What should I do if my school-age child still wets the bed?
Real Mom Problem
“My son is nine. He wets the bed every single night. We've tried limiting what he drinks in the evenings, setting an alarm in the middle of the night, waking him ourselves at night, and even medication. Nothing has helped. I don't know what else we can try. Do you have any suggestions?”
- 1. Bed wetting (nocturnal enuresis) is very common and affects 13% of children under six and about 5% of older children
- 2. If your child has never, or rarely, been dry at night, they have primary enuresis
- 3. Primary enuresis can be hereditary, or can be the result of deep sleep patterns, bladder muscle spasms, or the absence of ADH, a hormone that slows urine production during the night
- 4. A child who begins wetting after at least six months of consistent dryness has secondary enuresis
- 5. Secondary enuresis can sometimes be a result of a medical condition such as diabetes or a urinary tract infection, or a sign of psychological stress
- 6. Medications can help, but they're not effective in all children, and are only a short-term fix
- 7. Most kids will stop wetting the bed on their own, without any medical intervention
Real Mom Solutions
Bedwetting can be embarrassing for a child -- and frustrating for a mom. You're not alone! See how the moms of CafeMom cope with a bed wetter, and find tips from keeping sheets dry, to keeping yourself sane!
Most Moms Suggest Time & Patience
Bed wetting is common and usually normal in kids up to age eight. I have had two bed wetters. Our pediatrician wouldn't even look for any medical reasons unless they were over eight and still wetting the bed. My son stopped a few months before turning seven. He still has occasional accidents but stays dry for the most part. My six-year-old daughter still wets the bed almost nightly and HAS to sleep in a Pull-Up. She is a deep sleeper and nothing wakes her once she is asleep (trust me, I've tried and it's nearly impossible). Some kids just need to grow into it. Until then, buy stock in Huggies (or your preferred brand of training pants) and wait it out. They usually outgrow it.
It's something she will outgrow, and it's also hereditary, so it could be something either dad or mom had an issue with as a kid. Both of my kids were late year bed wetters as were I and my dad.
My son's urologist says we will talk about nighttime wetting when he is eight. Before that Pull-Ups are the answer.
I don't think you can "help" a bed wetter. I think you can do things to make them, and you, feel comfortable, like use Pull-Ups, and mattress covers. This is something that I think all parents of bed wetters have to wait out.
If you have tried cutting back drinks and waking at night to pee, as well as eliminating sodas/juice/milk a few hours before bed then it's probably a hormone imbalance; which is normal in children. Their bodies haven't got the right adjustment of hormones down to slow urine production down at night. You could consult a urologist but if it's just a hormone thing they probably won't do anything yet. Just invest in some good pull up type pants and a plastic sheet to protect the mattress.
Wetting the bed is often a medical problem, when the child's body hasn't matured yet. They aren't producing the correct amount of the needed hormone to slow bladder production, or they aren't sending a strong enough signal to the brain to wake them. I personally wouldn't worry till age 10. My urologist won't even suggest meds, which a lot of mothers want, before age 12.
Give him time. That is the only thing that has worked for my son. He is nine. He literally went one night from wetting every night to staying dry almost every night. As long as there is no medical problem, kids just grow out of it. I tried alarms which were a waste of money and very traumatic for my son. It will get better. Withholding drinks and having them go to bathroom before bed never made a lick of difference.
My oldest daughter is seven and has a wet Pull-Up every morning regardless of fluid restriction. We've even tried waking her up three times a night and it makes no difference. Her doctor says it's unlikely anything to be worried about because she's a really heavy sleeper. She most likely just needs to grow out of it and there's not much we can do. It's probably nothing to be worried about at this point, but you may want to mention it to your child's pediatrician. Our other daughter is four and has been wearing underwear to bed without a single accident for at least a year.
These Tips Might Help Your Bed Wetter
My daughter used to have a bedwetting problem. When she was seven, my mother-in-law was staying with my hubby and kids while I was away for a few days. She had a conversation with my daughter that her brain wasn't telling her body to wake up in the night to get up and go potty. So, before she went to sleep, she had to tell her brain to tell her body to wake up. Well, I know it seems crazy and all but it worked.
