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Helpful Hints for Night Time Toilet Training

  • 13 minute read

First of all – you are not alone! There are thousands of us parents out there with children that wet the bed. Just think of it as another stage they are going through, like learning to walk, or having dry pants during the day. Of course there are always the people out there that are happy to say “my child has never wet the bed” but there are many more who are at the same stage as you.

There is no easy answer and the fact is that different things work for different children and no matter what; most children will outgrow it eventually. It's also important to remember there are no miracle cures or overnight successes.
Children are very observant and aware of their environment. They are especially sensitive to what is happening within their peer group and how they fit in. When they realise that they are different from their peers and are suffering from something that their friends have outgrown, they may feel ashamed and embarrassed. This could result in them becoming withdrawn and scared. It is helpful to be aware of these feelings and encourage your child to talk with you about them.
Here are some suggestions.

  • A night light can make a huge difference. Your child needs to feel safe getting up in the middle of the night if they need to.

  • Praise and reward your child for staying dry or getting up to toilet
  • Respond gently if your child wets the bed even if you feel angry.
  • Prepare the bed and the child. Take some of the hassle out of bed wetting with a  Brolly Sheet Bed Pad
  • Set a routine bedtime for your child.  Over tired children fall deeply asleep and have a harder time waking up to go to the bathroom.  
  • Give your child plenty of fluid during the day. Avoid caffeinated drinks e.g. tea chocolate and fizzy drinks before bedtime. Limit fluids before bed time. In particular, beverages containing caffeine, such as cola, tea and coffee should not be consumed in the evening. Caffeine is a diuretic, causing an increase in urine production.
  • If you are still giving a bedtime bottle, now is the time to drop it. If your child is hydrated during the day, a big drink at bedtime or during the night is not necessary.

  • Have your child wee before bedtime.
  • If you get your child up to wee after being asleep for several hours make sure they are fully awake. The idea is to train the child's unconscious mind to recognize the feeling of "having to go" and use that recognition to clamp down on the sphincter muscle. If a child is sleeping too deeply to wake to go to the bathroom, you will need to wake the child up. Over 10 to 12 weeks, a parent will see a gradual reduction in the amount of fluid a child releases. In other words, the child will still wet the bed throughout treatment, but they will gradually be able to react and use their sphincter muscles before completely letting go of their bladder until they finally reach the point of complete control. It can be like waking up several times a night with a newborn, but, like the time spent with your newborn, the results are certainly worth the sacrifice. Some parents recommend waking the child for a visit to the toilet about two hours after they’ve gone to sleep. If the sheet is already wet, wake them a half hour earlier the next night. Keep reducing the time until you catch the first wee.
  • Shower or bath in the morning before they go to school. The smell of wee may embarrass your child and lead to teasing.

  • Be available to help. Let them know you are there for them if they want help during the night.
  • Bed wetting can be a real challenge for parents: broken sleep, extra washing, worried for their child and so forth. Because of this, it is so important to guard your reactions toward your child. Lack of sleep at 2am in the morning can bring about bad attitudes and it is vitally important that you don’t say what you are feeling at this point. You need to put yourself in your child’s shoes. No one wants to be wet and cold with broken sleep. Your child doesn’t want it either, so punishing them for something out of their control is insensitive and cruel, and can create all sorts of psychological problems. You need to be sensitive to your child’s feelings so as not to add to the problem and create any further stress or anxiety for your child.
  • Make an appointment with the doctor to check that there is no urine infection (UTI) or constipation – recommended if your child is over 7 years.  Ask your GP for a referral to a bed wetting clinic for an assessment and help to resolve the problem.
  • Drink about 1.5 to 2 litres of water based drinks spaced out through the day (more if very active or if the weather is hot).
  • Keep a diary to take to the doctor that will show the pattern of the problem. Also make a record of daily drink intake to see if any particular drink makes things worse (such as coffee or fizzy drinks).
  • Think of ways to manage the problem in the short term, such as wearing washable absorbent pants or pads, or use a  Bed Pad for bedding protection.

  • If your child doesn't manage a dry bed after three to four weeks of trying, you should give up and try again three to four weeks later.
  • Have realistic expectations. Expect just the occasional dry night at the first few attempts.
  • If your child has an accident, praise them for telling you and still take them to the toilet to see if they can do a bit more.
  • Teaching the child to change his/her own sheets after an accident. The child helps take responsibility for the event and parents get an uninterrupted sleep, but frequency of bed wetting is not necessarily affected. Brolly Sheets products an help make this a bit easier.
  • Installing a nocturnal alarm. This is a small battery-powered device which contains a moisture sensor. When the child starts to urinate, a signal is sent to a control panel and the alarm sounds (and/or vibrates) to wake the child. Alarms are effective in about 70% of cases, but 10-15% of successes return to bed wetting. The key is patience; the system can take up to 12 weeks to make a difference.

