Bet you’d never think constipation would have anything to do with bedwetting at night – but it might. I couldn’t believe how many people struggle with constipation in their toddlers, and it’s possible that those solutions will help the nighttime potty accidents as well! I have plenty of personal experience, unfortunately:
You don’t expect to have three kids in diapers when you have them all three years apart.
My first two potty trained very easily, both before two-and-a-half years old.
I remember my oldest (a boy) being dry at night for an entire month right after he got in underwear in the daytime, and I was so impressed! Then for some unknown reason, he regressed, only at night, and it took until age four for us to completely drop the nighttime diaper or pull-up.
Number two, my stubborn little girl, trained quickly in about a week, again just before two-and-a-half. Then ensued a two-year struggle to help her stay dry just during naps, complete with tempting bribes and prizes from my mother-in-law that she would earn when she was finally successful (they didn’t work).
Troubleshooting Bedwetting in Potty-Trained Kids
I never did figure anything out about why she couldn’t seem to stay dry at naptime, and unfortunately, even as she pushed seven years old, she was still not dry at night. And it wasn’t just a matter of occasional bedwetting – she was wet multiple times per night and often overfilled the diaper/pull-up and leaked on the sheets.
As the years passed by with our daughter, we’d tell ourselves, “Nighttime wetting is still pretty normal for kids at age four, even five, so we’re not going to worry about it.”
Then at age six, we started to worry that we had a more serious bedwetting problem on our hands.
At that point, we had a three-year-old boy who stubbornly waited until the week his baby brother was born to finally potty train after about 8 months of working on it and was still in diapers just at night, plus that new baby to diaper, so we were super ready to get one or two 100% trained!
It was time to put some effort into getting over bedwetting.
How Common is Bedwetting in Older Kids?
A quick Google search told us that about 12-15% of kids were still bedwetting age six, and 5% still at age nine.
We read that gaining nighttime control later often ran in families (neither of us had the problem though) and can be a result of the child growing faster than their bladder can keep up (she’s a peanut though, not growing fast at all!). It’s not laziness, but could be because of super deep sleeping (she does), stressful situations, or getting wires crossed between the bladder and the brain.
We tried the basics:
- limiting fluids from dinnertime onward
- waking her up at 11 p.m. or so to go potty
- watching her stress levels to try to find some correlation
Fluids didn’t seem to make much difference, although if she had a popsicle after dinner she almost always peed more, but not having much liquid didn’t always mean she was dry. For a while I thought stress could be a culprit, because there are rare dry nights – but we can’t seem to find a pattern of any kind. I was hopeful that when we cut out artificial food coloring, maybe that would do it.
The next year I hoped that cutting out all corn and soy would be the magic bullet (she tested sensitive to them in muscle response testing). Again, no dice.
We even reviewed a sample of Super Undies, basically a cloth pull-up for big kids, hoping that feeling wet would help, but (a) it didn’t and (b) she didn’t like the bulk and began to get more agitated about social issues and other kids finding out, and (c) we realized that you really need to have another child in cloth diapers to make nighttime Super Undies work – they say you can just wash them with regular clothes or towels, but without the second rinse, increased agitation and hot-hot water of the cloth diaper routine, they started to stink. #fail
How Do We Stop Bedwetting??
Online sources continued to tell us that bedwetting in older kids is common, even “normal,” that kids will eventually outgrow it. A friend of mine had an older boy who was still wetting the bed, and her pediatrician told her it can be caused by a hormone that’s just not kicking in and simply doesn’t in about 10% of kids, and that he’d for sure be dry at night by puberty. (That’s a long time to wait!)
Recommendations to fix bedwetting sooner include:
- limiting fluids
- using a nighttime bedwetting alarm (found on Amazon)
- prescription medications, for kids older than age seven typically
We looked into that machine, but she didn’t like the idea of anything inside her underwear or diaper – we were still seriously considering it until I saw something in the Positive Parenting Solutions course list that caught my eye.
My husband and I watched the module on bedwetting, which was a guest lecture from a pediatric urologist who specializes in daytime potty accidents and nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting issues).
Dr. Steve Hodges’ extensive research, logical thinking and easy teaching style impressed us immediately – and then his answer to the whole problem knocked our socks off.
We never saw it coming, but the good doctor pins constipation as the cause of almost all potty accidents after age four.
I never would have suspected that one’s bowel movements could be so tied to bladder control, but the basis of the theory goes like this:
- Once kids are potty-trained, they get busy, get distracted, like to keep playing, and therefore forget to go potty enough, especially poop.