My daughter was six and still wetting. It wasn't a big deal for me, but really was upsetting her because her younger sister was four and did not need Pull-Ups. This worked for me: I had her use the potty before bed. I got her up at 11:00 or 12:00 at night and put her on the potty, and she went every time, even in her sleep! I set the alarm for 3:00 and got up, put her on again. I did that for two weeks. After the second week, I just did the 12:00 time. Within another week or so I began hearing her get up on her own to go, and we haven't had a problem since! My pediatrician said not to worry about it until she was eight years old but since it was really bothering her that's what I did. My sleep wasn't great for a few weeks, but it was worth it to see the relief on her face when she no longer needed Pull-Ups!
Bedwetting is very common and children are not lazy or doing it on purpose. Pull-Ups and toileting before bed are fine. Make sure she drinks enough during the day so that she urinates every 2-3 hours and has enough fiber in her diet so that she has a regular bowel movement every day. Constipation and holding her urine during the day can contribute to nighttime wetting and ignoring important messages that come from the bowel and bladder. If she is still wetting nightly a year from now, you might try a bedwetting alarm that senses moisture and alerts her and you when the wetting occurs. Research shows that bedwetting alarms are the most effective cure for bedwetting but they are not recommended until children are at least six. Don't waste your time setting an alarm clock in the night because that would be on your schedule, not hers. You have no way of knowing the exact time that she needs to go to the bathroom.
My son is a nine-year-old bed wetter and he takes desmopressin. We did it not for the hassle of having to change his sheets but because of the emotional/social/self-esteem issues he was starting to have because of the bedwetting. Bedwetting is most commonly due to a lack of hormone that tells the child to wake up and go and can have other medical issues as well. It is a MEDICAL condition and sometimes requires a MEDICATION to help.
My son, who is six, was wetting the bed up until last summer. We finally bought this device from the One Step Ahead catalog. You put it in their underwear, and pin this thing on their pajama top. When they start peeing, it starts beeping and wakes them up. He stopped wetting the bed within two weeks. I think that he sleeps very deeply, so he wasn't waking up. It is expensive, around $90, but well worth it.
Temperature changes, diet, growth spurts, or health issues can all play a part in bedwetting. If you have taken your child to the pediatrician and he has a clean bill of health, try cutting back on sugar, and no drinks before bedtime. Training pants or adult diapers can help with accidents in the meantime. Make sure his room is warm. I know if my daughter gets a chill it makes her have an occasional accident.
Strange as it may seem, we saw major improvements with my daughter when we took her to the chiropractor for it! Weird, huh? I actually heard about it through word of mouth and asked my chiropractor about it. He said that it is not always 100% effective, but in most cases, it will have a positive effect. I thought it can't hurt... so we tried. He was very gentle with her (she was almost six). But after only two or three visits, we saw a marked improvement. Instead of bedwetting two or three times a week, we have only seen two or three times in the last 18 months!
My sixth grader is a bed wetter. We took her to the doctor to make sure she didn't have any physical issues that could case it. They did a urinalysis. Then we tried limiting her drinks at night. That didn't work. We tried waiting to see if she would grow out of it. That hasn't worked. They wanted us to give her medicine every night that wouldn't solve the issue, just mask it. I am not about to put drugs in my daughter's body for something that is natural. So now we have her on a Potty Pager. She's only been on it for a few weeks. But I am hoping this will work. I take solace in the fact that less than 1% of adults are bed wetters. So they will outgrow it.
