What you should know about your child’s bedwetting

Why does your child wet the bed? In most cases, the exact cause of bedwetting is not known, but many possible causes exist.

For example, your child’s bladder might be too small, or the amount of urine produced overnight is too much for your child’s bladder to hold, so your child’s bladder fills up before the night is over. Some children sleep so deeply that they don’t wake up when they need to urinate, while others simply take longer to learn bladder control.
A few things to know about a child’s bedwetting
  • Many children wet the bed until they are 5 years old or even older.
  • Bedwetting often runs in families. If both parents wet the bed as children, their child is likely to have the same problem — but if only one parent has a history of bedwetting, the child has about a 30 percent chance of having the problem. Some children wet the bed even if neither parent ever did.
  • What you should know about your child's bedwettingA child who has been dry for several months or even years may start wetting the bed. The cause might be emotional stress — such as the loss of a loved one, problems at school, a new sibling, or even toilet training too early.
  • Bedwetting is not your child’s fault — kids rarely wet the bed on purpose. You can help your child by learning about the different causes and treatments for bedwetting.
How can I help my child stay dry?

You can take several steps to help your child stay dry. Make sure your child drinks enough fluids throughout the day. A child who doesn’t drink enough during the day may drink a lot before bedtime, causing wetness at night.

Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about how much your child should drink each day. Have your child avoid drinks with caffeine, such as colas or tea. Drinks with caffeine speed up urine production. Give your child one drink with dinner and explain that it will be the last drink before going to bed. Make sure your child uses the bathroom just before bed. Many children will still wet the bed, but these steps may be helpful.

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Children may feel bad about wetting the bed, so letting them know they are not to blame is important. Bedwetting is not a behavior problem. Scolding and punishment will not help your child stay dry. Be supportive. Praise your child for dry nights.

Most children grow out of bedwetting. Some children just take more time than others.

Should I take my child to see a doctor?

Children younger than 5 do not need to see a doctor for bedwetting, as many children do not stay dry at night until age 7. (A single episode of bedwetting should not cause alarm, even in an older child.)

If your child is 7 years old or older and wets the bed more than two or three times in a week, a doctor may be able to help. If both day and night wetting occur after age 5, your child should see a doctor before age 7.

The doctor will ask questions about your child’s health and the wetting problem, conduct a physical exam, and ask your child for a urine sample. The doctor will look for signs of health problems that can cause bedwetting, including the following:

  • fever and bacteria in the urine — signs of infection
  • weight loss — a sign of diabetes, a condition where blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high
  • high blood pressure — a sign of a kidney problem
  • poor reflexes in the legs or feet — a sign of a nerve problem
  • a hard mass that can be felt in the stomach area — a sign of constipation, a condition in which a child has fewer than two bowel movements a week and stools can be hard, dry, small, and difficult to pass
  • swollen tonsils, mouth breathing, or poor growth — a sign of sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops during sleep
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The doctor may also ask your child about changes at home or school that may be causing emotional stress. In most cases, the doctor doesn’t find any specific cause for bedwetting. If a health problem is found, the doctor will talk to you about treatment options. If your child is stressed, the doctor may be able to give your child strategies for dealing with the stress.



What treatments can help my child stay dry?

Treatments for bedwetting include bladder training, moisture alarms, and medicines. Talk with the doctor and your child about which ones to try.

Bladder training: Bladder training can help your child hold urine longer. Write down what times your child urinates during the day. Then figure out the amount of time between trips to the bathroom. After a day or two, have your child try to wait an extra 15 minutes before using the bathroom. For example, if a trip to the bathroom usually occurs at 3:30 pm, have your child wait until 3:45 pm. Slowly make the wait time longer and longer. This method helps stretch your child’s bladder to hold more urine. Be patient. Bladder training can take several weeks or even months.

Moisture alarm: A small moisture alarm can be put in your child’s bed or underwear. With the first drops of urine, the alarm triggers a bell or buzzer that wakes your child. Your child can then stop the flow of urine, get up, and use the bathroom. Waking also teaches your child how a full bladder feels. (See a range of bedwetting alarms here.)

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Medication: Some types of medicines are available to treat bedwetting, so you may want to talk to your child’s healthcare provider about this option. The medication used most often slows down how fast the body makes urine. Though medicine for bedwetting works well, wetting often returns when the child stops taking it, which might necessitate keeping him or her on the prescription for a longer time.

Eating, diet, and nutrition: Food and drink have not been shown to play a role in causing or preventing bedwetting in children, though making sure your child drinks enough throughout the day and avoiding caffeine intake may be helpful.

Points to remember
  • In most cases, the exact cause of bedwetting is not known, but many possible causes exist.
  • Many children wet the bed until they are 5 years old or even older.
  • Scolding and punishment will not help your child stay dry.
  • Children younger than 5 do not need to see a doctor for bedwetting. If your child is 7 years old or older and wets the bed more than two or three times in a week, a doctor may be able to help. If both day and night wetting occur after age 5, your child should see a doctor before age 7.
  • Treatments for bedwetting include bladder training, moisture alarms, and medicine. Talk with the doctor and your child about which ones to try.
  • Most children grow out of bedwetting naturally.


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