Bedwetting vs. Potty Training

You proudly remember when your child used the potty for the first time. But it can still be a long road until your child stays dry all night. If your child is dry during the day, but sometimes wakes up with wet sheets at night, you may be wondering what's going on. Here's how to tell the difference between bedwetting and potty training.

Potty training is the process of helping your child learn to use the toilet. Parents may have different methods, but one thing is for sure: potty training, as the name suggests, is something you can train your child to do. Learning to use the potty is part of a child's development. Most children develop bladder and bowel control between 2 to 4 years of age, and potty training usually takes about 3 to 6 months. Girls may get the hang of it earlier than boys.

Most children show signs that they are ready for potty training at 18 to 24 months, but for others it may be later. If they are not potty trained by age 4, see a doctor. Some signs of readiness include:

  • dry diapers for 2 hours or longer, on multiple occasions
  • your child lets you know they need to potty
  • they can sit on the toilet with balance
  • shows interest in using the potty

Some parents think that bedwetting is the last stage of potty training, but this is not true. Bedwetting is when a child wakes up wet at an age when it would not usually happen. Bedwetting is a condition that goes away over time. About 15% of 5-year-olds and 6% to 8% of 8-year-olds wet the bed. Bedwetting usually occurs when a child sleeps so deeply that they do not wake up in time to go to the bathroom. Bedwetting is not managed the same way as potty training. Instead, there are other ways to help your child:

  • Be smart about fluids. Give your child enough fluids to drink during the day, then limit fluids after dinner. Don't let your child have fluids with caffeine, such as pop or tea. Encourage your child to go to the bathroom before bed.
  • Use absorbent underwear instead of training pants at night. Training pants may not have the absorbency your child needs, which could lead to wet sheets, wet pyjamas, and interrupted sleep. Instead, use absorbent underwear, which is specially made to protect from wetness while your child is lying down. This helps keeps pyjamas and bedding dry.
  • Let your child know it's not their fault. Children may feel ashamed or guilty about their bedwetting. Make sure they know that bedwetting is not "bad behaviour," and don't punish your child if they have a wet night. Bedwetting is not your child's fault.
  • Talk to your doctor if the bedwetting is upsetting your child, if they are still wetting past 5 to 6 years of age, if they are wetting during the day, or if they have been dry for several months and then start wetting. Your doctor can check to see if a medical problem may be causing the bedwetting and, if appropriate, advise you about other treatments such as medications or alarms.

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