- When they’re holding their poop in, they get constipated.
- Because there’s always some poop in the colon, even at the end where it’s supposed to tell our bodies, “Hey, you need to go now!” the colon physically stops feeling it. The body turns off the sensation because it can’t handle giving constant “poop now” instructions and being ignored.
- This can cause poop accidents during the day, by the way, but it also puts pressure on the bladder, thickening the wall of the bladder, decreasing its overall size, and also interfering with some of the bladder signals to the brain.
We eventually got up the guts to embark on Dr. Hodges’ solution for the constipation, and it didn’t work immediately. As with anything in the human body with all its variables, who knows what finally worked, but I’d love to share our experience with you – because before she turned 8, the nighttime wetting problem was solved once and for all.
Could You Fix Nighttime Wetting with ONE Simple Solution?
The bottom line according to Dr. Hodges is that if you have an elementary aged nighttime wetter, if you can get your child’s bowels cleaned out and then help them avoid further constipation by making sure they go regularly and don’t “hold it,” you can almost always cure bedwetting problems (and daytime accidents) within a few months.
He says if kids weren’t constipated, he’d hardly have any patients visiting his clinic at all!
I’m so grateful to have a membership (for review) to the Positive Parenting Solutions course – on our list is the module on temper tantrums and whining for our toddler. Amy McCready, the parenting expert who runs the courses, has amazing solutions and non-stressful ways of dealing with all sorts of issues, from homework battles to picky eating, bedtime fights and disobedience at all ages.
More on Great Parenting
You just missed our special KS webinar, but other bloggers periodically co-host the same topic with Amy. You can check to see if one is coming up right HERE.
The information you’ll learn, targeted at kids aged 2.5 through teens, is SO helpful! My husband and I are still using strategies I picked up when I watched the session last summer, and I’m excited to watch it again to pick up more tips that I missed, even with all the notes I took.
You can read more about what the free webinar includes and my thoughts on Amy’s courses right HERE, or just sign up now:
More Information on Kicking Potty Accidents to the Curb
Notice that I refer to other sources like doctors – because I’m not one! This is in no way intended to be medical advice, just sharing stories, thankyouverymuch.
Dr. Hodges has two books, one for parents and a picture book for kids, that you’ll want to check out if you’re struggling with nighttime wetting (all found on Amazon):
and to make sure potty training isn’t a massive power struggle, you might like Amy’s book If I Have to Tell You One More Time…: The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling (but go to the webinar to see her style, I know you’ll love her!)
The End of the Bedwetting Story
Spoiler alert: I’m telling you the end of the story at the beginning!
About one year after seriously embarking on being dry at night, we DID find success.
We used 3 distinct remedies, so who knows what worked – the human body is so complex, it’s always possible her switch flipped on its own. It’s possible she needed all 3. Or perhaps just the last one was the magic button!
Whatever happened in her body caused her to become an early riser, quite suddenly a morning person, where before she was always the one we had to wake up and was always crazy-haired and cranky in the mornings! It was literally 100% flip, from wet every night to dry every night – and she got up every single night at least once to use the bathroom, usually between 11p-1a or so, like clockwork.
We did NOT find success with Dr. Hodges’ suggestion, and it wasn’t easy, but it was neither traumatizing nor expensive.
Our Experience with Enemas for Nighttime Wetting
The main thing the doc recommended was nightly enemas for a month to get the child cleaned OUT, and then reducing low-fiber foods like white flour and such, and mostly just reminding them to go often and to make sure they attempt a bowel movement and not just rush through urinating and get back to playing.
We used pediatric enemas for 30 days – you can easily find them on Amazon but we grabbed them from our local Walgreen’s. They look like tiny syringes, not the poke-you kind for shots, but the kind that you can use like an eye-dropper to draw up liquid and shoot it out.
They’re pre-filled with some saline solution that seemed innocuous to me.
Each night for a month, I used a little coconut oil on the tip, inserted it a centimeter or so into her bottom, and squeezed the liquid inside her. We sat and read on her bed for about 5 minutes and then she’d run to the bathroom, and it worked every night to get out a bowel movement.
Did she hate it?
Lots of crying from her and second guessing from me on the first few nights!! She was motivated to be DONE with diapers though, so we kept using that as a, “We gotta try something big, you can do this…” encouragement.
