Potty Accidents at Night (Bedwetting)

Night time potty training is very similar to bed wetting, and it can be confusing what the difference is. Night time potty training are for children under the age of 5, their bodies are typically growing at such a fast rate it can be hard for their bladders to keep up. Bed wetting is for children from the ages of 5 up to 13 years old who have wetting accidents during the night.

Parents can often get frustrated about night time accidents, thinking children do it because they are "lazy" or being rebellent. MOST children can not help are having bed time accidents, and that is exactly what it is: an accident. Achieving night time potty control is not simply a learned skill, but rather a physiological development and the control is largely involuntary. In some cases, circumstances require learning how to achieve night time control (see bed wetting section).

Babies urinate around the clock and then at about the average age of 18 months, as the sphincter muscles mature, toddlers will make the transition from urinating around the clock to only urinating during the waking hours as is the case with most adults.

Having to urinate at night is not an issue with most adults, since when an adult's bladder is full at night, a signal goes from the bladder to the brain and we are awakened with the need to go. For children, this signaling mechanism comes with age. Most pediatricians do not consider bed wetting an issue until after the age of five.

Below is a table that shows the age at which children achieve night time control.

Age of Child

% of children have achieve night time control

Under 3 years


Under 4 years


Under 5 years


Under 6 years


What to do about accidents:

The key to dealing with night time accidents is slightly different from dealing with day time accidents, because night time accidents are NOT voluntary. Your child does not have ability to control the accident, so, there are no consequences given. As you face another clean up, realize that this is hard on your child as well. S/he does not want to have accidents any more than you do.

  • stay neutral - this is an accident
  • no guilt or shame on the child
  • clean up and move on.

Therefore if you child is having more than 2-3 accidents per month, I would recommend using disposable pull ups and making it less stressful on everyone involved. Monitor the situation and try to switch to cloth training pants or underwear again, when your child is older and may have achieved night time control. If you child is wetting at night and is trained during the day, consult with the child's pediatrician, especially if the child is 5 years old or older.

How to approach night time potty training are listed below.

  • If you child is dry most mornings, then definitely try moving to underwear and see if your child will actually stay dry and / or wake up to use the potty. Make sure that you have some mattress protection in place, so the clean up can be done easily with minimal frustration.
  • I really like the mattress pads that you can put on top of the bed sheets and wrap around both sides of the mattress. Have at least 2 of these on hand, so if and when you have to deal with an accident at night, you do not have to strip the whole bed, but rather just change out the mattress pad.
  • If you child is waking up wet, then I would recommend considering other options. Again how you approach this depends on how often you child is wetting and your own tolerance level to accidents and accident clean up.
  • If you child is wetting often, i.e. 2-3 times per week, I would recommend staying with a disposable pull up. This makes it easier on every one involved. My only caution to the usage of disposable products is the issue of confusion in the child's mind, because the disposables do not let the child feel the wetness.

So, if you are going to use the disposable products, I would recommend following:

  1. Sell the pull up as a night time pant for big kids; you want your child to be proud of the fact that s/he is now wearing underwear and not diapers - so these are special underwear for big kids - just for night time. If you have been using pull ups already - switch to a different brand - so that you child will indeed see a difference.
  2. Put the pull up just before bedtime. Have you child use the potty or toilet before bed, and the put on the pull up.
  3. Remove the pull up as soon as your child wakes up. Most people will urinate right after waking up, and give you child the opportunity to urinate in the potty or toilet instead of the pull up.

If your child is wetting occasionally, 2-3 times per month, you may want to use night time cloth training pants. If your child is wetting only 1-2 times every 3 months - I would recommend switching completely to regular underwear and using a good mattress pad until s/he is completely dry.

The bottom line is that just over half the children (66%) will be dry at night by the age of 3; however 33% of children or 1 in every 3 children will still wet at night when being potty trained in the day time. So, to be successful with night time potty training (I mean success in term of the least amount of stress on you and your child), do the following:

  • Know your and your spouse's bed wetting history
  • Know your child's behavior pattern for waking up dry
  • Based on this information, be prepared with a plan on how you will address night time potty training
  • Be patient and be flexible; adjust plan as needed.
  • Consult your child's pediatrician if you have issues or concerns.


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Add Your Comment There are currently 7 comments on this article.
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Worried (8/24/2014) Reviewer: Taniella (Westbury, NY)

My nephew will be 5 in two weeks and he still pees almost every single time he takes a nap and nightly. How can I help my sister?

