Daytime and Nighttime Wetting

How two moms have learned to help their children

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Six-year-old Carli has had problems with daytime wetting since she was 3 years old. Diagnosed with kidney reflux and a thick bladder muscle, she often has accidents during the day.

Noticing how wetting problems affect your family

“The accidents seem to happen so frequently that it’s frustrating to everyone. Carli has even had a sibling notice that she smells bad,” her mother, Rachel, says. “Sometimes Carli won’t tell me when she’s had an accident and sits in wet underwear for hours. We’re working on being honest when accidents happen without frustration from parents.”

Carli wears disposable underwear at night because she also struggles with nighttime wetting — as does her twin sister, Halli.  

“For several years, I felt like my relationship with Carli and Halli was strained. Every conversation with them was bathroom-related, and every place we went revolved around bathroom schedule and location,” their mother, Rachel, says. “My frustration was high with them most of the time.”

Carli and Halli are among many children who struggle with day and nighttime wetting. When now-9-year-old Emily began having 8 or more accidents during the day, her mother, Ellen, knew there was a problem.

Discovering ways to help children with wetting problems

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but the wetting was a symptom of a urinary tract infection (UTI),” Ellen recalls. “I started noticing a pattern of wetting accompanied with a particular smell that would indicate an infection. As soon as Emily was off the UTI antibiotics, she would develop another UTI — with the accompanying wetting.

Two ultrasounds and VCUGs (bladder tests) showed Emily’s bladder was formed and functioning properly, but Emily was still having daily accidents at school when not taking antibiotics. Soon, Emily stopped telling Ellen about them.

“She would go play at recess and sit at her desk with wet pants,” Ellen says. “Either Emily didn't want to be bothered by calling me to bring a change of clothes, or she was embarrassed and didn't want to bring attention to herself.”

Finally, a gastroenterologist noticed Emily was bloated and recommended anti-gas pills, mineral oil, and a muscle relaxer. Emily has now stopped taking antibiotics and has not had a UTI in six months.

“In the beginning, the accidents were so embarrassing and inconvenient. I wasn't always the most patient mother. I’m sure I caused Emily some anxiety and fear of telling me she’d had an accident.” Ellen says. “I have learned from my mistakes and help her understand the signals her body is sending. She knows now that I'm not mad but that the sooner I know what's going on, the faster she'll get better.”

Finding helpful day and nighttime wetting resources 


The new Primary Children’s Hospital day and nighttime wetting video has helped both parents and children understand bladder control issues better.

“Carli and Halli loved the video. In fact, Carli asked if we could watch it every day for a reminder,” Rachel expresses. “The simple pictures of the kidneys and bladders were helpful for them to see, and it reminds them to use the bathroom twice before bed. Sometimes the reminder from a fun video is more convincing than mom reminding them every time.”

Ellen says she wishes the wetting video (and the constipation video) was around 6 years ago when Emily was first struggling with wetting.

“The video has been really great in helping Emily and I understand how these muscles work,” Ellen says. “I remember laughing to myself when a neighbor mentioned a pill to help with potty-training. Now who's laughing? I have had to learn everything in these videos from personal experience.”

Staying positive about day and nighttime wetting

Though Carli continues to have accidents during the day and has not yet had a dry night, Rachel is hopeful it will happen soon.

“Last year, I realized I wasn’t having a lot of positive interactions with Carli and Halli,” Rachel says. “I let go of my frustration. I’m more focused on showing them love and letting them know I care about them, no matter what happens with accidents.”

Rachel says she wishes she’d known that Emily wasn’t choosing to have accidents and that she didn’t understand what was happening either.

“Your kids are just little people who need you to make it okay. You may not be able to make it better, but you can respond with patience and love for them,” Rachel expresses. “Wetting is frustrating and doesn't make sense, but in the grand scheme of things that little person is more important than the wet clothes. You can do this.”

Learn more about how you can help your child by reading Primary Children's Hospital's Let's Talk About Daytime and Nighttime Wetting handout.