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Wee withholding is less common than ‘poo holding’ but it can be a worry for parents if your child avoids emptying their bladder. 

The reasons why some children hold on to their wee can include: 

  • Being away from the comfort of home and family when starting nursery, school or another childcare setting. As the periods of time become longer, the holding can become more of an issue. A children may hold on all day at nursery for example and only do a wee when they get home. 

  • If your child has had a urinary tract infection (UTI), they may associate the pain they had with weeing, so try not to go even when the infection has been treated. 

  • Pain and discomfort when passing a wee can also be felt if your child isn't drinking enough. Their urine can become strong and may sting when it is passed, meaning your child may try to avoid having a wee. 

  • Being constipated and having an overloaded bowel can squash our bladder and stop it from being able to fill and empty properly.

  • When children have got used to withholding their poo it's not uncommon that they start to hold their wee too. By sitting on the toilet for a wee, they are more likely to feel the urge for a poo, or some stool could force its’ way out. By avoiding sitting at all they are still in control. 

  • Check if your child may be struggling with constipation and find out how to treat it.

Wee withholding cycle  

  • Just like when children hold on to their poo, avoiding doing a wee can lead to other problems and so the cycle goes on. 

  • Holding is likely to overstretch the bladder, it also makes the child more likely to develop a urinary tract infection. 
Check out our advice for children with daytime bladder problems for more information and support. 

Wee withholding vicious circle representation

How to help your child stop wee withholding:

  • If poo holding/constipation was the start and is still a problem for your child, this needs to be treated first: see Advice for Children with Constipation.

  • Look at that toilet environment, have a conversation your the child about the toilets.
  • Having a wee is easier when you are relaxed rather than tense. Help your child to relax on the toilet, make it more comfortable with their feet supported on a stool. Try having music playing, reading a story together or singing a song.

  • When we blow, whilst sitting comfortably on the toilet, it helps us to empty our bladder and bowel. Blowing a windmill, instrument or even feathers on cotton lengths may help them start to wee and with emptying. There are lots of ideas in our blog about relaxing on the toilet.  

  • If your child is more sensitive to things like smell, touch, sound or visual inputs, there's lots of information in our Toileting and Sensory Needs resource.

  • Some children find having a wee whilst in the bath is easier, this is a great temporary solution, but obviously will not be possible away from the home.

  • Some children have difficulty starting a wee. It may help to use a bladder stimulator – a vibrating device they can hold over the full bladder whilst sitting comfortably on the toilet. Hesitancy should be assessed by a Health Care Professional first.

  • If your child has been unable to wee for some hours and is getting uncomfortable, seek medical help urgently.

  • Wee holding is a habit that the child is likely to grow out of with time, but is something that can and should be treated before having an effect on a child’s bladder health. Holding is likely to overstretch the bladder, it also makes the child more likely to endure a urinary tract infection and also it can lead to kidney damage due to the back pressure.

  • Please be reassured however, that if this issue does not continue for too long, it may not have a long term effect.