urinate every two hours or so, or at least often enough to avoid a feeling of urgency.
Prevent rashes. To prevent a rash caused by wet underwear, help your child rinse his or her bottom and genital area every morning. It also may help to cover the affected area with a protective moisture barrier ointment or cream at bedtime. Ask your pediatrician for product recommendations.
Some people may choose to try complementary or alternative medicine approaches to treat bed-wetting. For approaches such as hypnosis, acupuncture, chiropractic therapy and herbal therapy, evidence of effectiveness for bed-wetting is weak and inconclusive or such efforts have proved to be ineffective. In some cases, the studies were too small or not rigorous enough, or both.
Be sure to talk to your child's health care provider before starting any complementary or alternative therapy. If you choose a nonconventional approach, ask if it's safe for your child and make sure it won't interact with any medications your child may take.
Coping and support
Children don't wet the bed to irritate their parents. Try to be patient as you and your child work through the problem together. Effective treatment may include several strategies and may take time to be successful.
Be sensitive to your child's feelings. If your child is stressed or anxious, encourage him or her to express those feelings. Offer support and encouragement. When your child feels calm and secure, bed-wetting may become less problematic. If needed, talk to your pediatrician about additional strategies for dealing with stress.
Plan for easy cleanup. Cover your child's mattress with a plastic cover. Use thick, absorbent underwear at night to help contain the urine. Keep extra bedding and pajamas handy. However, avoid the long-term use of diapers or disposable pull-up underwear.
Enlist your child's help. If age-appropriate, consider asking your child to rinse his or her wet underwear and pajamas or place these items in a specific container for washing. Taking responsibility for bed-wetting may help your child feel more control over the situation.
Celebrate effort. Bed-wetting is involuntary, so it doesn't make sense to punish or tease your child for wetting the bed. Also, discourage siblings from teasing the child who wets the bed. Instead, praise your child for following the bedtime routine and helping clean up after accidents. Use a sticker reward system if you think this might help motivate your child.