After the first few, it was just “mommy and me” time and we both handled it fairly well – although it would have gone better had we seen some results! I think even my daughter started getting discouraged after a few weeks with still nary a dry day. 🙁
We’re stubborn people and we love a good test, so we gave it the full month. And who knows? That may have been the beginning of her healing, or perhaps the genesis of her being more aware that holding it when she needs to go, either urine or stool, may impact her night wetting.
Or it might have been a failure.
If I were to tackle constipation as the root cause of bedwetting again, I’d start first with these natural alternatives to beat constipation and the crowd-sourced ideas for toddlers too, especially this topical magnesium formulated especially for kids.
I would NOT recommend using Miralax, especially daily. There have been all sorts of reports about how bad that is for kids – you can Google it yourself, but suffice it to say it’s not passing my kids’ lips.
What Other Moms Say About Big Kids Wetting the Bed
Over the years, I’ve had a lot of conversations with other naturally-minded moms about bedwetting, including when I first shared part of this story a few years ago.
Here are some other brainstorms that moms have found success with for bedwetting:
- Wait it out with patience and kindness.
- Magnesium and/or Epsom salt baths
- Could be related to mouth/dental formation/breathing (one source in West MI: Dr. Karen O’Rourke and her info on YouTube)
- Food sensitivities, particularly dairy but not always (some even said simply cutting dairy at dinner only helped!)
- Histamine Intolerance caused by mineral deficiencies
- Applied Kinesiology (look for a practitioner near you, here’s one in West MI: AK Chiropractic Research Center)
- Functional neurologist (in West MI: Dr. Brian Hanks)
- Sugary drinks or fruit juice, especially in the evening
- Pin worms
- Cypress essential oil from Plant Therapy
- Tonsils/sleep apnea
- Many mentioned a combo of constipation AND figuring out what foods are causing it, like a sensitivity
- Preservative 280- 283
- Drinking MORE during the day so that the bladder remembers it has a job to do and how to do it! (just not more at night)
- Mixed results with bedwetting alarms, and the Wet-Stop was a fav mentioned (found on Amazon)
The Way Smart Parents Make Beds
It’s pretty important to protect things like mattresses that really can’t handle being washed, because if they get wet and can’t fully dry, you’re going to have mold, mildew or fungus problems. And those are the worst on surfaces where children are sleeping!
Leaking children also doesn’t mean that parents have to spend their lives changing sheets.
I hope you know about the double-sheeting trick, but if not, it goes like this:
- Waterproof pad on the crib mattress (or any bed!).
- Fitted sheet over that.
- Another waterproof pad.
- Another fitted sheet.
Then if it’s not a crib, you can make the rest of the bed normally with a top sheet, blanket and comforter. I do all my kids’ beds this way, no matter their age, because you never know when you’ll get a surprise stomach bug in the middle of the night, and let me tell you – it’s a lot easier on everyone if you can just whip off a layer and throw the whole mess in the tub until morning instead of having to remake the whole bed before the sick child can lay back down.
This protects your sheets and your sanity, total win-win!
Need A New Waterproof Mattress Pad?
My family tested out several different kinds of mattress pads, including this organic wool puddle pad. It’s so interesting – you don’t actually even wash it when a child tinkles on it, because the wool is naturally anti-bacterial and just kind of eats up the stink. You hang it to dry and put it back on! More on how it worked and recommendations for use in my big mattress protector review. You might also want to read more about the safety of different types of waterproof mattress pads.
Up Next: Chiropractics or Homeopathy?
Our next step was going to be chiropractics (I had a hunch she might have had low adrenal function too), but I came across a homeopathic protocol that mothers were raving about. I figured homeopathics would be a much less expensive and time consuming route with no driving 3x/week for appointments, so we started there.
The first remedy we tried was a Banerji protocol that was actually formulated from the gonorrhea disease – so it’s a bit “out there” even among homeopaths. We worked with a practitioner to make sure we did it correctly and safely, but – another spoiler alert – it didn’t (quite) work either.
How Homeopathy Works
Before I explain the “quite” part of that last statement, it’s important that you understand a bit about how homeopathic remedies are designed to work. This is all information I learned from a personal source, so I don’t have citations.
In homeopathy, “like heals like.” For example, a remedy for the runny eyes one might get in hay fever is made from onions, because onions make your eyes water. A little bit of “crying” can teach your body not to “cry” with the hay fever – or something like that! Believe me, this conversation fascinated me.
The remedies are extremely diluted. A “30cc” remedy means that one drop of the homeopathic remedy was diluted in 99 drops of water – then a drop of that is diluted in 99 more drops of water – and that’s repeated 30 times!
