Family Health Diary

Bedwetting can be upsetting for parents and children and yet it is a normal part of your child’s development as they learn to control their bladder through the night.

Most children are toilet trained by the time they are 5 years old. But learning to stay dry through the night often takes several more years. Bedwetting tends to run in families and is slightly more common in boys than girls.

Causes of bedwetting
Many things contribute to how long it will take your child to remain dry through the night. Things that might cause a child to not stay dry all night include:

  • Their bladder not yet be big enough to hold all the urine that accumulates during the night
  • It takes a few years for child to recognise when their bladder is full. This can be to do with the development of the nerves that let them know when they need to go
  • Deep sleepers may not wake when their bladder is full.

As you can see these three things work together, making one child take longer to stay dry through the night than another. Your child for instance might be a deep sleeper, with a small bladder and their nerve connections are taking longer to develop than other children their age.

A twitchy or overactive bladder might be the cause of bedwetting. For these children they may also wet their pants during the day and need to rush to the toilet.

Other things that might cause bedwetting include diabetes, hormone imbalance, urinary tract infection or long term constipation. Another possibility is sleep apnoea. This is when the child’s breathing is partially blocked by tonsils or adenoids. This can also cause snoring and the child may be drowsy during the day from not sleeping well. Very rarely a sudden start in bedwetting can be a sign of child abuse or some kind of emotional stress such as parental separation, a new baby, or problems at school.

So while bedwetting is a normal part of your child’s development you should see you doctor if:

  • your child is older than 7 years old and is still bed wetting
  • your child has been dry through the night for a year or more and then starts to wet the bed
  • passing urine is painful, or if they have pink or red urine
  • your child is unusually thirsty
  • your child has hard solid bowel motions or
  • they snore.

What to do to help your child

  • Remember that bedwetting happens during sleep. Your child can’t control their bedwetting – it is not their fault. Be patient and respond gently. Reassure your child, especially if they are upset.
  • Praise and reward your child for getting up to use the toilet.
  • Give your child plenty to drink during the day – this helps their bladder to get used to holding bigger amounts of urine.
  • Avoid drinks containing caffeine like tea, coffee, some fizzy drinks or chocolate.
  • Restricting fluid in the evening and at night does not stop bedwetting.
  • Get your child to go toilet before they go to bed.
  • Prepare the bed and your child. Use a waterproof plastic mattress cover and protect the mattress with absorbent pads or towels. Get your child to wear extra-thick underwear and pyjamas. This may stop your child flooding the bed when they wet.
  • There are moisture detectors that sound an alarm as soon as there is a small amount of urine. This trains the child to wake when they want to go toilet.
  • If you wake your child up to try on the toilet when you are going to bed and the child is already asleep, make sure they are fully awake when they go to the toilet.
  • Shower or bath your child in the morning before they go to school. You don’t want them to smell of urine at school; this would be embarrassing and they are likely to be teased.
  • Remember your child is likely to have 2-3 other children in his or her class who also wet the bed.
  • Most children grow out of bedwetting.
  • Despite everything, about one in a hundred 15-year-olds will still regularly wet the bed and this may continue into adulthood.

Written by Linda Caddick

This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The information contained in the blog and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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