How to stop bedwetting is one of the big questions of parents of young children. Getting dry at night is usually the final step to potty training. For many children, it’s a fairly smooth transition, but for others, it’s a real struggle. And by 5 years old, 15%-20% of children still wet the bed.
When a parent of a child under 5 asks how to stop bedwetting, they’re likely of the mindset that potty training is nearly over and how can they get this done. They’re looking for quick tips, sage advice from parents who have gone before.
But when a parent of a child over 5, or 7, or 9, or 11 is asking how to stop bedwetting, the solution they’re looking for is going to be a bit more comprehensive. As a parent who has been in this position, I know it’s not a question that’s easy to ask. And it’s even harder to get an answer that works…but I have one.
The answer to how to stop bedwetting is going to vary depending on the age and circumstances of the one wetting the bed. For young children just learning to stay dry, the solution may be simple, while for older children with primary or secondary bedwetting, the solution may require more thought and action.
In every case of bedwetting, I believe there is a way to stop it.
Keep in mind that before finding a solution to bedwetting, you might want to consider the cause. If there’s an underlying medical reason for bedwetting like diabetes, then you’ll want to know. But if your situation is like the vast majority of bedwetting cases, then the cause may be unclear and one of the following solutions might be your answer to how to stop bedwetting.
Here is my list of answers for How to Stop Bedwetting. You’ll find the quick fixes, contradictory ideas, and bedwetting solutions that have merit for even the toughest cases.
Don’t miss #20, my top pick, my own My Bedwetting Victory! (I may be biased, but after all my research, I think it’s the best, most effective cure for most children and teens who wet the bed.)
How To Stop Bedwetting
Waiting might be your answer if your child is younger than 5. All professionals say that nighttime wetting is normal at least until 5 years old. Many say it’s normal up until 7 years old. So while parents may be eager for dry nights, a child’s body may not be quite ready.
Many parents want their children to be dry before their little one is ready, even as young as 2 years old. And some will be. But plenty won’t. Brain and body development come together at different times for everyone.
That said, there are certainly ways to help a younger child learn to stay dry. It’s just vital that the process is kept positive since the child may truly not be able to stay dry physically just yet.
Of course, if your child is older and you’re on this site, you’ve likely already tried waiting for a while and have not seen any change. I know I tried it. It didn’t work with my boys who struggled with bedwetting. But, oh how I wish it did!
BEST FOR: 5 year olds and under.
2. Limiting Fluids
A child’s fluid intake is limited about two hours before bedtime. If a child is drinking an entire cup of water or other fluid right before heading to bed, that’s not going to help in the effort to stop bedwetting.
For young children, parents closely monitor this. For older children, they can try this on their own with positive support from parents.
While it’s generally not a strong enough solution to end bedwetting by itself, it certainly can’t hurt. And it’s a good lifelong habit for a healthy sleep pattern.
BEST FOR: All ages.
3. Changing Times for Fluid Intake
Children are instructed to drink more in the morning and less in the later part of the day, shifting the body clock. Sometimes, children don’t think about thirst when they’re at school or busy playing. At night, when things slow down, they tank up. That’s not a great schedule for staying dry at night or for healthy sleep.
BEST FOR: All ages.
4. Waking Up Child or Lifting
The child wetting the bed is woken up throughout the night to go to the bathroom. The bed stays dry and gives the appearance that the child no longer wets the bed.
Mostly, what this accomplishes is sleep deprivation for the parents and the child. Because the parents are the ones responsible for waking up, children rarely learn to wake up on their own to go to the bathroom. By itself, lifting is not shown to stop bedwetting.
BEST FOR: All ages, only short term to let a child experience a dry bed.
5. Bathroom Breaks
A regular bathroom schedule can help a child’s body to regulate itself. If a child is given ample opportunity throughout the day to empty his or her bladder, two things can happen. One, the body clock and brain adjust to a daytime schedule. Second, the bladder is sufficiently empty by nighttime.
