No shame in bedwetting, learn how to handle it

March 03, 2017 | by Uzma Muneer, D.O.
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

Have you ever woken up to find that your child wet the bed? Join the club. Your child isn’t the only one.

In fact, bedwetting, also called nocturnal enuresis, it is very common among young kids — affecting about 5 million children in the United States. Bedwetting refers to involuntary urination during sleep in children over age 5 (the age when a child is usually able to control his or her bladder).

Bedwetting can be a real challenge for families. The good news is that bedwetting is often a natural part of development and kids usually grow out of it in time.

During the potty-training years, it is normal for children to wet the bed — even nightly. Once kids get to be 5 years of age and older, occasionally bedwetting is still not uncommon. For some kids, it can even last into the teen years.

A bedwetting child cannot feel the sensation of a full bladder and respond to it. Being able to control bladder function during sleep is a complex process, and the age at which your child can do this is variable. About 20 percent of 5-year-olds, 10 percent of 7-year-olds, and 5 percent of 10-year-olds may still wet the bed.

There are two different kinds of bedwetting: (1) primary: your child never had nighttime control over urination and (2) secondary: your child was dry during sleep for 6 or more months and then started wetting the bed.

How do you know when it’s a problem? The National Sleep Foundation says bedwetting is typically not even considered to be a problem until after age 7. If bedwetting persists beyond this age and your child wets the bed more often than 2-3 times per month, talk to your pediatrician.

Your doctor will need to rule out any underlying medical conditions. For instance, secondary bedwetting may be caused by constipation or a urinary tract infection. Other causes of bedwetting may include deep sleep, small bladder capacity, increased nighttime urine production, family history and psychological stress. As a last resort, some doctors prescribe medication for bedwetting.

In the meantime, what can you do to ease the bedwetting blues? That National Sleep Foundation offers tips for parents:

  1. Do not blame or punish your child. He or she cannot help it!
  2. Make sure your child goes to the bathroom before bed, as bedwetting usually happens during the first few hours of sleep.
  3. Follow a consistent, regular bedtime routine.
  4. Wake your child about 1 to 2 hours after going to sleep and take him/her to the bathroom.
  5. Be positive. Create a reward system, such as stickers or books, for dry nights.
  6. Let your child know it’s not his/her fault and that other children wet the bed too.
  7. Avoid fluids in the hours before bedtime. Avoid caffeine, which stimulates the bladder.
  8. Use a moisture alarm that goes off when your child begins to wet the bed. This teaches him/her to eventually wake up before the bedwetting occurs.
  9. Let your child help you change the wet sheets and covers.
  10. Do not talk about the bedwetting in front of others.

Until you can get the bedwetting under control, it can help to protect the bed with a plastic cover under the sheet. You could also try disposable absorbent underpants for your child.

Reassure your child that bedwetting is a normal part of growing up and it usually goes away on its own. Until it does, provide plenty of emotional support and positive reinforcement.

Learn more about children’s services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Learn more about services for sleep disorders at Edward-Elmhurst Health.


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