Bedwetting: You are not alone

No shame or blame for accidents — nobody “wants” to wet the bed.

Wetting the bed is a common problem for children. In fact, 15 percent of 5-year-olds wet the bed. Unfortunately, it is also an issue that we tend not to talk about outside our immediate families – if it is talked about at all.

It is important for kids and their families to realize this is a common issue, usually there is not a medical reason, and it usually will stop on its own.

First:

  • No shame or blame for accidents — nobody “wants” to wet the bed.
  • Kids who wet the bed are NOT “lazy.”
  • If a kid could stop wetting the bed, he/she would.
  • Kids CAN be responsible for keeping themselves and their bed clean and dry (age-appropriate), i.e., help strip the bed, help with the laundry – NOT as a punishment

Your child may be ready to work on becoming dry at night if he/she:

  • Is asking about being out of diapers or pull-ups and wants to wear underwear.
  • Is feeling like he/she is missing out on social activities.
  • Seems excited to try something new to become dry.

Most kids are not ready to work on bedwetting until around age 7. Understandably, parents often want to work on bedwetting before the child is ready. Usually your child will be more successful once they are on board versus trying to make them want to work on it.

Tips:

  • Go pee right before bed (seems obvious but a lot of kids do not).
  • Limit fluids in the evening, especially known bladder irritants (carbonation, caffeine, citric juices, red/purple dyes, chocolate).
  • Have a flashlight/nightlight to help guide your chlid to the bathroom during the night.
  • Have your child practice getting up from his/her bed and going to the bathroom

Treatments:

  • Bed alarms: alarms that go off when your child starts to pee. Parents will most likely need to wake up the child – this may be the most effective treatment, but can take several months to work
  • Acupuncture.
  • Medications – they do not work for everyone and are not a cure, but may be helpful for your child
  • Combination therapy.

When to seek help:

  • Any time you have a question or concern; contact OHSU Doernbecher Pediatric Urology.
  • This is a new symptom (previously had six months of complete dryness).
  • Daytime peeing issues.

Erin Anderson, B.S.N., M.S.N, C.N.P.
Division of Pediatric Urology
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital

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About the Author

Tamara Hargens-Bradley is Associate Director of Media Relations for Oregon Health & Science University, OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital. She is the editor of the Healthy Families blog.
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