Don't Punish or Shame a Bed Wetter
First and foremost, let me start by saying bedwetting is a lot more common than people think. My now 12 year old son still has the occasional accident. I tried all of the remedies, short of medication, and sometimes they'd work and sometimes they wouldn't. The important thing here is to 1) make sure the child realizes that it is not their fault and don't make them feel "lazy" or bad about their accidents, and 2) try to keep the fact that these accidents happen a secret from siblings and friends (kids tend to be very cruel about these things). A reward system is simply not going to work in any way shape or form, unless the child is wetting the bed to misbehave, then that is another problem entirely and should be taken up with the pediatrician. By offering rewards, it may make the child feel as though they should be able to control these accidents when in reality they cannot. Keeping things very calm before bed, reminding them to use the restroom before going to bed, and limiting their drinks are really all you can do until the habit breaks. They will stop eventually, but more than likely it will just take time and patience.
Bed wetting is actually normal for some. They have NO control over it. It's like that part of the brain shuts off in sleep. I'd just keep using Pull-Ups, bring it up at her next regular doctor appointment, and never, ever punish her for it. The bigger deal you make of it, and the more negative it's made out to be, the worse it can turn out; especially mentally. She probably already feels bad enough and embarrassed by it.
I had this issue and frankly, I tried really hard not make a big deal about it. I used the "don't worry about it approach," no teasing allowed and no shame, just loving assurance it would stop and it did. If you have a bed wetter try not to sweat it too much just keep letting them know they are perfectly normal and it's just not that big of a deal. They eventually get control of their bladder and will be fine.
You are not alone. Many kids wet the bed. It can be genetic. My mom was a bed wetter, I was, my son was, my daughter was. She still has some accidents. My doctor said to always have her help you clean the sheets and bed so that she has a sense to be dry and clean, but she probably won't outgrow it completely until puberty. This is okay. Just let her know it is not her fault, and it is not laziness. I tried and prayed every night to not pee, but I would anyways. I was not lazy; I just couldn't wake up to go. Your child doesn't want to do it.
Rule Out Medical Problems
Our five-and-a-half-year-old son had been bed-wetting, rarely a dry night. Then, all of a sudden he had been dry for over a month. A couple of weeks ago he wet three nights in a row. One of those nights he got up at 3 am and went potty and still woke up wet. Then it hit me, for our 17-year-old's birthday I had purchased ice cream. Could it be dairy? In the past we had been keeping yogurt in the house, which he loves, but for some reason I kept forgetting to buy more. I thought that was crazy. Who'd ever heard of milk causing bed wetting? So, two nights ago our 17-year-old fixed a glass of chocolate milk for our five-year-old bed-wetter. You guessed it, wet bed. I am now totally convinced it is a dairy allergy. Wahoo...what a relief to know. A quick Google search confirmed that for some kids, milk causes swelling of the bladder and bedwetting! Hope this helps someone. I know there are other causes for bedwetting, but I'd never considered that the cause was lurking in his "healthy" yogurt!
Was your child dry through the night before? My son was sleeping through the night for a couple of years when he started wetting the bed again. It took a long time until he was diagnosed with depression. I got him into therapy and he was okay, again. I just want to get this information out there as it's not often discussed. I took him to the doctor to see if it might be diabetes or if there was a medical reason, but we ruled all of that out.
My daughter is almost seven, and potty trained around three-and-a-half, but she still has an occasional bed wet. However, when she does, it's a sign she has a bladder infection. Little girls are more prone to that, especially if they take a bath still, so that might be something to check out also when you talk to your doctor.
My friend's son was 12 and still needed protection at night. In his case, they thought chronic constipation might be a contributing factor if his intestines were pressing on his bladder. Just a brainstorm idea.
Bed wetting is actually a symptom of several bigger issues and should be taken seriously, not ignored, or pushed off saying that the child will simply grow out of it. When I told my daughter's doctor about the problem he took it very seriously right away. Not only can it be a symptom but it will lower her self-esteem. My daughter's doctor prescribed my daughter a medication which I was hesitant in giving her. She continued to have accidents almost nightly. I gave in and gave her the medication and within a week she was almost 100% better. She didn't take the medication for more than two weeks. I later found out that the bed wetting was a symptom of a much bigger problem. My daughter had sleep apnea which was later taken care of by removing her tonsils. Be sure to talk to her doctor and make note of any others issues she may be having (even if it seems small).