What is Bedwetting and how do I manage it with my child?

What Is Bedwetting?

Bedwetting, which is also called nocturnal enuresis or night time incontinence, refers to the bladder emptying during sleep. It is quite common and affects as many as 1 in 5 children in Australia. Every child is different and that age at which they become able to control their bladders at night varies.

Bedwetting is most common before the age of 7 and while doctors don’t consider it to be very concerning when it happens in early childhood, it doesn’t make it any less upsetting for children or parents dealing with it.

It can take a toll on a child’s self-esteem and cause them feelings of embarrassment. Sleeping in soggy sheets and pyjamas is uncomfortable and can prevent a child from getting enough sleep. It can also lead to rashes and irritation of the bottom and genitals area if the child sleeps in wet bottoms.

Bedwetting can be equally upsetting for parents who often worry that they’ve not potty-trained their child properly or that there is an underlying medical condition causing their child to wet the bed.

To further frustrate parents, there is the issue of extra laundry and the associated work and cost. Parents may also lose sleep if the child wakes them up during the night to change their pyjamas and sheets.
 

Supportive mother for bedwetting

Bed Wetting Causes

There are several misconceptions about what actually causes bedwetting. Some are quick to assume that it stems from laziness or unusual immaturity, while others blame poor behaviour, which is not the case. Contrary to popular belief, bedwetting is also not caused by drinking too much before bed.

The three most common causes of bedwetting include:

  • Inability to waken when the bladder is full;
  • Overactive bladder at night that stops the bladder from being able to hold urine;
  • Kidneys that produce large amounts of urine at night that the bladder can’t hold


In most cases, bedwetting, while frustrating, is not a sign of an underlying medical condition. However, some illnesses can cause bedwetting, including:

  • stress
  • chronic constipation
  • urinary tract infection
  • diabetes
  • sleep apnoea
  • defect of the urinary tract or central nervous system


Again, it’s important to stress that most children who wet the bed are not suffering from a medical condition.

When to Seek Help

Although bedwetting is very common in children, the Continence Foundation of Australia recommends seeking help if:

  • Your child has suddenly started wetting the bed after being dry for some time
  • The wetting occurs frequently in a child of school age
  • The wetting is taking an obvious toll on your child, making them upset or angry
  • Your child has asked for help and shown a desire to get dry


Speak to your doctor for a referral to a professional who has special training in children’s bladders.
 

Supportive parent with bedwetting

Treating Bedwetting

There are several things that you can do at home to treat bedwetting.

Some possible solutions for bedwetting include:

  • Establishing a consistent bedtime routine that includes going to the bathroom
  • Encouraging your child with a reward system for staying dry, such as stickers or a treat for a dry night.
  • Waking your child to go to the bathroom during the night before the time that they usually wet themselves.
  • Bedwetting alarms, which conditions the child to become of aware of the sensation of a full bladder by waking them when they wet the bed. Used over time, these alarms can be very successful in treating bedwetting.
Bedwetting tucking girl in at bedtime


A doctor may also prescribe a medication to treat an overactive bladder or limit the amount of urine produced through the night.

Helping Your Child Cope

There are products that you can use alongside treatment to help your child to better cope with bedwetting. These include:

  • Disposable absorbent underpants to soak up urine
  • Bed pads that can be easily changed when an accident happens as opposed to changing the sheets
  • Sleeping bag liners for easy and discreet cleanup when sleeping away from home
     
Boy happy in bed solve bedwetting


Along with using the products mentioned to help keep your child comfortable, it is also important that you treat your child’s bedwetting with patience and understanding. They are not wetting the bed on purpose and can feel extremely helpless and vulnerable. 
 

In order to help them feel more control over the situation, you can allow them to take responsibility for bedwetting by rinsing their wet underpants or pyjamas or placing them in a specific container for washing. Some children cope better when they feel like they are doing something about it.


Some other things you can do to help your child cope with bedwetting:

  • Avoid talking about the issue in front of others
  • Explain how the bladder works so they understand why it’s happening
  • Avoid letting them drink too much before bed to limit the amount of urine they release
     

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