Child’s Bedwetting - What you need to know

What are the reasons for child bedwetting?

Bedwetting is common among young children and most will wet the bed at least once while others will wet the bed several times. Bedwetting is most common among children who have recently started toilet training and children aged up to 5 years old, but it can also affect much older children. In most cases, bedwetting is not the child's fault and the cause is usually physical, such as the bladder being too small or children sleeping too deeply to wake up when they need the toilet. Bedwetting is not a child's fault and punishing children is not beneficial and may be counterproductive. Some children take a lot longer to remain dry during the night than others.

Bedwetting can run in families so if a child's parents wet the bed when they were children, it is more likely that the child will also wet the bed.

The act is normally part and parcel of growing up, but it can also indicate underlying infections or nerve conditions. Children who have nerve disease may also wet themselves during the day.

It is not uncommon for children to start wetting the bed after a long period of staying dry. This can be triggered by stress or emotional anxiety caused by family problems or issues at school or even the birth of a new sibling.

How can I help my child in staying dry?

There is no miracle solution for bedwetting but there are steps you can take to assist your child in staying dry at night, including:

  • Avoid giving your child a drink just before bed
  • Avoid giving your child drinks that contain caffeine
  • Encourage your child to go to the toilet just before bed
  • Be patient as bedwetting can happen to all children

Children may feel guilty and upset when they wet the bed so try to be comforting and understanding and let them know that it is not their fault. Never punish your child for wetting the bed as this can make them anxious and worried about going to bed. Encourage your child to use the toilet and be supportive because some children will take a lot longer than others to stay dry during the night.

Is a visit to the doctor necessary?

When children are still young there is no need to worry about bedwetting as it is normal and happens to most children. However, if your child is older than seven years old and they wet the bed on a regular basis, or your child is over the age of 5 and they have accidents during the day and night, it may be worth arranging to see your doctor.

When you see a doctor they will ask about the frequency of bedwetting and your child's general health. They will usually take a urine sample to check for infections which may be causing the bedwetting. The doctor will also check the child's reflexes for signs of nerve damage. In some cases, bedwetting may be a symptom of diabetes and this will be investigated.

If an infection is present medication will be prescribed, but in most cases doctors find that children are healthy and just taking a little longer to remain dry.

Which treatments can help my child remain dry?

Your doctor will discuss possible treatment methods to aid your child in staying dry during the night, including:

  • Bladder training - bladder training aims to enable children to hold urine in their bladder for longer. Parents are encouraged to note down how many times their child urinates throughout the day and the intervals between toilet trips. They are then advised to encourage their child to start waiting an extra 10-15 minutes between toilet trips and slowly increase the time. This is so the child waits longer before they go to the toilet, but this type of training can take weeks or months.
  • Moisture alarm - this can be placed in the child's sleepwear or bed. The alarm makes a noise when it detects moisture causing the child to wake up and enabling them to go to the toilet.
  • Medication - there are two types of medication available for bedwetting; one works by slowing the production of urine, while the other helps to relax the muscles in the bladder and enable it to carry more urine. Medication is usually effective but bedwetting may recur if it is stopped.

Points to remember

  • It is normal for young children to wet the bed.
  • Bedwetting may be a sign of infection or nerve problems but it is normally just part of growing up.
  • Bedwetting should not be punished as it is common and the vast majority of children grow out of it.
  • Most children stay dry during the night by the age of 5 years old.
  • Punishing a child will not stop them from wetting the bed.
  • If the child is older than 7 years old and they wet the bed on a regular basis it may be worth seeing a doctor.
  • Treatments that can help in cases of bedwetting include bladder training, moisture alarms and medication.
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