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  • Post last modified:October 9, 2021

If your toddler is not urinating, when should you start worrying?

Find out for how long a toddler can go without urinating, what the reasons might be, and what to do about it.

toddler is not urinating

Mom’s Question:
My 18 months old toddler did not urinate for 6 hours, is it wrong? I am worried that he is sick, but he seems ok. Should I contact the Dr or are there signs to look for that something is really wrong? He is happy.

Gaya
(Canada)


Toddler is Not Urinating – Guide to Reasons and Remedies

I agree that 6 hours seems like quite a long time for a toddler to hold his urine, especially during the daytime. However, if the diaper remained dry overnight, and he did not wake to feed, this may be completely normal.

Normal Urination Frequency in Toddlers

In general, a toddler “should go” every two to three hours. Their bladder size is 3-5 ounces, and, during the daytime, it should take around 2 hours to become full.

Voiding frequency also varies with your toddler’s mastery of toilet training. By the age of four, many children have developed this ability. Those with some skill may, therefore, tolerate longer voiding intervals, including up to six hours.

On the other hand, there are some scenarios where decreased urination is a sign of a problem. For example, 4 to 12 hours without a wet diaper may be a sign of dehydration. In other cases, reduced urine output is caused by an outflow obstruction, bladder dysfunction, or infection.

Let’s further discuss what would be considered abnormal urinary patterns for a toddler.

Reasons Why a Toddler is Not Urinating

Because there are some concerning reasons that your toddler may be urinating less often, it is important to identify the cause.

Here are the most probable ones:

1. Dehydration

In this situation, your toddler produces very small amounts of urine.  The diaper may seem dry, or, if toilet trained, very little urine is passed.  Diapers are very effective in absorbing urine, and small volumes can easily “disappear” into the core materials.  This could happen if your toddler has been active, but does not drink enough fluids throughout the day.  

If your toddler is happy and shows no signs of illness, inadequate hydration is most likely the case.  Urine output may be decreased, however, when associated with fluid losses from vomiting, diarrhea, or persistent fever.  

You can learn more about the signs of dehydration here.

2. Infections

Urinary tract infections typically cause pain with urination.  Because of anatomy, these infections are more common in girls than boys. Older toddlers may cry and express discomfort during urination, even refusing to use the toilet for fear of experiencing this pain. Alternatively, they may have frequent urinary accidents due to bladder irritation from the infection (source).

Urinary tract infections under the age of two can be more difficult to detect because symptoms differ from those of older children and adults. A fever or foul-smelling urine is sometimes the only symptom. You can read find more details about UTI symptoms in toddlers here.

3. Some sort of blockage

Constipation is the most common cause of urinary “outflow obstruction” in toddlers.  Reduced stooling frequency causes the impacted stool to compress the bladder, resulting in incomplete voiding and, if toilet trained, daytime accidents .  Once the constipation is remedied, normal voiding patterns resume. 

Serious, but less common reasons for a blockage could be bladder cysts, polyps, or inflammation from an injury.

4. Neurogenic Bladder

When an underlying neurological problem exists or there has been a birth injury, innervation of the bladder muscles may be impaired, causing difficulty with urination.  Examples of this include cerebral palsy, neonatal stroke, and spina bifida .

Learn more about neurogenic bladder in this excellent video:

Neurogenic Bladder

5. Bladder Control

On a happier note – reduced urination can be a sign of bladder control, especially when the extended dry period is at night.  The age that a toddler develops this ability can vary.  Prior to 12 months, infants do not have the physical or cognitive ability to learn this skill. 

Depending on your family situation and cultural norms, some parents begin small steps toward toilet training after the first birthday. In clinical practice, I have seen 18-month-olds who have full bladder control during the day, but others who have not mastered it until age four. Night-time control typically develops later. It is not uncommon for a five-year-old to still need a “pull up” at night.

How to Know Why a Toddler is Not Urinating

Some things to consider when your toddler is not urinating:

  • Did your child eat or drink less the usual amounts during the day?
  • Was the urine a light yellow color with a faint odor? If it instead had a dark yellow color and a sharp smell, the urine is very concentrated because the body is attempting to conserve fluid.
  • Is your child making excessive efforts NOT to void? He or she could be holding back because it is painful.
  • Is there a fever or any other sign of illness that could indicate a urinary tract infection?
  • Has your child failed to pass stool for several days?

If none of these signs are present, there is little cause for concern.  Offering sips of water should remedy the situation.

What to Do When a Toddler is Not Urinating

What to do when a toddler is not urinating, of course, depends on the reasons why.

For mild dehydration, try to find ways to encourage your toddler drink a bit more. 18-month-olds are often very active and on the go, so it may be a bit difficult to persuade them to take a hydration break. You can provide a sippy cup of water to carry around and drink throughout the day.  It is important to avoid juices and sugary drinks to prevent cavities.

