Help Your Child Stop Bed Wetting

mattress protector

If your child is a bed-wetter, there's one thing you both should know: he or she is not alone. More than 5 million kids struggle with bed-wetting—including one-fifth of all children between the ages of 5 and 10!

Why Do Kids Wet the Bed?

The medical term for bed-wetting is enuresis (pronounced en-you-REE-sis). There are two types of bed-wetting: Primary (kids who have never had dry nights) and Secondary (kids who have been dry, but then start wetting).

Primary Bed-wetting

There are two common causes for primary bed-wetting:

  • An immature bladder - The bladder is simply not developed enough to last through the night. Perhaps it is too small. Perhaps there is deficit in the ADH hormone, an anti-diuretic hormone that slows urine production.
  • Too deep a sleeper - Some kids sleep so deeply, their brains don't register the bladder's call to wake up.

Heredity also plays a big factor - If your child wets the bed, there's a good chance someone else in the family did, too.

Secondary Bed-wetting

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), secondary bed-wetting is usually triggered by stress or change—events like a move, divorce, problems at school, or a new baby. It's a sign your child needs help with a difficult situation. Secondary bed-wetting generally resolves itself once things settle down.

Treatments

First, talk to your pediatrician. In addition to providing advice, he or she can rule out the rare, 1% chance that your child's bed-wetting is caused by illness.

The good news is, there are a variety of treatments available to your child, including:

  • Bedwetting Alarms - These devices are so effective, they're recommended by the National Kidney Foundation and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The device consists of a sensor (clipped to your child's underwear) and an alarm (which sounds when the sensor picks up moisture). They work by conditioning the brain to wake up to the bladder's messages. Many parents report quick success with these products.
  • "Night-Lifting" - This consists of waking your child up during the night—preferably just before the time they usually wet the bed—and walking them to the bathroom. It reduces the anxiety and mess created by accidents and over time, may help your child get up voluntarily.
  • Retention Control - Your pediatrician may recommend bladder stretching exercises. During the day, kids try to "hold it" an extra minute or two before using the bathroom, slowly building bladder capacity and strengthening the muscle that holds back urination. Only do these under a doctor's care.
  • Hypnosis - If you're open to alternative therapies, you might try a hypnosis tape or CD, which "re-programs" the brain to respond to the bladder. Some parents report good results with this method.
  • Home Remedies - These all-natural remedies help relieve the feeling of bladder fullness and stimulate the body's natural abilities. They're safe—and unlike prescriptions—have no side effects.
  • Medication -Your pediatrician may recommend one of several prescription drugs designed for bed-wetters. However, because all drugs involve some risk, not all doctors are in favor of them. It is certainly worth discussing with your pediatrician.

In-the-Meantime...

  • Protect your child's bed with a waterproof rubber or plastic pad. These make midnight clean-ups much less stressful, while protecting the mattress.
  • Use disposable underwear, insert pads, or training pants; which not only protect the bed but allow kids some privacy and dignity. They may give them the confidence to go to a sleepover!
  • If your child likes the idea, teach her how to change the sheets herself. This may alleviate some of her embarrassment. But don't do it if she interprets it as punishment.
  • Limit beverage consumption at night, particularly colas which contain caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the bladder.
  • Once you start a treatment, track your child's progress with a calendar. (Don't share it with your child until you see a trend toward success.)

Your Attitude Matters

According to experts, parents' attitudes make all the difference. If mom or dad is angry and frustrated, it only increases their child's anxiety. Force yourself to stay positive and low-key (even when changing bed sheets at 2 a.m.). Offer support and encouragement. Look out for your child's self-esteem and do not allow siblings to tease her.

Discuss the problem with your child. Explain the physical causes so he understands it is not his fault. Encourage him to express his feelings; brainstorm strategies for handling it. A little empowerment goes a long way.

Almost all kids will outgrow bed-wetting on their own. (By the age of 15, 99% of kids have stopped.) But with so many good treatments available, there's no reason not to take action now. Your child will thank you for it!

Additional Resources:
American Academy of Pediatrics
National Kidney Foundation - Bedwetting

Related Article(s):
Stress-Free Potty Training Tips

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