Waking in the middle of the night to change your child’s urine-soaked sheets is not unusual (it affects 20% of 5 year olds and 10% of 8 year olds), but it can be extremely stressful for both children and parents. Though bedwetting is involuntary and a very normal part of child development, it often leaves moms and dads frustrated, and kids anxious. If your child has been having trouble staying dry at night, you may wonder what you can do to help, so we solicited a local pediatrician’s advice.
You’re Not Alone
Bedwetting occurs due to the fact that a child is simply not yet able to control their bladder. Pediatrician Dr. Robert W. Mills of Pediatracare Associates in Sylvania advises, “Patient and parent education is very important…as demystification of this condition goes a long way toward reassuring everybody they are not alone, the condition is very common, the condition is not psychological or volitional—the child obviously does not want to wet the bed any more than the parent wants them to, we do have treatment options, and even without treatment we get a 15% spontaneous resolution rate progressively each year.”
Wetting the bed can be traumatic for kids, so parents should let them know it’s a normal part of growing up, and be understanding. Provide support and positive reinforcement as opposed to making your child feel guilty or embarrassed.
Bedwetting Beyond Typical Development
Most toddlers are toilet trained during the day well before being able to make it through the night completely dry. “My son was fully potty trained by age 2.5, except at night time, said Toledo mom Helen Davila-Martin. “We waited until he was almost dry at night to try to get him trained not to wet the bed.”
Bedwetting in young children is common. “We begin to worry just after age five. Prior to that wearing pull-ups is fine and normal. Primary enuresis (involuntary urination in which the child has never been consistently dry at night) has a variety of causes—genetics, smaller bladder capacities, decreased release of or responsiveness to antidiuretic hormone which allows you to hold onto urine longer, altered sleep structure with tendencies to sleep deeper and arouse to stimuli (signals from the bladder that it is full) less readily than kids who don’t wet the bed… Secondary cases of enuresis (the child was previously dry for at least a month) are usually triggered by some stressful event in the child’s life (divorce, bullying, birth of a sibling, death in the family, loss of a pet, household move, etc.),” Dr. Mills adds.
Tips to End Bedwetting
Be supportive and kind. A negative attitude toward bedwetting can be a blow to your child’s self-esteem and confidence. Avoid punishing your child. To help prevent bedwetting, decrease fluid intake, cutting off liquids two hours before bedtime. Encourage your child to get up during the night to use the potty on her own, making the bathroom easily accessible and clearly visible. Absorbent underwear or pull-ups can be used to help the child feel more in control and confident in case an accident does happen. Have your child use the bathroom right before bed, or try a star chart to track progress.
Davila-Martin tried many different methods to stop her son’s bedwetting, but ultimately nothing was 100% effective. “We would wake him up two times a night around the same time. He would be 50% dry most of the time. We did this for about a year…at about age 5 we started using an alarm system, but our son is a very deep sleeper and would not wake up. We plan to try the alarm again this summer when our lives are less scheduled with events and activities… Our pediatrician said it was normal and not to make a big deal about it, so we haven’t.”
If bedwetting is a problem for your child, remember to be patient and compassionate. A visit to the doctor for a physical exam can rule out pathological causes for bedwetting.