BEST FOR: All ages.
6. Rewards or Star Chart
Rewards can be used in more than one way. First, a reward is given or star placed on a chart each morning that a child wakes up dry. Using a star chart or other simple reward system helps a child monitor his or her success and progress in learning to stop bedwetting. Second, a reward is given to a child who takes steps towards getting dry, like limiting fluids at night.
For young children just learning to stay dry, this keeps the whole process positive and fun which can only encourage success. For older children who have never stopped wetting the bed (primary bedwetting) or have started wetting the bed after a period of dryness (secondary bedwetting), a star chart is probably not enough to stop bedwetting, but it can help set a positive tone. There is an 18% success rate with a reward chart alone.
For my young children who did not struggle with bedwetting, a small reward like a sticker or chocolate chip reinforced dry nights. Was a reward necessary? Is it the reason they stopped wetting the bed? Probably not. But it didn’t hurt the process and it helped me to keep things positive, which always helps the learning process.
For my older children who did struggle with wetting the bed, a reward chart by itself was not enough. But incorporating a reward system into My Bedwetting Victory helped both me and my children with the motivation to keep going on our road to dry nights.
BEST FOR: All ages, modify for appropriateness.
7. Bladder Exercise
The simple exercise of stopping and starting the flow of urine and contracting those same muscles throughout the day can help to increase a child’s awareness and control over a full bladder.
There are also a number of other types of bladder exercises. Some are designed to stretch the bladder and others to strengthen it. Some can be unpleasant and have been cited as potentially causing a bladder infection. Those are the ones to stay away from.
Exercises alone have not been shown to stop bedwetting. However, combined with other solutions to end bedwetting, exercises support the child’s body in learning to stay dry.
BEST FOR: 5 year olds and older.
8. Bedwetting Alarms
Alarms sound when a child wets the bed by sensing moisture. Eventually, children using bedwetting alarms learn to wake up when their bladders are full.
The success rate of bedwetting alarms is good compared to other options with 60-80% improvement for those who are committed to using the alarm. The relapse rate, however, is 41%.
They’re not the solution for everyone. Personally, I find them invasive. And from my research, I know that many families have a difficult time using alarms. In fact, adults who used alarms as children remember it as one of the worst times of their lives. While it may work, apparently, it’s not a fun thing.
Nonetheless, alarms are considered one of the most effective bedwetting solutions available.
With so many alarms on the market, prices vary. Note that some of the best alarms can be expensive.
BEST FOR: 7 year olds and older.
Desmopressin (DDAVP) is a synthetic form of the antidiuretic hormone that reduces urine production during sleep. It is fairly successful at helping a child stay dry, but bedwetting generally resumes once a child is no longer taking it. Some physicians recommend DDAVP in conjunction with bedwetting alarms, but this seems unnecessary because there is no real difference in long-term outcome.
While this medication may help a child stay dry at summer camp or for a sleepover, it’s not a long-term solution. And like all prescriptions, side effects can be an issue.
Tricyclic antidepressants have helped some children improve nighttime dryness, but the potential side effects, including death from overdose, are pretty severe. And like desmopressin, the relapse rate is significant.
And of course, medication can be an expensive solution with medical bills and prescriptions to fill and embarrassing doctor appointments for children.
BEST FOR: 7 year olds and older; Only as Doctor recommended.
10. Dry Bed Training
Dry bed training is a program of behavioral training that includes positive practice, fluid management, hourly waking, helping with clean-up, and praise. It also includes potentially negative interactions between parents and children, reprimanding children as part of the program, and shaming children by having them tell family visitors that they’re working on getting dry at night.
Dry bed training was first introduced in 1974. Studies show it to be as effective as alarms at ending bedwetting and more effective than alarms when considering relapse rates, pointing to retraining the brain as a viable option to end bedwetting. While the outcome is fairly good, some experts are concerned about the negative aspects and do not recommend it.