  • Bladder training during the day. Because some cases are due to a small or immature bladder, some experts suggest encouraging the child to increase the time between urinating during the day. This helps to stretch the bladder so it can hold more at night.
  • Never punish or humiliate a child who has wet the bed and try to ensure there is no teasing from siblings.
  •  If your child is becoming anxious or frustrated, take the pressure off. Forget about night-time toilet training for a while.
  • Remember that it might take years for your child to reliably master night-time dryness. Don’t stress about it or compare your child’s efforts with other children who are apparently dry at night.
  • If your child is scared of the dark, going to the toilet at night is an enormous challenge. Consider putting nightlights in the hallway. Think about leaving their door open for easy access. You could even put a potty in the bedroom.
  • Let your child know that you still love and adore them and are not angry or disappointed with them because they wet the bed. The less stress and anxiety your child has the easier it will be to overcome the problem.
  • Bedwetting is MOST COMMONLY caused by; difficulty arousing from sleep in response to a full bladder, the production of more urine at night than the bladder can store and even a family history of Bed wetting. Bed wetting in a child who's never been dry is NOT caused by; laziness or rebelliousness – no child wants to wet the bed, it is too humiliating. Sleeping deeply (this can just make bladder training more of a challenge).
  • Physically there shouldn’t be anything wrong with your child. However, if he does complain of pain when urinating, there could be cause for concern and this should be checked by your doctor.
  • Sometimes bed wetting follows a period of stress in your child’s life. Talk to him and see how things are going at school or if something has happened to upset him. Take into account any changes that may be taking place within the home. The arrival of a new sibling or marital tension between the parents, can all contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety. If you can address these factors, you may not need to even mention the bed wetting with your child as solving the cause of the stress may well eliminate the bed wetting.
  • Changes in the daily routine or an increase in activities could also contribute to your child’s enuresis. If he is getting overtired from school and extramural activities then he’ll no doubt sleep like a log and not be able to rouse himself to respond to his full bladder and go to the toilet. Make sure that if your child is super tired that you have reminded him to go to the toilet before going to bed. You could also place a  fitted mattress protector or  Bed Pad on the bed “just in case”. Be patient and understanding - reassure your child, especially if they are upset.
  • If you notice that your child has become withdrawn from his peers and quieter than usual, then you need to ensure that you sit down and talk with him. He is still young and will need your help and guidance to help him deal with the bed wetting. He won’t be able to cope without your support. He needs to understand and be reassured that he can overcome the bed wetting and that it is not something of which he should be ashamed or afraid. He also needs to know that it is not his fault. Remind him that not all kids are good at all things and show him what he is good at. Praise him for his other accomplishments. It is important to maintain a child’s self esteem, especially when they are struggling with something.
  • Help your child understand bed wetting and explain that it is a normal part of growing up. Once you have had these discussions put some systems in place to help him deal with the situation.
  • Communicate with and educate your child. With my 61/2 year old we talked about her bladder and how it was like a plastic bag in her body that stored her wee. When she went to the toilet she had to imagine squeezing all the wee out of the bag so it was empty.
  • Keeping a record will show progress. Using a reward chart can work for some children, but if motivation isn’t the challenge, and there are reasons beyond the physical control of your child then don’t use this method. It isn’t fair for your child as bed wetting is out of their control.   When this is the case just use it to record how often they wet.

Mia’s story as told by Diane – creator of Brolly Sheets
I came across something that worked for my 6 ½ year old daughter; Mia. We had just gone through 6 months of a wet bed every night, normally around 10pm. I was reading about how the brain can work and every night whilst Mia was on the toilet I would sit on the floor and chat to her.
We talked about her brain and how clever it is. Her brain can tell her body it needs to wake up and go to the toilet. We came up with a little rhyme “I’m, so bright, I’m so bright, I can get up in the middle of the night”. We also talked about her bladder and how it was like a plastic bag in her body that stored her wee. When she went to the toilet she had to imagine squeezing all the wee out of the bag so it was empty.

We have only had one wet bed since.  I don’t know why it worked – she doesn’t get up and go to the toilet in the night, but it did work. It may have been the “talking” to her brain, or maybe the fact that we spent some time on the toilet before bed instead of rushing through the process to get to the story.

We cannot fathom the power of the brain and what happens when we put the subconscious to work. But the information needs to go into the conscious first.

Our children are all amazingly capable and the brain is a very powerful tool. It is important for us to use that power. Help your child understand what is going on in his body. Children need to know that bed wetting can be overcome, but they need to realize that there is a process to follow, that may mean that your child has to remember to do a few more things before bed, like set and alarm, but that is no different from a child that needs to remember to wear glasses.