PTC-Comment: Potty training can be very frustrating but by the time they reach the age of 5, it starts to become a bed wetting problem and not a potty training problem. Has she talked to his pediatrician and asked them for advice? It could possibly be a medical or physical condition.

If she has already spoken to the pediatrician, she might want to look into our bed wetting alarms because some children are just really heavy sleepers. We have the WetStop 3 or the Nite Trainer Brands available. These bedwetting alarms go off when they first feel that first drop of moisture. What the alarm is doing, is conditioning or training the child's body to wake up when their bladders feel full. This is by no means an overnight solution to the problem. It can sometimes take anywhere from a couple of months to several months, depending on the child.

Hope this informationl helps some. We have other articles on bedwetting that might be of some help to you in our Potty Training Tips Section on our site.

Here are some books that might help you as well:

Seven Steps To Nighttime Dryness: A Practical Guide For Parents Of Children With Bedwetting

The Complete Bedwetting Book

Waking Up Dry: A Guide To Help Children Overcome Bedwetting

Should I stop night time training and wait? (3/20/2014) Reviewer: dana

My 2yrs and 4 month daughter just became potty trained during the day around 2 months ago. Initially I didn't worry about nap/night time because I thought she is too young. However, once she got the concept of potty, she started waking up dry in the morning more and more. She even woke up in the middle of the night and asked to use the potty -still using a crib.

Until, she woke up one day dry, but needed the potty urgently by the time I got to her she had already went in her pull up. She was very upset about it. Then she stood up and saw that there was no dripping, she looked surprised and I think she got that the pull ups are like diapers; they hold the pee pee in. After that she stopped waking up for potty and started wetting the pull up almost daily and refused to take it off immediately upon awakening.

Though I was not ready, I thought that I should start night time potty training since she demonstrated the ability earlier, I just didn't want her to be careless. I limited her night time drinking to 1/2 cup of milk before 7pm, she goes to bed around 9. I take her potty right before going to bed, and started using regular panties. During the first few days, she would wake up very upset if she wet the bed and demand immediate change but now she just turns around few time then goes back to sleep. She wets her bed almost every other day, and never wakes up for potty anymore.Of course I don't shame her or make feel guilty over accidents but I do reward dry days. I'm worried that I'm making even more damage than if I had kept her using pull ups, and I would be grateful for your advise.

PTC Comment: I do not think that you made a mistake trying to potty train her at night time. She was showing all of the signs that she was ready for night time potty training. Waking up dry in the mornings is a sign that normally tells us that they are ready to start this phase of potty training.

It is not unusual for children to regress while potty training, regardless of whether it is at night or during the day, but there is no reason for you to be alarmed. She is still on the young side and may just not be totally ready for night time potty training. Her little bladder may just not be developed enough for this, as of yet. Should you decide at this time to give her a little more time to develop the strength of her bladder, that is okay and there is nothing wrong with it. It should not hurt her daytime potty training just make sure you stay consistent and continue using her training pants during the day. The other option you have is to continue the night time potty training as you are doing, which means stay patient and consistent with her. She will eventually come around. There is no right way or wrong way sometimes, it is a matter of preference and what is easier for you and your child. No matter how you look at it, they will potty train on their own time not ours.

still wetting (5/19/2013) Reviewer: Jean (alsask, sk)

My daughter has been potty trained for over a year now but is wetting the bed every single night. We get her to use the bathroom before we go to bed but has made no difference.

Is this something I should be concerned about? I do not use pull ups at night because I am afraid she will use this as an excuse to not get up in the night and also I'm afraid it will regress the daytime potty train. Any advice on what I can do?


PTC Comment: I am not quite sure how old your daughter is by your email and I am guessing that you are monitoring her liquid intake late in the evening. I do have a question for you, does she wake up after she goes or does she sleep right through the night even though she is wet? If she is still sleeping through, it could be that she is sleeping to heavily to know that she has had an accident.

If that is the case, you might try using a bedwetting alarm to awaken her so that she gets up to go to the potty. If she is more than 5 years old, you might want to consult your pediatrician to see if they might have an insight to the bed-wetting problem.

to (5/26/2012) Reviewer: Lisa (Milwaukee, WI) I have the same situation except that I have not been waking up my son throughout the night to pee as you have with your daughter. I can only imagine how sleep deprived you two must be to have your sleep interrupted -- that probably causes you both stress which might be detrimental to the whole night time potty training process. I've read that you could wake up your child at the time of night that you yourself are heading to bed, but I've never read that you should make it a practice of waking up yourself so that you can wake up your child.