I agree that there is no place for negative and damaging facets to any program designed to teach children to stay dry at night. Studies confirm that people learn best in positive, encouraging environments. Also, children who are wetting the bed already feel badly enough without adding to their discouragement and embarrassment with negative training.
BEST FOR: None due to negative aspects.
Chiropractic adjustments have not been shown in any studies to stop bedwetting. However, there are stories from children and families that point to chiropractic as their solution to stop bedwetting.
We did try chiropractic with one of our sons. He enjoyed the adjustments, but it did nothing for his bedwetting.
BEST FOR: 7 year olds and older, but assess case by case; Only as Doctor recommended.
I am not an expert in herbal treatments for bedwetting, of which there are many. There is no evidence that herbal treatments stop bedwetting, but like chiropractic, there are stories for families and children that herbs worked.
BEST FOR: 7 year olds and older, but proceed with caution as herbs are not regulated.
This is another solution that there is no evidence that it stops bedwetting, but individual stories from some families say it worked for them.
BEST FOR: 7 year olds and older, but assess case by case; only as Doctor recommended.
Acupuncture requires a visit to a practitioner. While there are no known negative side effects with acupuncture, it has little effectiveness at stopping bedwetting.
BEST FOR: 7 year olds and older, but assess case by case; only as Doctor recommended.
15. Diet Changes
There is some evidence that certain foods can irritate the bladder. Also, some foods and drinks are natural diuretics that stimulate urine production. While a person would have to take in an awful lot of these diuretics for them to cause bedwetting, eliminating them does not hurt anything.
Caffeine in sodas and chocolate is a mild diuretic. Citrus juice, artificial flavors, food dyes, and synthetic sweeteners have all been named as bladder irritants.
BEST FOR: Case by case, assess the family’s and child’s diet.
16. Relieve Constipation
Constipation can cause bedwetting. Stool in the rectum puts pressure on the bladder and limits the bladder’s capacity for urine. It can make it difficult for children to hold their urine all night. Assessing a child’s toileting habits might give an indication if this is something to check out. This is one case where knowing the cause of bedwetting is important to knowing how to stop bedwetting.
BEST FOR: 7 year olds and older; consult Doctor.
17. Stop Punishment for Wet Nights
Studies report that around 30% of parents admit to punishing for wet nights. My guess is the number is higher than that, especially if we consider all the disappointment and frustration that parents demonstrate to their child. I’m not proud of it and I really don’t want to admit it, but I did punish one of our sons before realizing it was making things worse.
Punishing a child for wetting the bed only increases stress. An increase in stress can exacerbate bedwetting.
Punishing a child for bedwetting will not stop it. If you’re super frustrated and feel that your child might be one of the few using bedwetting as a weapon, even wetting the bed on purpose, check out my article for some tips on how to handle it.
BEST FOR: All ages.
18. Be Positive
Getting dry at night is a very real and reasonable goal. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to feel frustrated and discouraged as parents when it takes longer than expected. It’s also easy to pass that frustration on to children. That stress will not help a child get dry, but it can prolong bedwetting.
For older children who wet the bed, shame, embarrassment, and frustration are likely a daily part of life. These emotions as constant companions hinder healthy emotional development. As a parent, modeling a positive attitude opens the door to decreasing stress and creating a positive environment. A positive environment has been proven as the best place for learning. A child who is wetting the bed desperately needs this positive environment to retrain the brain for dry nights.
Likely, this attitude shift in the home will not bring dry nights by itself. However, it’s a vital component when combined with other solutions for bedwetting.
BEST FOR: All ages.
19. Child Helps With Clean-up
A child is assigned an age-appropriate task that helps with cleaning up the bed or pajamas after a wet night. Young children generally love to help. And while older children might not want to help with most chores, they might like to take care of this one. They’re embarrassed enough without someone else cleaning up after them. This way, they can feel like they’re contributing to the solution.