If the decrease in voiding is due to better bladder control, then not much needs to be done, of course! If you feel that your toddler has been holding urine a bit longer than expected, you can remind him or her try “to use the potty”. It may even be helpful go to the bathroom together.

Remember that your child is still very young, and each toddler develops interest in toilet training at different times.

If there is a suspicion of illness, you should consult a doctor.

When to Call the Doctor

toddler is not urinating call doctor

So to be clear, if your baby seems ill or to be in pain, refuses to eat or drink, has a fever, has malodorous or bloody urine, or voids less than four times in a 24 hour period, contact a doctor.

If you are at all worried about an obstruction of urine flow, call a doctor immediately or head to the ER. This is not a “wait and see” situation.

If infrequent voiding continues, you should contact a doctor, even if no signs of illness are present.

I hope this helps!

Paula

P.S. Here are two excellent reference books for baby health issues and injuries:

More Babies That Are Not Peeing

Research References

 

Who else’s toddler is not urinating..? Add your comments below.

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This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Shahrazad

    Hi my 2 year old daughter has reduced her urine output but mostly the frequency has reduced for the last 2 days. She does not show any sign of discomfort however she is far more active right after urinating. I’d say she’s passed only once a day for the last two days. Should I be concerned? Coz I am…

  2. Sangeeta

    What should I give my 3 and half year old daughter who has been peeing yellow color for 2 days and this morning she vomited in yellow color?

    She does not drink much fluids, I have to forcefully give her water after eating something.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi Sangeeta,
      What to do depends on the reasons behind your daughter’s yellow urine and vomit. Since she is 3.5 years old, she shouldn’t be vomiting out of the blue (like a young baby can do), so it sounds like she is ill.

      One of your first steps therefore should be to find out why she is vomiting! If you are already convinced that she simply has a regular stomach bug, and she doesn’t have a high fever or show any other signs of more severe illness, then that’s what to treat her for. If you are uncertain; talk to a doctor!

      Your daughter seems to be a bit dehydrated and that would be why her urine is more yellow. If she has a stomach bug and has been vomiting a few times and not eating much, her stomach is probably empty. That would explain why her vomit is yellow; it is from her stomach acid.

      Remember that while ill, she does not have to eat solid food, just make sure you try to get fluids in her preferably without force-feeding her!

      For the first twenty-four hours or so of any illness that causes vomiting, keep your child off solid foods, and encourage her to suck or drink clear fluids, such as water, sugar water (0.5 teaspoons [2.5 ml] sugar in 4 ounces [120 ml] of water), Popsicles, gelatin water (1 teaspoon [5 ml] of flavored gelatin in 4 ounces of water), or preferably an electrolyte solution (ask your pediatrician which one), instead of eating.

      Liquids not only help to prevent dehydration but also are less likely than solid foods to stimulate further vomiting.

      Here are some guidelines to follow for giving your child fluids after she has vomited.

      • Wait for two to three hours after the last vomiting episode, and then give 1 to 2 ounces (30-60 ml) of cool water every half hour to one hour for four feedings.
      • If she retains this, give 2 ounces (60 ml) of electrolyte solution alternated with 2 ounces of clear liquids every half hour.
      • If this is retained for two feedings, add half-strength formula or milk (depending on age), and continue increasing the quantity slowly to 3 to 4 ounces (90-120 ml) every three or four hours.
      • After twelve to twenty-four hours with no additional vomiting, gradually return your child to her normal diet, but continue to give her plenty of clear fluids.

      But again, your first step is to find out why she is vomiting! The above recommendations to rehydrate/hydrate a child are only for situations where we know that the child has a stomach bug and nothing else that should be treated or that would motivate other treatment options.

      I hope your little one feels better soon.

  3. Sandra

    Please help! My son will be 1 year on the 27 of September, he has been sick the past 3 days, he was vomiting alot and having diarrhea. The Dr gave us zinc for his medication but now I have noticed he is not urinating like he should, he woke up with a very dry dyper this morning. Please help what could be wrong?

    Ps. He is feeling better, he stopped the vomiting and diarrhea and started being active again. What’s remaining is the urinating thing.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi Sandra,
      Poor boy, a stomach bug can be quite tough for young children. It sounds like he is a bit dehydrated from diarrhea and vomiting. Has he started to eat and drink anything again? Drinking is a lot more important than eating in the beginning. If possible, make him drink often, rather than a lot each time. Even just 1-2 tablespoons of water, breast milk or Pedialyte every 15 minutes will make a huge difference.

      You can also offer pieces of fruit that he has already tried – e.g watermelon, which is high in water. You can even make rehydration popsicles by mixing watermelon and Pedialyte and freeze on sticks, like these.

