My daughter just turned 4. She has been wetting the bed several nights a week for the last month. She's been potty trained for almost a year and previously hadn't had a night accident in at least 6 months.

I know she understands that peeing in the bed is not good, and I don't think she's willfully ignoring us - I think she just doesn't realize she's peeing in the middle of the night.

What are good techniques to

  1. communicate to her our expectations without being over-disciplinary and

  2. get her to stop wetting the bed?

  • 5
    You don't need to communicate your expectations. She also expects herself not to wet herself. Of course it's not intentional; she is asleep! Jan 19, 2012 at 12:11

5 Answers 5


It's totally normal

Don't worry. Many children do experience setbacks like this. It's totally normal, only to be expected, and almost certainly temporary.

Keep calm, don't give a payoff

My eldest had this problem when he was 4. Here's what we did. If he wee'd in the night, we just kept everything super calm and changed everything, all the sheets and pyjamas. "It's OK, never mind, it happens, lets just sort it out". Just a boring nightime chore. After a couple of weeks he got the idea and it stopped.

Treat it as a rather boring inconvenience

It's just a dull nightime chore for both of you. If you just treat it as an rather boring inconvenience, rather than something worrying with a bit of emotional spice, your daughter will probably learn to avoid it.

Your daughter is almost certainly not doing it on purpose. If you attach emotion to it then it'll become an issue.


Aside from some physiological or psychological factor another thing to consider is that during potty training you probably (if you were like us) followed a very specific bedtime routine. No water after x:00pm, pee before bedtime etc.

After our now 5 year old was all trained, we started to get a little lax on the routine. Sure you can have a drink, I will just assume you went to the bathroom.

We he had a run of accidents we had to go back and make sure we got back into our routine.

That helped alot.

Also, from our experience, he was very upset about wetting the bed. He would wake up and cry because he felt bad about having done it. Make sure to push that un-conditional love up to 11 so that they know this is ok and that you're not upset or mad about what happened or at them for it.

Don't get angry about it happening. In fact I would hazard a guess that the more laid back you are, "Hey, this happens, it's cool, let try to not let it happen tomorrow night" and to reassure them that they can do it will go a long way.


It is certainly not a willful behaviour at this age, especially in the middle of the night. So it won't help to explain your expectations, it will just frustrate her more.

Was there any substantial change lately in the child's life? E.g. birth of younger sibling, starting kindergarten / preschool, problems in kindergarten / preschool, mom / dad starting / changing job, moving to a new apartment, illness or death in the family...

Wetting the bed after having been stably dry for months can be the symptom of some sort of regression due to an internal crisis / trauma, caused by some event like the above. Or it can be the result of a plain physical condition, like a urinary infection.

To prove or close out the latter, you need to take her pee to a lab for a urine test. If it is positive, you will get antibiotics to cure the infection. The cure may take a couple of weeks, but after that hopefully the problem gets solved.

If there is some internal crisis in the background, you need to be patient, discuss the issue with the child and spend extra personal time with her if she requires it. If she feels safe and loved, she will usually process things in a couple of weeks and then keep her bed dry again. However, if the condition prevails longer, you may want to seek help from a child psychologist or doctor.

  • 1
    My child is still a toddler but I had bed wetting problems ~5 years old. It might been going to school or my new baby sister but I have vivid memories of feeling frozen by terror in my bed because I thought there was a ghost in the bathroom and on the stairs. I had seen E.T. and even though I liked it (and E.T.) all the scary emotions were suddenly making night-time and the dark very scary.
    – mahalie
    Jan 23, 2012 at 19:56

This is very common.

  • Make sure drinks are done an hour before bedtime and the toilet gets used every night, last thing.
  • Get a waterproof mattress pad and extra sheets, and change them when you need to.
  • It's important that you don't dump a bucket of shame on the kid. She's not doing it on purpose.
  • Try to laugh. This too shall pass.

I read a very interesting article on this topic a while back, unfortunately I haven't been able to locate a link.

The thrust of it was that this kind of regression is very common, but it also offered a solid solution. One common reason potty trained children have regression, particularly nighttime regression, is that we tend to overestimate how much we can rely on a potty trained child to use the toilet during the day when appropriate. Kids will put off going as long as possible, and as a result they train themselves to ignore the sensations that tell them they need to go. The more they learn to ignore that discomfort, the easier it is to sleep through that feeling and ultimately have an accident in bed.

Interestingly this article made a link between earlier potty training and later bed-wetting, because the younger a child is the less they should be relied on to dictate when they are ready to use the potty.

If you are in the habit of trusting your child to use the toilet as needed during the day, or if you ask them "do you need to go?" and trust their response, consider modifying that to simply telling them they need to go now. Keep mental track of when they last went, and send them every 1 to 2 hours. The less they are holding it during the day, the more success they will have at being woken up by the need to go at night.

There was a lot more detail to the article and I will try to track it down so I can support this answer with a useful source.


I was able to find an article by the same source, it covers some other topics also but the relevant parts are covered starting about halfway through this article https://www.babble.com/toddler/dangers-potty-training-early/

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