Helping with clean-up is a quick way for a child to learn the consequences of wetting the bed. This is not a punishment. This is taking responsibility. Parents should keep it positive, encourage an atmosphere of working together, and teach this as basic hygiene.
This is another solution that is best used in conjunction with other solutions to stop bedwetting. There are no studies that I could find that told me how effective cleaning up after themselves is in children getting dry. But common sense tells me it’s a part of the package since it increases awareness and understanding.
BEST FOR: All ages.
20. My Bedwetting Victory
My top pick for how to end bedwetting! Yes, I’m biased, but also yes, I’ve looked at all the other solutions, tried a bunch, and been left wondering if my boys would ever be dry. Guess what? After going through My Bedwetting Victory, my boys who had been wetting the bed every single night are now 100% dry.
I wrote My Bedwetting Victory using my knowledge as a special education teacher for behavior disordered students and using my experience as a mother who had been dealing with bedwetting for years.
I incorporate bits and pieces of some of the solutions I’ve listed here. But much more than that, I combine teaching techniques that work together to retrain the brain. No matter why a child is wetting the bed, unless there’s an underlying medical condition, retraining the brain works.
It’s completely positive, designed for parent and child to work positively together, and requires no special equipment or expensive coach or program. Everything is detailed in my book: how to get started, every step of the process, and finally, how to phase it out once bedwetting has stopped.
BEST FOR: 6 year olds – teens, although easily modified for all ages.
There you have it! 20 Solutions for How to Stop Bedwetting. I know that when I looked for help, I kept finding all these lists that told me if I just did A, B, and C, my child would stop wetting the bed. I’d follow all the suggestions and advice. And my child would keep wetting the bed.
When forming this list, I chose to include every solution I could find, but I also know that they won’t all work. So why even include them? Really, it’s so you can compare them all, consider what you’ve tried, see if there’s something new, and see that you’re not alone.
The truth is, to stop bedwetting, a comprehensive approach is best. That’s what I finally realized when my kids were wetting the bed. And that’s what I put together in My Bedwetting Victory. I also realized I needed a system that wouldn’t break the bank and that felt natural. I needed a system that worked for me and my kids, in our home, every day.
No matter what steps you take to stop bedwetting, I know it can be done. Anyone can stop bedwetting.
- Yeung, Chung K., “Differences in characteristics of nocturnal enuresis between children and adolescents: a critical appraisal from a large epidemiological study”, British Journal of Urology International, May 2006, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2006.06074.x
- Thiedke, C. Carolyn, MD, “Nocturnal Enuresis”, American Family Physician, April 2003, https://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0401/p1499.html
- Incontinence Supermarket Blog, “What Is The Bedwetting Alarm Success Rate In Children?”, May 2018, https://www.incontinencesupermarket.co.uk/blog/living-with-incontinence/nocturnal-enuresis-alarm-2
- Wikipedia, “Nocturnal Enuresis”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nocturnal_enuresis#Effective
- Child and Family Psychological Services, “Bed Wetting/ Enuresis”, https://www.cfpsych.org/specialties/bed-wetting-enuresis/
- Cleveland Clinic, “How To Help Your Child Stop Wetting the Bed”, May 2014, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-help-your-child-stop-wetting-the-bed-2/
- Child Mind Institute, “How To Help Kids Stop Bedwetting”, https://childmind.org/article/how-to-help-kids-stop-bedwetting/
- PediatricEducation.org, “What is the Most Effective Treatment for Primary Nocturnal Enuresis?”, April 2005, https://pediatriceducation.org/2005/04/04/
- National Clinical Guideline Centre, “Dry Bed Training for the Management of Bedwetting”, National Center for Biotechnology Information, London: Royal College of Physicians (UK), 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK62698/
- Nawaz, Shazia, et al, “Parent-Administered Modified Dry-Bed Training for Childhood Nocturnal Enuresis: Evidence for Superiority Over Urine-Alarm Conditioning When Delivery Factors Are Controlled”, Behavioral Interventions, October 2002, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/bin.120