What you’re left with is almost just a hint of what you started with, and that is applied to the outside of a tiny ball of sugar, which is administered under the tongue for quickest absorption. You’re not supposed to touch the outside of the little balls because of that – you’d potentially rub the remedy right off.
Most of the time, homeopathy is very very safe, and even using the wrong remedy won’t do any harm. Sometimes, however, certain individuals are going to respond more strongly to the “wrong” remedy. One should try only one remedy at a time and wait 4-6 weeks before re-evaluating.
Best option? Find a local registered homeopath to work with one on one.
Our Story with Homeopathics for Bedwetting
It’s a very strong remedy and had mixed results, which apparently in homeopathy is exactly what healing looks like – two steps forward, one step back. Any positive results are good results! And it’s possible we should have kept trying, but we ultimately switched it up.
This would be an important time to remind you that I’m just a mom – not a doctor, naturopath, homeopath, nurse, or anyone important. I am just sharing what finally ended up helping for one child in our family, because I get it – you’re grasping for straws and willing to try anything. I was there too, and I can’t NOT share with other mamas and kids in need. But please don’t take this as medical advice, and I can’t be held accountable for anything that does or does not happen as a result of me telling our story here.
Here’s a big overview of how the first remedy went:
- After just over a week, she had her first dry morning! Rejoice!
- But wet the next morning…still hope though.
- A few days later, we had a dry day and I told her she could choose whether to take it or not – she seemed reticent to not take it, and I didn’t want to make her worry, so she took one, but was wet again the next day.
- Then we had two dry days!
- We stopped the remedy per the protocol, but immediately the wet was back.
- After another dry day, she did not take the remedy, and she was still dry the next morning! I wrote in my notes: “She’s so encouraged about 2 days in a row but also I can feel her nervous fear – I don’t want it to be like last time and have wet tomorrow; I want to have dry forever. This would be so amazing if it keeps working!!!!!”
- We were reminded that healing in homeopathy almost always has setbacks, so I should prepare her for some more wet days.
- Three weeks later, still wet every time we stop the remedy, although we had a number of two-days-in-a-row strings. 🙁
- We increased the remedy to the next phase of the protocol (two per day), and after two weeks – still not a single dry day. It felt like her body was rebelling against the success!
When the bottle ran out, we ran out of steam – BUT I’m still happy we did it. (And that it’s here on Amazon now!)
Eventually I bought two other homeopathic remedies from Amazon based off suggestions from friends:
The Causticum worked for a friend but the Belladonna seemed to fit our needs better. I honestly can’t remember why I started with it – there’s a certain amount of mother’s intuition sometimes, since Belladonna seems to work for everything from the stomach flu to migraines to joint pain to preventing colds, if you read the reviews on Amazon!
I don’t know what it is – and I don’t know all the ways I will be able to use our remaining half bottle – but I do know that 3 a day under the tongue, before bedtime, did not take long to flip that switch from wet every morning to dry every night!
Once it was over, it was over. The child got up every night to urinate for a year, then started doing that less and less.
We’re all so grateful to have bedwetting behind us!
Other Homeopathic Options for Bedwetting
A homeopath student shared a number of bedwetting options with me on Facebook, with the following advice:
- You need to look these up in an online materia medica (Kent or Boericke are easily found) to differentiate between them.
- A bare minimum for a match would be a prominent physical symptom, a prominent mental/emotional symptom and a match in modality, meaning something that is making symptoms better or worse.
- If you’re just going to grab some Boiron tubes, a general starting spot could be a 30C potency, and 2-3 doses ONLY, at 8-12 hour intervals. And then stop and wait and observe for a couple of weeks.
- aesculus hippocastanum
- aloe socotrina
- argentum metallicum
- carbo vegetabilis
- cina maritima
- ferrum metallicum
- ferrum iodatum
- kalium phosphoricum
- lac caninum, lycopodium
- magnesium muriaticum
- natrum muriaticum
- natrium phosphoricum
- nux vomica
- rhus tox
We Stopped Bedwetting in an Older Child
Please remember that this combination is what worked for one child – your child may have a totally different root cause of bedwetting, and the solution may be totally different.
But I hope it gave you some ideas!!
I want to hear from you parents in the trenches, too – if you have an older child still struggling with bedwetting:
Note: As you dive into the comments, know that they’re SUPER helpful with more recommendations than I have in the post (because we didn’t try them all) and also that this post was published previously and then updated, so the dates will vary.