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Behavioral Treatments Can Effectively Treat Bedwetting

Alternatives to Medications Exist for Children Who Wet the Bed


Updated February 19, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Behavioral Treatments Can Effectively Treat Bedwetting
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Bedwetting, or sleep enuresis, is a common condition that persists into childhood for many children. For parents who are hesitant to use medications, there are a number of behavioral treatments available that can effectively treat bedwetting.

When is Bedwetting a Problem?

Some children have persistent problems wetting the bed at night, even despite normal daytime potty training. This often occurs during deep sleep, and it can lead to frustration for parents and children alike. It is estimated that about 15 percent of children continue to have episodes of incontinence when they are 5 years old.

When dryness during sleep is never accomplished, it is called primary enuresis. Bedwetting occurs when there is a failure to awaken when the bladder is full. But when is this a problem?

It is important to remember that bedwetting is involuntary and your child should never be punished when these episodes occur. Most children will outgrow their bedwetting, especially those who are younger than 7 years old.

The desire to seek treatment is largely a family decision and it usually becomes a priority when the bedwetting interferes with social activities. For example, when your child seeks to go to a sleepover or heads off to summer camp, the bedwetting may become a source of shame and anxiety.

What Behavioral Treatments Are Available?

Fortunately, if you are a parent who is hesitant to use medications to treat your child’s bedwetting, there are other behavioral treatment options available. These are best used in combination as a comprehensive treatment program.

Some of the potential behavioral treatment options include:

Parents should expect treatment to last at least 3-6 months, with the chance of relapses that should not be a source of frustration. Your child should be given an appropriate level of responsibility in the program. Reasonable goals should be set and at all times parents should provide a positive and supportive environment. With a little patience and perseverance, your child will soon be staying dry through the night.


Cendron, M. "Primary nocturnal enuresis: current." Am Fam Physician. 1999;59(5):1205.

Jalkut, MW et al. "Enuresis." Pediatr Clin North Am. 2001;48(6):1461.

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