Home » Bed-wetting: how do I get my child to stop?

Bed-wetting: how do I get my child to stop?

I remember while in boarding school, girls who peed on the bed were always mocked at. It is a very embarrassing situation for children when they do so and shaming them only makes things worse. In the majority of cases, it is no fault of theirs. 

Who remembers doing this? You on the bed with your sibling and you realized you peed on the bed and wake up early and roll your sibling over so it seems like they did it. 

Enuresis is simply involuntary urination, which may be caused by a variety of factors. Nocturnal enuresis (medical name for bed-wetting) is involuntary voiding of urine at night.

Bed-wetting is very common in children because of their small bladder and poor reflexes. Children usually outgrow bed-wetting by the age of 7.  It is also common in teenagers.

This disorder is noticed more in males. Although it is normal in children, still, bed-wetting can be upsetting for children and parents and if not properly handled can lead to emotional trauma and low self-esteem. 

  1. Primary enuresis: a child has never had bladder control at night and has always wet the bed.
  2. Secondary enuresis: a child (or adult) did have bladder control at night for a period of at least 6 months, but lost that control and now wets the bed again.

 Bed-wetting in persons older than 7 years could be a sign of a urinary tract infection or other health problems.

Studies have shown that there is no exact science on why children wet the bed. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Family history: a history of one or both parents bed-wetting after 5 years old increases the likelihood of their children bed-wetting.
  • Stress: One of the most common reasons for secondary bed-wetting. Stress in a child’s life, such as loss of a loved one, the move to a new house, divorce, separation, hospitalization, faulty toilet training (inconsistent, demanding, or punitive) and unrealistic responsibilities that are not age appropriate. Removing this stress factors can help stop the bed-wetting.
  • Deep sleep: many children who wet the bed are deep sleepers.
  • Constipation: The bladder and the bowels sit near each other in the body. A backed up bowel (constipation, that is, difficulty in emptying the bowels due to hardened feces) can push on the bladder and cause the child to loose bladder control. So, treating the constipation is the first step to remedying the situation.
  • Lack or delay of normal high production of the vasopressin hormone at night that decreases the amount of urine produced at night.

Less common reasons include: bladder or kidney disease, neurological disease or other medical conditions like diabetes or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), some medications (Side effects from hypnotics, insomnia medications, psychiatric medications such as thioridazine, Clozapine etc. can increase your risk).

Medication will not be needed for children younger than 6, because most children with this condition outgrow it (usually by the time the age of 7. Provided it doesn’t stop, some measures can be taken to remedy the situation.

The treatment of urinary incontinence depends upon the underlying cause of the problem.

The primary treatment for nocturnal enuresis most commonly involves behavioral modification:

  1. Provide love and support: that is the first thing your child needs. Avoid shaming, beating as this will just add to the stress. Bear in mind it is not their fault. Show patience, it won’t stop overnight and most children outgrow this.
  2. Limit intake of food or drinks with caffeine and avoid salty snacks and sugary drinks especially in  the evening. What you can do is make sure they drink enough water in the day so they do not feel thirsty around bedtime. 
  3. Rewarding them for the times they do not urinate on the bed reinforces good behavior.
  4.  Encouraging frequent daytime urination and especially before they go to bed.
  5. Avoid waking the child at night to pee as this may stop the bed-wetting but the child will not have enough sleep. 
  6. Get the right resources like plastic covered mattresses and thick pajamas
  7. Some bed-wet because they are scared of getting up at night, or toilets are too far (out of the house for example)…in such cases, putting a potty by the bed can help and also helping the child conquer such fears
  8. Proper potty training at a young age helps great too

Remember: though medications are available to treat enuresis, they are generally used in severe cases where the child’s (or adult’s) functioning is disturbed. NOT recommended for children below 6 years of age.

Such as

  • Desmopressin acetate(anti-diuretic hormone analog) that helps to reduce the amount of urine the body makes . Taken Orally or through the nasal route (but the nasal formulation is no longer indicated due to reports of seizures)
  • Imipramine works well in some children as well

Medications can be helpful when a child is not sleeping at home (camp or sleepovers)

It should also be noted that although these drugs can be useful for managing the situation, once they are stopped, the child typically starts bed-wetting again.

These drugs equally have potential side effects like nose bleeding, headache and others, always read medical labels and seek professional counsel before using any medications.

Take home: bed-wetting is normal in children under 7, be patient, provide love and support, no shaming (especially in front of others, it is not their fault. Before trying medications, try a few behavioral changes first.

Good luck!


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