Toilet training and Bedwetting

Toilet/potty training

Using a potty is a new skill for your child to learn. It's best to take it slowly and go at your child's pace. Being patient with them will help them get it right, even if you sometimes feel frustrated.

Bedwetting

Bedwetting happens when your child makes more pee at night than their bladder can hold; unfortunately, young children often don't wake to the feeling of a full bladder, which means that they wet their bed whilst they are sleeping. It can run in families, and boys are more likely to wet the bed than girls.

See below for further information and advice on these two topics.

When to start?

Using a potty is a new skill for your child to learn and most parents start thinking about potty training when their child is between 2 and 2 and a half, but there's no perfect time as all children are different and it is important to wait until your child is ready. You might feel your child is ready to start potty training when you notice the following:

  • Your child can get on and off of the potty
  • Your child can pull their clothes and underwear down
  • Your child can follow instructions
  • Your child knows when they have a wet or dirty nappy and they tell you this
  • Your child can stay dry for an hour or two
  • Your child knows when they are doing a wee and they tell you this
  • Your child knows when they need to do a wee or a poo and they may tell you this in advance

How to start?

Remember, you cannot force your child to use a potty. If they're not ready, you will not be able to make them use it. 

  • Choose a time when there are a few other big changes such as house moving or a new sibling arriving
  • Keep a potty next to the toilet
  • Once you have chosen a time to start, swap nappies or pull-ups for pants
  • Encourage your child to sit on the potty regularly, particularly after meals and at any time you know your child normally does a poo
  • Encourage boys to sit down to wee - this helps them to empty their bladder properly and makes sure they can poo as well if they need to
  • Don't make a fuss if they have an accident but do praise them when they succeed and you could try using a sticker chart

Night-time potty training

Night-time potty training might take longer than daytime potty training. If your child's nappy is dry or very nearly dry in the morning, they may be ready for night-time potty training. Make sure that your child uses the potty just before bed and then make sure it is nearby in case they need to use it overnight. If possible use a waterproof sheet and have clean bedding and pyjamas to hand. If things aren't going well, stick with nappies for a little longer and try again later.

Potty training with a disabled child

Some children with a long-term illness or disability find it more difficult to learn to use a potty or toilet. The charity Contact has a parents' guide on potty training with a disabled child. Visit the Contact website for further support and ways of getting in touch with other parents with a disabled child.

What to do when there are problems?

If after you start potty training, it appears that your child was not quite ready, go back to nappies/pull-ups and try again in a few weeks. If you have any other concerns about potty training, talk to your health visitor and/or GP.

Further information:

Video

In this video from the NHS, a health visitor gives advice on when you should start potty training with your child.

The good news is you don't need to wait until children grow out of bedwetting - treatment is now available and recommended from the age of 5 years.

However, up to the age of 5 years, wetting the bed is normal. It usually stops happening as your child gets older without the need for any treatment:

  • up to 1 in 5 5-year-olds wet the bed
  • 1 in 20 10-year-olds wet the bed
  • about 1 in 50 teenagers wet the bed
  • about 1 in 100 teenagers continue to wet the bed into adulthood

If your child is under 5, you don't need to see your GP about their bedwetting unless:

  • It happens a lot and is upsetting them
  • They're constipated despite you changing their diet
  • They have also started wetting themselves during the day, but had been dry most days for a while
  • They go to the toilet a lot during the day (for example, every hour), they can't hold on for even a few seconds or minutes, peeing is painful, or they're peeing less than 4 times a day
  • Your child has started wetting the bed again after being dry for more than 6 months

How to help bedwetting?

  • Give your child enough water to drink during the day
  • Make sure your child goes to the toilet regularly, around 4 to 7 times a day, including just before bedtime
  • If possible use waterproof covers on their mattress and duvet
  • Do not punish your child – it is not their fault and can make bedwetting worse

Ask your health visitor or school nurse for advice if you are worried.

For commonly asked questions and excellent practical information about the treatment of bedwetting, use the Eric website.

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