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Government of SA - Bedwetting

Most children are toilet trained during the day by about three years of age but many still wet the bed at night until around five. Night-time bladder control is not something children can learn like they can with day-time toilet training. It usually happens naturally as their body matures. Children stop wetting the bed at different ages. While a lot of children are dry at night by the time they start school, many children of primary school age still wet the bed at times.

Until the age of ten, about one in every ten children wet the bed. It is important to not blame or punish them for something they can’t control.A mother helping a child fixing bed

Why does bedwetting happen?

Bedwetting is nobody’s fault. It is not caused by laziness or seeking attention. It is not something your child has control over.

Sometimes children wet the bed because they:

Often, if a child does not stop bedwetting at a young age, there may be a family history of bedwetting. You may find that dad, mum, uncle or aunt used to wet the bed, and they may still have to get up at night to go to the toilet.

Children who wet the bed are sometimes dry when sleeping in a strange place. They may sleep more lightly if worried about wetting. When back home and relaxed they often wet the bed again.

Some children who have been dry might start wetting the bed again if something happens to make them very stressed, e.g. a new baby, starting school, family violence or family break-up. Bedwetting usually stops when they begin to feel more secure. Let your child know you understand and will do your best to help them get through the difficult times (see ParentLink Guide ‘Coping skills’).

Sometimes there is a physical cause, e.g. a bladder infection or they have become constipated. You might want to see your doctor if you’ve tried some of the strategies in this Guide but are still concerned.

Remain patient and reassure your child bedwetting is not their fault. If they become tense and anxious they may wet for longer and also become unhappy.

What parents can do

Children are often upset and embarrassed when they wake up in a wet bed. They may also be worried about upsetting you. While older children can help by putting wet items in the laundry, it can feel like a punishment to younger children. Bedwetting may continue if your child is worried about upsetting you or being punished. Do things with your child that help them feel good about themselves.

Behaviour change programs such as ‘star charts’ don’t work because your child can’t control the bedwetting.

Check with your doctor if:

School camps and sleepovers

Children often worry about wetting the bed at school camps or sleepovers and may try to avoid going. They should be encouraged to attend and be part of the fun with their peers.

Teachers are used to dealing with bedwetting at camp without embarrassing the child. Discuss with the teacher how it can be managed then talk with your child about what they can do. They might want to try out different strategies at home before the camp. Make sure you pack plastic bags for wet items and enough clean clothing and underwear. Wipes may help keep your child from smelling. If your child is invited to a sleepover, talk to the parent in advance.

If your child is still very anxious about wetting the bed at camp or a sleepover, talk to your doctor to see if medication may help them while away from home.

Getting help

While most children stop bedwetting as they get older, some don’t. If your child is wetting the bed often past seven years of age and it is worrying you or your child, it can help to talk with your doctor or a continence health professional trained in helping children. If needed, they can tell you about the different treatments and help you work out which would best suit your child. Bedwetting alarms can be useful for some children.

Talk with your child about how they are feeling and any ideas they have that might help. Don’t dwell on the issue if it causes upset — this can be very sensitive for them. It is important to remind your child that bedwetting is nothing to be ashamed of, they just need a bit of extra help for their body to work best.

It’s normal for parents to feel frustrated when bedwetting continues for a time. It’s important to be patient and not punish, criticise or tease your child. Remember, it is not something your child can control.

More information

Continence Foundation of Australia

Free helpline, information and resources for incontinence and bedwetting, phone 1800 330 066 or visit www.continence.org.au

Looking for more information

ParentLink - for other parenting guides, online parenting information:

Child and Family Centres - for parenting information and support

Raising Children’s Network - covering topics for parenting newborns to teens


This guide’s content was produced by Parenting SA.

© Department of Education and Child Development, Government of South Australia. Reproduced with permission and adapted by the ACT Government to reflect Australian Capital Territory laws (11/17).

Important: This information is not intended to replace advice from a qualified practitioner.


Published by ParentLink, Community Services Directorate
GPO Box 158, Canberra ACT 2601, telephone 13 34 27, email parentlink@act.gov.au

ACT Government Publication No. 17/0608 (August 2017).

The text for this topic is copyright Department of Health, Government of South Australia.