How to help your kid stop wetting the bed

January 30, 2015

Bedwetting is a neurological condition and it's more common than most parents realize. Discover coping strategies that will help kids stay dry at night.

Bedwetting can be a stressful and embarrassing problem for children and parents. Children may feel as if they're acting like babies when they wet the bed, and parents worry that they did something wrong when potty training.

How to help your kid stop wetting the bed

A common problem

Many parents would be surprised to learn how many school-age children wet their beds. According to Howard Bennet, M.D., author of "Waking Up Dry," one in eight first- and second-graders wet the bed, and one in 20 10-year-olds deal with the problem. The problem can continue until age 15 for about one to two per cent of children.

A neurological problem

For many children, bedwetting occurs because the brain fails to send signals to the bladder to hold urine during sleep, so it reflexively empties. The problem runs in families, and a child whose siblings, parents or cousins have a history of bedwetting may also do it.

Since bedwetting is likely a neurological problem, punishing or shaming a child doesn't help. Instead, explain to your child that his or her brain can't control the bladder at night. Emphasize that your child isn't doing anything wrong.

Rule out other health problems

Sudden-onset bedwetting in a child who has previously been dry at night can indicate an emotional or health-related issue. For example, your child may be reacting to a move or a divorce in the family, or he or she may have a bladder infection. A full rectum due to constipation also can affect the function of the bladder.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with a urologist if you're concerned about the cause of your child's bedwetting. Some major metropolitan hospitals offer special programs for paediatric enuresis, the medical term for bedwetting.

Doctors commonly recommend using a bed alarm, available in many medical supply stores, to help your child control the problem. A sensor in the child's underwear triggers the alarm when it senses wetness, which wakes the child and helps train the brain to become aware of fullness in the bladder. Over the course of several weeks, the child learns to wake up before soaking the bed, and eventually bedwetting incidents begin to decrease.

The doctor may recommend other strategies, such as avoiding caffeine and limiting fluid intake at night, but these approaches are generally ineffective, and many parents have already tried them unsuccessfully by the time they take their child to a doctor.

A little patience and some advice from a trusted physician go a long way toward helping families cope with nighttime bedwetting.

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