Did you know that about 15 percent of five-year-olds still wet the bed at night? Bedwetting is a common problem in school-aged children. Luckily, it is seldom anything to worry about, but it often does cause significant stress in families.
“He’s been potty-trained since he was two! Why can’t he stay dry at night?”
Bedwetting is not due to laziness or drinking too much water. It is a combination of a small bladder and sleeping too deeply to respond to a full bladder. There is also a strong genetic influence, so if a parent or sibling had problems staying dry at night, there is a greater chance for other children in the family to have the same issue. It is twice as common among boys as girls.
“When will she outgrow it?”
Most kids do outgrow it eventually, although it is hard to predict when it will happen. About 10 percent of 7-year-olds and 5 percent of 10-year-olds still are not completely dry at night. Unfortunately, 1-2 percent of 15-year-olds still have problems with bedwetting.
“What can we do to help?”
There are several things you can try, but the biggest predictor of success is whether or not your child wants to stay dry at night! I do recommend using some sort of reward system, like a sticker chart, to track progress so there is some payoff for the kids. Start with small goals (i.e.: using the toilet before bed every night) and progress toward staying dry. Offer small rewards, such as books or small toys from the dollar store. This helps keep kids motivated.
One of the first things to do is to make sure your child goes to the bathroom before he or she goes to bed. I actually have my kids go twice—once about 30 minutes before bedtime and another right before getting into bed. It is helpful to decrease fluid intake in the evening, but then you have to increase the amount of fluid your child is getting earlier in the day to make sure they are still drinking enough.
One of the most successful treatments for bedwetting is an alarm system. These work by going off when the child urinates. There are MANY different kinds out there. Some clip to the underwear, some are pads the child lies on, some are inserts into the underwear. They can make loud sounds, vibrate or a combination of both. Some even have a “parent unit” so you know when it goes off. Check out bedwettingstore.com to see some options. It isn’t unusual for a child to sleep through the alarm at first, so you may have to wake them up until they learn to wake up to the alarm themselves. While at first the child urinates before the alarm goes off, soon their body starts to recognize that the alarm is about to go off (when their bladder is full) and they wake up dry and go to the bathroom. (Do you ever wake up just before your alarm clock goes off in the morning? Your body has become trained, too!)
Another option you may have heard about is medication. While there is prescription medication that can help, it is not effective at changing the overall behavior. In other words, they won’t wet the bed while they take the medication, but they still aren’t learning to wake up for a full bladder. The medications can be helpful for special occasions, such as sleepovers, camps or vacations.
Bedwetting is not a problem that goes away overnight, but with a motivated child and a plan in place, it can be conquered!