How We Ended Nighttime Bed Wetting


Last week, after eight years and eleven months, I finally threw out my diaper genie. Leftover nighttime pull-ups were handed off to someone who could use them, and we became a fully toilet-trained house. And by toilet-trained, I mean everyone pees somewhere in the vicinity of the toilet. Fellow boy-moms know what I’m talking about.

I honestly thought for a while this day would never come. Not because I have a ton of kids—I only have three—but because the holdout in the diaper category was actually my oldest child. That’s right, we finally tackled nighttime training just shy of his ninth birthday.

As you can imagine, I read a LOT about nighttime training in the last nine years, especially after his little brother achieved the milestone at 4, and even more when his little sister managed it at two. Frankly, nothing I read turned out to be true for us, which is why I want to tell you—with permission from my son—what worked for us.

But first, here’s what didn’t work:

Time. We were told repeatedly by several different pediatricians that the window for nighttime training ranges from age 3–8. We were completely fine with that, although I know my husband was a little worried. And there was the issue of smelly, wet pull-ups, which we solved by putting a diaper genie in the bathroom. We knew the science of nighttime training and understood the chemical and genetic element. Frankly, I was a tremendous bed-wetter myself, and I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t something that made my son feel ashamed. Still, it’s worth noting that he NEVER woke up dry in the pull-up, yet he’s been sleeping without one for a month now. So readiness might not necessarily mean waking up with a dry pull-up.

Bribes. I’ve heard that bribery works wonders for some kids, but it didn’t for us. I could have promised a trip to Disney World, and it wouldn’t have helped. Nighttime accidents weren’t something he was doing willfully.

Treating Constipation.  This is another technique that works for a TON of kids. In fact, our pediatrician told us that something like 90% of bedwetting cases go away when chronic constipation is addressed. She suggested starting with a probiotic, which we did with no success. Since I’m not a big fan of Miralax, we chose another recommended route for treating constipation: nightly enemas. I know. Frankly, it was a lot more traumatizing for me than it was for my child. In fact, his siblings got jealous and starting asking for enemas, too. And then he mentioned that he told a church leader about them. “She just looked at me like she didn’t know what to say,” he remarked. Yes, yes, I’m sure she did.

Sleeping in Underwear or Pajamas.  Several times, in response to his requests, I let him sleep without a pull-up in his normal clothes. He woke up sopping each time, and frankly, after I stripped all the sheets off his top bunk, I was ready to go back to pull-ups.

So what did work? Well, several times, while we were getting ready for bed, he casually said, “Oops, I accidentally forgot and peed in my pull-up.” He was awake, mind you, and he NEVER has accidents in underwear. It was almost like there was a correlation between wearing the pull-up and instinctively going to the bathroom. I thought back to potty training, and how I trained all three kids by letting them run around naked from the waist down. After three days like that, we spent another week or two going commando, because anything that felt remotely like a diaper turned into a setback. I wondered if maybe the same thing was happening at night.

And that’s how Eli got to sleep naked. Since it was winter, so I told him he could still wear a shirt, but of course he didn’t. Anything naked is a treat. I also prepped the bed, because I didn’t have the emotional resources for multiple nights of stripping that top bunk. I rolled back his normal comforter, put two ultimate crib sheets side-by-side right where he sleeps (a bed pad would work the same way), and gave him one super-warm, detached quilt to sleep under. That way, if he did wake up wet, I only had to wash the crib sheets and the single quilt.

The first morning, he woke up wet. We did laundry, but it wasn’t bad. The second morning, he woke up dry. We celebrated. We had a few more random wet mornings, but we were batting about 75%. We heaped a lot of praise. Eli was both proud and relieved. After three weeks, he was allowed to wear pajamas again. After four weeks, he started wearing underwear. We’re past one month dry now, and frankly, he’s forgotten it was ever an issue.

The keys, for us, were naked sleeping and making a laundry system that enabled me to keep at it.

Would this have worked a year or two ago? I don’t know. I still firmly believe that these things are always easier when the kiddo is ready, but my child gave absolutely no indication that he was ready. Clearly he was.

If you are in the same boat, add this one to your list of tricks to try. And take a deep breath. That child is not going to go to college in a pull-up. This, too, shall pass.

And if you had success with something else, please comment, so that other moms can take notes!


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