Bedwetting blues

by | May 22, 2020

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Bedwetting is distressing for both parents and children, but it’s part and parcel of growing up for many children. Dr Michael Mol tells you what you need to know about bedwetting.

Bedwetting is the uncontrollable passing of urine during sleep. It is unintentional, very common in children and manageable. If your child is wetting the bed, it’s likely that they are experiencing a minor developmental delay that affects their ability to hold in urine at night.

So even though it can be annoying to deal with the aftermath of bedwetting, it’s important to remember that your child is not doing it out of laziness – or on purpose. It’s stressful, embarrassing and inconvenient for your child, too. To deal with bedwetting in the most positive way possible, try not to make these common mistakes:

1. Waking your child in the middle of the night for a bathroom visit
It is common practice for parents to wake their children in the middle of the night and encourage them to use the bathroom in an effort to prevent bedwetting. This is often referred to as ‘lifting’ and can seem like a good strategy if it helps keep the sheets dry.

The reality is that this will not improve your child’s bladder control and could frustrate them, especially if they don’t need to urinate when you wake them. If your child is over five years old, it may also cause them to feel as though they have little control over the situation.

2. Punishing your child
Remember that your child has no control over the situation and probably feels bad enough about it as it is. Being punished for something they can’t help will only cause a decrease in self-esteem and an increase in stress.

3. Limiting fluids before bedtime
A child who doesn’t wet the bed will not suddenly start wetting the bed if they’ve had too much to drink – they’ll simply wake up and use the bathroom. Limiting your child’s intake of sugary or caffeinated drinks a couple of hours before bed is recommended. However, always allow water, as being dehydrated can actually make things worse.

4. Thinking that your child is not properly toilet trained
If your child wets the bed it doesn’t mean that they haven’t been properly toilet trained. Urine control during the day is completely different from what goes on when your child is sleeping. In most cases it will correct itself in time and is nothing to worry about.
Never blame yourself or think that you didn’t finish the job properly when you were taking them through the toilet training phase. Your child could be a star bathroom-goer while they’re awake, but it’s nobody’s fault if they wet the bed while they’re asleep.

5. Blaming your child for being lazy
Blaming your child will only exacerbate the problem. There are a number of reasons why your child may be wetting the bed. These are the most common:

  • A delay in bladder reflex development, meaning your child’s bladder is not signalling the brain to wake up
  • Their body may not be producing enough anti-diuretic hormone, which slows down urine production at night, so we don’t have to wake up as much
  • A delay in bladder development can result in low bladder capacity and volume
  • Constipation: full bowels press on your child’s bladder and can cause uncontrolled bladder contractions.

6. Ignoring the problem
Some parents completely ignore the problem’s existence hoping it will just go away, and they wait it out. The problem with this technique is that parents are ignoring the amount of stress or embarrassment this places on the child.

This could lead to extra months or even years of fear of having a slumber party with friends or not being able to go to sleep-away camp because they don’t want anyone to know they wet the bed.

A child who experiences bedwetting needs support and understanding from the parents. When parents ignore the problem, the child will only feel that there is no one to turn to.

7. Comparing siblings
Sometimes, a younger sibling is already dry. Obviously, an older child suffering from bedwetting feels embarrassed, jealous and even shameful about the situation. Don’t compare siblings. The parents assume that if the five-year-old younger sibling has already outgrown bedwetting, it means that the eight-year-old is wetting the bed on purpose. The older child is accused of being lazy or apathetic. This attitude adds a great deal of pressure and will aggravate the problem.

Bedwetting is nobody’s fault. It is not linked to the way in which parents have raised their child and more importantly, it is not the child’s fault. Children are not conscious when bedwetting occurs, which means that they are naturally unaware and not in control of their bladders at this time.

The best thing a parent can do for a child who experiences bedwetting, is not to make too much fuss when it happens and reassure the child that it was just an accident.
You cannot stop your child from wetting the bed. Unfortunately, this is something that they will need to grow out of. You can however help to manage their bedwetting by making them feel more comfortable.