Bed wetting

Is your child wetting the bed at night? Most children, even those who manage to use the toilet perfectly during the day, have episodes of bed-wetting. Find out the causes of bed-wetting and how you can tackle it effectively.

It can be worrying and frustrating for you if your child is wetting their bed. It can also be very tiring for both you and your child, with the repeated interruptions to a good night’s sleep causing exhaustion that affects your daily activities. There are also practical and financial consequences that are incurred when bedwetting is a problem, such as the need to continually wash bedclothes and nightwear. However, most bedwetting resolves with time and medical treatment is only usually indicated if the episodes continues on a regular basis (twice a week or more) once your child is over the age of 5 years.

Why is my child wetting the bed?

Bedwetting may be the symptom of an underlying health condition, such as type 1 diabetes, which can lead to an excessive production of urine. It could also result as a consequence of constipation, when a full bowel puts pressure on the bladder. However, medical conditions that cause bedwetting are rare. In the majority of cases there’s no obvious reason why a child wets their bed. They may have an ‘irritable’ or overactive bladder that needs to be emptied frequently. It could also be due to your child being a very deep sleeper and not able to respond to the signals telling their brain that their bladder is full. There is also a genetic component, as in about 50 percent of cases there is a family history of bedwetting. Sometimes the cause is emotional distress, which can result from experiences in the child’s life that have disturbed them, such as moving to a new school, or suffering a bereavement of a relative or pet. In these instances, the wetting usually starts after the child has previously been dry – a condition termed ‘secondary wetting.’

How should I react when my child wets the bed?

Bedwetting can be a very embarrassing and upsetting experience for your child, so it’s important to reassure them that it’s not their fault and that it won’t continue forever. There is certainly no place for punishment or criticism when episodes of bedwetting occur, as this will negatively affect the child’s self-esteem and is likely to make the problem worse. Giving them a cuddle and letting them know that it’s no big deal will reduce their anxiety over the issue and help the problem to become resolved more expediently.

Medical treatment for bedwetting

Medical treatments aren’t usually recommended for bedwetting in children under the age of five, as it’s a common occurrence at this age. However, if bedwetting is occurring several times throughout the week and is causing a great deal of distress, exceptions can be made and treatment offered. If a medical opinion is sought, the doctor will at first want to establish that there is no underlying physical health condition, such as diabetes, that is causing the problem. They may require samples of the child’s urine and blood to check the sugar levels, as high quantities may reveal diabetes. They may also want to perform a scan of their abdominal and pelvic region to see if there is any pressure being exerted on their bladder. If your child is experiencing frequent bedwetting and is finding it upsetting, it’s recommended that you contact your doctor for advice.

Practical tips for tackling bedwetting

In the vast majority of cases, where bedwetting does not require medical intervention, certain practical techniques can help reduce the incidence of bedwetting and make life easier when episodes occur. Such tips include:

  • Restricting the amount of liquid your child drinks in the evening
  • Avoiding drinks with caffeine in them, as caffeine is a diuretic; i.e. it stimulates the production of urine (it’s important to note that many sparkling drinks other than cola contain caffeine).
  • Avoiding foods in the evening that have a diuretic effect. Such foods include asparagus, artichoke, celery, parsley and melon.
  • Encouraging a routine where your child visits the lavatory and empties their bladder immediately before they go to bed.
  • Placing a protective, plastic covering over the mattress to prevent the mattress becoming soaked during episodes of bedwetting
  • Using correctly-sized fitted sheets for ease of changing, as opposed to loose sheets that require tucking in
  • Keeping a small trolley or cupboard next to the child’s bed stocked with spare sheets and bedclothes, nightwear and wet-wipe tissues to wipe down the mattress covering

An important point to remember is that children thrive on routine and that any adjustments you make that are designed to overcome bedwetting, or make episodes easier to deal with, should be small ones. Making large changes, for example changing your child’s room for one nearer to a lavatory, may have a negative effect. It could prove to be an unsettling experience for them, which may make the bedwetting worse.

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