      If your toddler is now feeling better, there is a great chance that he’s urination will be back today. But if you notice additional signs of dehydration and he is not drinking, make sure to call his pediatrician later today for more advice. Dehydration can be dangerous for your children.

      I hope this helps,
      Paula

  4. Faith

    Hi, I have a daughter who is 5 months already… For the past 2 nights, I noticed that she has no urine the whole night, my pediatrician advised me to collect her urine in a wee bag for urinalysis. Could it be UTI? Because I know when its UTI, she should be urinating more than usual… Please help thanks

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      If your daughter is wetting her diapers as usual during the daytime, it doesn’t have to be a problem, but it still sounds wise to check her urine for bacteria. Does she eat a lot during the night? If not, she might simply not have to go very much during the night.

      Try to observe her first wet diaper in the morning – is the urine strong smelling? Very yellow? If so, she might need a bit more liquid before going to bed. Or she might be a bit too warm during the night and sweats a lot. Also check for other signs of dehydration, such as dry lips.

      I don’t know if she is breastfed or formula-fed or has started with solid foods. If she is exclusively breastfed, and you think she might need a bit more liquid, simply breastfeed her a little bit more. Babies that drink formula or eat solid foods, can have some additional water.

      If she does seem healthy, no bacteria in the urine and pees as usual at daytime, then she might just be one of the babies that will be ready for potty training quite early.

      But again, do follow your doctor’s advice and collect that urine.

      Hope this helps,

      Paula

  5. Very worried

    My son is 7 months old, and we just had a rough weekend in the ER with really high fevers. But one thing that doctors are not addressing is that he really has not peed since Friday (5 days ago). He was not eating very well and has diarrhea, but I think he should still pee a little bit. I was told to wait until he gets lethargic and I can’t wake him.

    Why do I have to wait for the extreme? And now that I am getting him to drink more, I should see urine but there is still nothing. Why can’t I get a doctor to address this?

    I am not a frantic mother, I am a concerned one that wants my baby healthy. So where is the urine going if he is not urinating? After two bottles since 1 am this morning there is nothing? Does this sound right to you?

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi,
      No, it sounds absolutely crazy that the doctors were not concerned with your son’s lack of peeing. I would take him back and demand further investigation. I don’t want to upset you, but this really has to be taken seriously. Don’t leave ER until you have a doctor who listens to you!

      I wish you all the best. Please keep us posted!

      (A tip: Bring a new diaper to the ER, so they can weigh both the one he is using and a new one to determine if he has urinated at all.)
      Paula

  6. Sari01

    My son is eight months & he went approx 14 hours without urinating.
    Why? Is this ok?

  7. Melenie

    My son has gone all day without urinating and only pooped once. I took him to the Ped. Center and they tell me their is nothing wrong with me.

    What do I do? He is not eating much or drinking? What could happen? He is 11 months old.

  8. Nurse

    Hi, six hours is not a long time not to urinate. The minimum time to be concerned would be 12 hours without urination. No urine for 12 hours could be a sign of dehydration and you should call doctor. Six hours is OK.

    Does your baby go more than six hours without drinking fluids? Maybe that is cause.

  9. Sarah

    My daughter is 15 months and normally has a very keen appetite but for the past two days she’s hardly eaten anything and today hasn’t eaten a thing but did have her morning bottle earlier, I have been trying to offer her water but she won’t take it, and hasn’t peed all day. last night and the night before she was sick both nights with what little food she had and today has diarrhea but hasn’t vomited yet could I please has some advice x

  10. Leila

    Hi, my son has a stomach virus. He has peed but he starting getting diarrhea he hasn’t peed. He is drinking plenty of fluids. I’m just really worried about him. He is two years old. Could there be something seriously wrong with him? Or is because like my friend said. He is pooping liquids and so long as he keeps drinking plenty of fluids he should be fine. Can you please help me?

    1. Paula @ easybabylife

      Hi,

      I don’t think you should settle with pooping liquid. Diarrhea means that the liquid is not absorbed by the body, while urine comes from excess liquid from the kidneys. Big difference.

      Is he showing any other signs of dehydration, such as lethargy or a dry mouth?

      In any case, if it has been more than 8 hours or close to 8 hours since he urinated, then definitely call a doctor.

      That said, it can be very tricky to know if a child is also urinating when pooping loose stools, so if your son is alert and not acting sick, he might be peeing even if you can’t see it.

      But still, call the doctor!

      Good luck,
      Paula

      1. Lisa

        My daughter is 2 years old she isn’t sick but does have stuffy nose no fever she is eating like normal she drinks has Energy plays like she always does she still breastfeeds too I worried she hadn’t been peeing like she does this morning diaper was just a little wet that was like 9:30 this morning no pee since then yesterday she peed fine I’ve given her extra sips of water what else can I do I’m worrying about her she has pooped Should I call her dr tomorrow??

