You might not hear parents of older children talking about it, but bedwetting is more common than you imagine. Among about ten percent of children aged five will wet their bed nearly every night. It’s frustrating for you, and your child may be scared, sad and embarrassed.
Try to be patient – bedwetting is not her fault (or yours, for that matter!). If you can, treat it as a challenge you work on together rather than a problem. In the majority of cases, bedwetting will stop eventually and there are things you can do to help.
Why do children wet the bed?
Your child isn’t lazy or a slob and shouldn’t be disciplined for wetting the bed. Bedwetting, or enuresis, has many causes: your child’s nervous system may not have developed enough to allow her night time control over her bladder, she may be under stress or be anxious about something, or, more rarely, she may have urinary tract troubles which make her urinate more regularly.
Children of all ages wet the bed; it’s a condition which some think may be inherited. If bedwetting is sustained over a period of time, it’s important to check with your GP that there’s nothing medically wrong with your child. Your GP can also suggest local help, and may be able to refer you to a bedwetting advice group. With a little training, some practical measures and a lot of support, most children are able to stop wetting the bed in time.
Tips to help your child stop wetting the bed
1. Before you start, make it clear to your child you’re not cross, you’re just trying to help, and make sure you listen and get her on board with any new measures.
2. If you suspect that the bedwetting is stress-related – if there’s a change in family structure, you’ve moved home or your child is experiencing bullying, for example – try to work on this anxiety before you start on a new regime.
3. Staying dry and exercising control over the bladder (using her pelvic floor muscles) during the day might help – give her a timer or a watch with an alarm and see if you can prolong time between her toilet trips by 10 minutes each day.
4. Offer sips of drinks from about 4pm and nothing at all to drink one and a half hours before bedtime.
5. Try to avoid putting your child in pull-ups or a nappy – it might help that they can feel when they’re wet at night time.
6. Make sure you have the right protective sheeting and lots of sheets and nightwear. Leave a low light on so your child can see her way to the toilet.
7. Once your child wets the bed, ask her to help you change herself and the bed sheets, remembering to stay sympathetic and gentle.
8. Some people use buzzers or alarms attached to night wear, which are triggered by moisture, so she can get up and go to the loo. The aim is to‘re-programme’ the brain to alert her to wake before she has to wee.
9. Others say that once a child is old enough for sleepovers, there is an initial period of embarrassment as she inevitably wets the bed, but that overnight stays can act as a catalyst for retraining.
It may some take time to find a solution that works for your child, and you can bet that your child is finding it much more difficult than you are! Try to remain patient, don’t focus on the failures and seek support – there’s a thread on our forum if you want to share bedwetting stories now.