How to Handle Bedwetting

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wet sheets, damp pajamas, and an embarrassed child – the aftermath of bedwetting. For some children, bedwetting may continue for months or years after toilet training. Up to 20 percent of 5 year olds are still affected by bedwetting, as well as three percent of 12 year olds.

Urinary incontinence is accidental or intentional urination by children who have reached the age where they should be able to control their bladder. Children with urinary incontinence tend to also have problems wetting at night, or nocturnal enuresis.

As your child grows, wetting during the night usually disappears. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends putting your child back in training pants at night if wetting still occurs after toilet training. It is also suggested to keep the training pants on at night until your child is ready to try again. If the issue persists, your child may be experiencing other underlying factors.

"Bedwetting is a common condition that will gradually disappear but it can be very frustrating to children and their parents,” said Children’s National Medical Center urologist Craig Peters, MD, FAAP. Causes of bedwetting can include poor toilet training, inconsistent sleeping habits, and bladder instability. It can also be inherited from a family member or relative who also had bedwetting problems. If the problem continues, talk with your pediatrician. They may want to take a closer look at your child’s kidney or bladder.

"The time to consider talking to your pediatrician or seeing a specialist is when you sense your child is experiencing frustration and embarrassment due to nighttime wetting,” said Peters. “There are rarely any major underlying medical conditions but the psychological impact of nighttime wetting should not be ignored."

Managing bedwetting is no easy task. Here are things to keep in mind as you and your child deal with bedwetting:

  • Positive reinforcement is key during this time for your child. Be sure to remain positive and to be sensitive to his or her feelings. Offer positive reinforcement incentives like stickers for a dry night. It is important not to punish your child or express frustration with the wetting.
  • Limit fluids to only six to eight fluid ounces at dinner time - no fluids should be taken after dinner. Encourage your child to use the toilet before they head to bed as well.
  • Be proactive as you and your child resolve his or her bedwetting issue. Protect the mattress with a plastic cover underneath the sheets.
  • Try waking your child one to two hours into sleeping and have them use the toilet. This may help ensure that they don’t wet the bed during the night.


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