        1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

          Hi Lisa,
          I am so sorry that I didn’t see your question until today. What happened? Did you call her Dr or did your daughter start peeing again?

  11. Brandy

    Hi, my son has a brain defect and he has sympathetic storms but will not pee. He had 12 oz of fluids and still hasn’t peed I ‘ve done Pedialyte and coconut water and water. The doctor said keep pumping him with as much fluid as he can take.

    Could his kidneys be shutting down or could he just be tired from his storms? He’s an amazing baby he’s not supposed to be alive according to doctors. He was born with anencephaly. Please help.

    1. Paula @ easybabylife

      Hi Brandy,

      Are there any reasons to believe that your son is dehydrated? Has he been ill, had diarrhea, vomited or simply had a really poor appetite?

      If not, I would be worried if he doesn’t urinate even though you keep giving him fluids. I actually think you might want to take him to the ER to rule out any infections or blockage that makes it difficult for him to pee. Just giving him a lot of fluids without investigating why he isn’t peeing seems wrong to me (unless he is obviously dehydrated).

      So head over to have him examined. Better safe than sorry!

  12. Liz

    My son hasn’t peed in 24hrs what should I do also I took him to get circumcised and after the fact he started peeing in the bed he is three and been potty trained a little before he turned two I’m very confused and worried…

  13. Catherine

    Hi,
    I too noticed that my 5-month-old son hasn’t peed for 8 hours at night! It seems a long since during the day he pees quite frequently. It seems this is quite common with a lot of babies so I’m guessing its probably normal. I will, however, ask my pediatrician next time I see him and will also watch for signs of dehydration just in case.

    1. Paula @ easybabylife

      Catherine,
      How often does your baby feed at night? At 5 months, some babies are not eating as frequently at night and not as much either. So urine production will not be as abundant as during the daytime.

      If you are one of the lucky few to have a baby who sleeps through the night, then it isn’t that strange if the baby does not pee for several hours. Unless your baby seems ill in any way or is showing signs of dehydration, then I don’t think there is much to worry about.

      But please let us know what the doctor said!

  14. Worried mum

    hi, my son is 2 yrs old and 11 months. I’m worried now bcoz he is not urinating tonight 14 hrs now. we have been to the pediatrician this morning bcoz last Monday night he kept on vomit after his milk and last night he didn’t drink much liquid and no eating. the doctor tells me not to worried much bcoz he is fine after vomiting. Today he keeps on playing even he didn’t drink much milk and water. and this afternoon he vomits again after his 3 oz milk. Around 6 pm he was sleep till now. He drinks some milk with oatmeal and fruits shake and also I give him a small amount of Pedialyte still no pee.

    Anyone can help me what to do to make him pee? His lips not much dehydrate but I’m still worried bcoz he didn’t drink much water and milk.

    1. Paula @ easybabylife

      Hi,

      I understand that you are worried. Not peeing for 14 hours is a long time. I assume the doctor ruled out any blockage and/or urinary tract infection? If not, then head back to the doctor immediately! It can be dangerous to continue making your toddler drink if there is a blockage!

      Assuming that the doctor did diagnose a stomach bug – then just keep up with the liquid. Try giving him a teaspoon every 5 minutes. More if he accepts it and isn’t vomiting. Pedialyte is great.

      If he is alert and doesn’t show other signs of dehydration, he is likely on the way to get better. But he really needs the liquid (UNLESS there is a risk for a blockage)!

      If you can offer to get him to drink a teaspoon of Pedialyte every five minutes for a couple of hours and he doesn’t vomit, increase to 2 or three teaspoons. This will rehydrate him.

      If he continues to not pee or becomes very tired or get dry lips or mouth or show other signs of dehydration, take him back to the doctors.

      If he likes fruits or veggies with high water content, you can offer that too after a couple of hours without vomitings, such as small pieces of watermelon or cucumber.

      I hope this helps. Remember that I am not a doctor. But the teaspoon every 5 minutes, to provide hydration and prevent vomiting is the advice given by doctors to me many times when my young children have been sick and vomiting.

      Kind regards,

      Paula

  15. wendy

    my son is 3months old but urinate small amount of urine once in 8hours, and the urine is dark yellow. during the day and at night, he is breastfeeding and formula feeding, pliz help. what could be the problem,um scared of introducing water to him

  16. Ravi

    My 5 months old son was having fever,cough and sneezes and now after seeing doctor he is recovered from fever but still he is having dry cough in chest.earlier he was urinating 24-30 times in 24 hours but after fever its reduced to almost 6-8 times in 24 hours…is this normal???

  17. sarumathi

    mam/sir my baby was 3 year old. she ie voinding pattern is very poor, 3 to 4 times per day.with compulsion only what is the reason mam iam worry for that problem