Bedwetting: Survival Basics

Why does my child wet the bed?

Bedwetting or nocturnal enuresis is more common in children than many believe. Boys seem to be more prone than girls however it can affect any child at any age. Many parents feel worried or frustrated and are concerned that their child will continue to wet the bed well into later childhood. For most, they will outgrow the situation in time but for others further support or even medical intervention may be required.

If you feel that the bedwetting is becoming a problem and that you feel your child is old enough not to wet the bed or that there may be an underlying issue causing the bedwetting, then it is time to speak to your GP or Health Visitor. It is rarely considered a problem in children under five. Once bedwetting starts to affect a child’s life meaning that they cannot have sleep overs with friends or it distresses the child to a point where parents are becoming worried, it is time to seek advice.

Often, the reasons for bedwetting are not obvious. It may be that your child’s bladder is too full, their body may be producing more urine than they are able to hold until morning. It may also be that your child has an overactive bladder so only small amounts of urine can be held at any one time. It may also be that your child is a deep sleeper meaning that they are not as quick to react to their body’s signals alerting them to their need to empty their bladder.

Some children also suffer from constipation which is quite frequently associated with bedwetting, particularly in children who wet their beds less frequently. In such cases it can be as simple as treating the constipation to resolve the bedwetting issue at the same time. It can be more difficult to address the issue of bedwetting if a child does suffer from constipation and it goes untreated.

Although more rare, bedwetting can sometimes be associated with emotional issues. A child may be being bullied, experienced a trauma or changes that they are having difficulty dealing with. There are also those few children who may have an underlying health problem – such as an early indication of type one diabetes - which may require more urgent treatment. In most cases your health care practitioner will advise you on a number of techniques and tips to address bedwetting, failing which a more focused approach may be necessary.

Top tips for early intervention

There are a number of techniques that you can try at home before moving on to more specialised support. You may wish to limit drinks before bedtime, ensuring that they use the toilet just before bedtime. A bedwetting alarm is another useful tool that may be appropriate. Moisture sensitive pads worn on night clothes alerts the child to the bedwetting just as it starts, the idea being that in time, the alarm will help to train the child to wake when their bladder is full and before they begin to wet their beds.

It is important not to show anger or disappointment if your child wets the bed, reassure them at bedtime. You could tell them that many children wet the bed and that it is OK. They will outgrow it in time. This will try to take any heavy pressure off the issue making your child less likely to focus on it as a big issue.

If you have tried all of the first line recommendations with no improvement over time, medication or other professional intervention may be required. That said, most children respond well to treatment and with time, the issue fully resolves or may return temporarily before resolving once again. Children who suffer from ADHA may be more prone to bedwetting, as they get older some may require professional intervention.

If you have successfully potty trained your child during the day however they persist with night time bedwetting and are under three years of age, you may wish to abandon your night time efforts and try again in a few months time. In many cases children will go dry at night in their own time or at their own pace as their bodies adjust to their growth and development. There is a large gap in ages between where one child becomes dry at night and when another of the same age may become dry. This is rarely be treated as a major problem in the first five years of life.

As discussed above, children respond well to praise so any change for the good or improvement however small, should be praised and made a fuss of. Ignore the slip ups and any bedwetting episodes and give constant reassurance and positive reinforcement that it is OK and it will pass with time.

If your child starts bedwetting suddenly, more than once or twice, then it can be worth having a discussion with them about whether there is anything that is worrying them. Something that seems relatively insignificant to an adult can be a huge issue in a child’s life. Moving home or moving to a new school for example can be a big deal in a little person’s life. Be calm, reassuring and supportive when you address any concerns and assure your child that no matter what, you are there for them and you will not be angry or upset.

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