I would recommend what I am planning to do -- he's almost 4, so this is not a "bed wetting" issue, which as the above article says, isn't considered a problem until after age 5. I stopped disposable pull-ups at night 2 weeks ago and I'm now going to go with this website's night time training underwear so that my son feels the wetness but the bed doesn't get wet. I'll also be trying what the other article said which is to wake him up to pee right at the time that I'm going to go to bed. We'll see!

How old is your daughter? According to the article, if she's well over age 5, you might seek help from her doctor. I hope you both can get some sleep soon!
troubles at night (5/16/2012) Reviewer: cjay (red deer, ab) I feel this is good advice but my situation is a little different than the ones mentioned above. My daughter has been potty trained for days for just about a full year but I just started potty training for nights only four months ago. I did this because I kept waiting for the dry diapers in the morning that never came. Four months ago I decided to stop waiting for these dry diapers because she will be turning four soon and decided instead to try potty training her to get up and go pee during the night. A girlfriend suggested that I do this by taking away the pull up and start waking my daughter up to go pee. This made sense at the time so that is what I did but it is now four months later and she has made absolutely no progress and I'm still waking her up two times a night to pee. I'm starting to get very frustrated and concerned that maybe there is something wrong with my daughter. You are always hearing to wait for these dry diapers but I don't really think she will ever not pee during the night and I'm looking for advice on what to do with a child like mine. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Kind of feel like I'm at my wits end and will try just about anything.
refusing to use a potty (2/26/2011) Reviewer: colleen When it comes to toddlers refusing to use a potty, I'm an expert! My daughter absolutely refused to use her potty. She wouldn't even sit on it and when she did She was on it less than 10 seconds (literally). So I decided to get her a potty seat that enabled her to sit on the toilet without falling through the hole.She loved it Finally she stayed on longer than 10 seconds she said she was oin the toilet 'just like mummy'. Actually getting her to wee in the toilet wasn't half as bad/hard as I thought It would be. I started recognising the times she would do a wee in her nappy, usually just after dinner so began putting her on the toilet at that time. When she did wee I praised her relentlessly 'good girl, your so clever,what a big girl doing your wee wees in the toilet'. Luckily for me it was coming up to bonfire night so had sparklers in the house I gave her a sparkler every time she did a wee or poo in the toilet. When the novelty of that wore off I brought her a star chart , every time she went to the toilet she could put a star sticker on her chart - she loved it. Christmas was coming by then so brought her lots of brightly coloured knickers she was so excited to put them on and be a 'big girl' She was actually telling me when she needed to go so she wouldn't wet her 'big girl knickers'. She is now fully toilet yrained in the day time. (I'm working on the night time, the hindrence is primarily Me I'm not sure I want to disrupt her sleep yet waking her up to use the toilet) ill get over it soon I'm sure then ill have one completely dry big girl On my hands! As a single first time mum I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and used to worry myself silly over things like this so I hope maybe this posting could help someone else All the best Colleen
Great advice.... (2/25/2011) Reviewer: Ginny (Youngstown, H) I think your advice is spot on. I have a three year old who is day trained but is only slowly making progress in night training. The fact that she IS making progress is encouraging though. I have a 14 year old who didn't stop having accidents until he was 13 (due to family history and developmental disorders) so know first hand the utter frustration of parenting such an issue. I admit that when he was younger, being more ignorant on the subject, I didn't handle the issue nearly as gracefully or sensitively as I should have. But, nothing I did or could have done would have changed a thing. It was completely involuntary. By the way, mattress pads are great but don't hold even a four year old's nightly urine, in my experience. Once my son outgrew pull-ups at age 4, I learned quickly that waterproof mattress pads or protectors were the only way to go. Oh, and get ready to do allot of laundry :). Oh, and a combo heavy spray of Lysol and Febreze on the mattress, if any get through, seems to work best to eliminate odors and sanitize quickly. Handheld steamers work great for sanitization but they make things, umm, smelly :). Basically, don't start worrying you are doing something wrong if your child is day trained but not night trained. It WILL stop eventually, just hang in there. Oh, and don't punish or belittle your child for it. It's mean and pointless.