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No one wants to wake up cold only to find their clothes and sheets are wet. For the many little ones who wet the bed, these startling awakenings are not only physically uncomfortable, but they can be embarrassing and emotionally distressing as well. As parents, we may feel frustrated by the extra loads of laundry and cries for dry clothes and warmth in the middle of the night, but it’s important to remember bedwetting is beyond a child’s control. Since bedwetting can be hard on the whole family, we’re here with some helpful tips to help you gently guide your child past the bedwetting stage, along with information on different types of bedwetting, possible causes and when to see a doctor.
What is Bedwetting?
Bedwetting is also called nighttime incontinence or nocturnal enuresis. It’s described as involuntary urination during sleep past the age that staying dry at night can be reasonably expected.
Bedwetting before age 7 isn't typically a concern. Children at this age may still be developing nighttime bladder control, so there’s no target age when a child should have complete control over their bladder before the age of 7. If your child is 7 or older and still wets the bed, it may be time to have a chat with your pediatrician.
There are two types of bedwetting. It helps to determine which one describes your child:
- Primary bedwetting: Your child has never had nighttime control over urination.
- Secondary bedwetting: Occurs after your child has been dry during sleep for six or more months. It may be caused by psychological stress or an underlying medical condition.
If bedwetting continues beyond age 7 on a regular basis, treat your child with patience and understanding.
What Causes Bedwetting?
Possible causes of bedwetting are thought to occur because of a developmental delay in one of the three following areas :
- Bladder: Less space in the bladder at night
- Kidney: More urine is made at night
- Brain: Unable to wake during sleep
Tips to Help Your Child Move Beyond Bedwetting
- Be patient and show that you understand
- Don’t give your child caffeinated beverages or drinks with colored dyes
- Don’t yell at, punish, or embarrass your child if they have an accident
- Encourage drinking more fluids during the day and less at night
- Establish a bedtime routine that includes using the bathroom two times before bed
- Make sure your child has easy access to a toilet
- Praise your child when they have a dry night and consider offering incentives like stickers
Children who wet the bed may feel embarrassed, isolated, and different from their peers. They may even develop low self-esteem. As a parent, you can ensure your child feels like they have support. Emphasize that they have help, accidents are not their fault and that they’ll get through this with effort, support and time.
Daytime Toilet Issues
Be sure to monitor your child for daytime toilet issues, such as frequent urination or feelings of not being able to completely empty their bladder. Also, make sure that their bowel movements are regular. Constipation can decrease bladder volume and increase bladder irritability. Children who are affected by these issues can compensate while awake, but not when asleep, especially if they are a deep sleeper. In many cases, bedwetting will improve once the daytime challenges resolve.
When to Visit a Doctor
Most children outgrow bedwetting on their own. But some need some extra help. In some cases, bedwetting may be a sign of an underlying condition that needs medical attention.
Reach out to your child's provider if:
- Bedwetting is accompanied by painful urination, unusual thirst, pink or red urine, hard stools or snoring
- Your child is drinking or eating much more than usual and has swelling of the feet or ankles
- Your child wets the bed after age 7
- Your child wets the bed after a phase of staying dry at night
Your child’s provider may check for signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI), constipation, bladder problems, diabetes, or emotional concerns.
Whole-Child Care That Parents Trust
Whether your child is potty training, has an underlying medical condition or simply needs some extra support when it comes to bedwetting, we’re here to help.
Learn more about our urology program at AdventHealth for Children by visiting us here.