“Mama, I have to go peepee,” the small voice calls from a dark room across the hall. I can feel the anxiety rise up from my stomach as I stumble from my own bed. Fingers crossed in my mind, I hope to find a dry child, and a dry bed, and that we make it to the bathroom. Most of the time we do, but then there are the nights when I find myself in front of the washing machine with a pile of sheets at 3am… You are not alone.
1) Bed-wetting is common. Also known as nocturnal enuresis, bedwetting is actually considered normal for kids until the age of five. After age five, 15% of children will still experience bedwetting. At the age of 10, 5% of children still wet the bed. Boys are twice as likely as girls to struggle with this.
2) Normal bed-wetting occurs without any other symptoms. That means no pain, fevers, weight loss, loss of daytime control, frequent urination, weak or inconsistent streams of urine, increased hunger or thirst, or other problems.
3) It is hard to stay dry at night. The bladder has its own complex system of nerves and also relies on detailed communication with the brain. These systems take a long time to develop and train. The systems are also affected by genetics (bed wetting runs in families), hormone release patterns, sleep patterns, abnormal muscle activity of the bladder and other varied factors that you and your child cannot control.
4) Even children who potty train easily during the day may struggle for months or years with bedwetting.
5) Sometimes, a stressful life event will result in the start or return of bedwetting. This is known as secondary nocturnal enuresis. This is less common then the primary form that begins during toilet training.
1) CALL your pediatrician for a medical evaluation if your child has any other symptoms that you notice in association with their bed wetting (mentioned above: pain, fevers, weight loss, loss of daytime control, frequent urination, weak or inconsistent streams of urine, increased hunger or thirst, or other problems).
2) RELAX as much as possible. Most children will outgrow this in time. It is not your child’s fault and it is not your fault. Stressing yourself out or reprimanding your child only leads to further emotional distress and embarrassment for you both. It will not help the problem.
3) PURCHASE plastic mattress covers/protectors and some inexpensive bedding that is easy to wash and can be changed out quickly. You can even layer sheets and protectors so that the bed is already “made” as soon as the wet layer is removed.
4) MAXIMIZE your child’s chance of success at night by
- Avoiding sugary or caffeine containing drinks at night
- Encourage drinking of fluids in the morning and afternoon and discourage lots of drinking right before bed. This can be hard for children who attend school.
- Have your child urinate as the very last thing they do before bed
- Consider keeping a potty chair right by the bed and consider use of nightlights, etc. to make nighttime toilet usage as easy as possible. Remind and encourage them that getting out of bed to use the toilet is the right choice and praise them for it.
- Maintaining a consistent nap and sleep schedule may help. Children who are sleep-deprived or “over tired” are more likely to wet the bed.
- Avoid routine use of pull-ups/diapers/training pants, especially in older children who have a personal interest in ending their bed wetting.
5) DISCUSS training techniques and other treatment options with your pediatrician especially if your child is older than seven. Younger children often respond well to motivational therapy (sticker charts, predetermined awards). Older children may make use of moisture alarms, scheduled nighttime urination, and other mental training techniques. A medication is available with a prescription from your doctor, but this only works for certain types of bedwetting and is most suited for special nights like sleep overs/camps etc.