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Bedwetting – All you need to know

If your school-age child still wets their bed, you are not alone!

20% of 5-year-olds wet the bed

10% of 7-year-olds wet the bed

1 in 75 teenagers wet the bed.

Girls tend to be dry at night sooner than boys, but this isn’t always the case.

3 important things to remember:

  1. Your child doesn’t wet the bed on purpose. They are not being naughty or lazy.
  2. The fact that your child is late achieving nighttime dryness is not your fault! Some parents think they’ve left it too late/introduced too many changes in their child’s life/ been too relaxed etc. None of these things have caused your child to wet their bed.
  3. Having dry beds is a developmental milestone that like all the others, children reach at different times.

The biology

During sleep, just as during the day, the brain receives a signal that the bladder is full. For many children, it’s not until they are a bit older that their nighttime brain receives this signal.

Our bodies naturally produce a special hormone called vasopressin. This hormone reduces urine production at night. If your child is still producing a lot of wee during the night especially if it is very dilute, then it’s highly likely that their vasopressin production hasn’t yet kicked in.

Some children have “sensitive” bladders and their nighttime bed wetting is often part of a bigger picture of daytime wetness & accidents too.

Constipation causes bladder problems, due to the enlarged bowel pressing on the bladder and reducing its size and ability to expand.

How to help

Give your child all they need for a healthy bladder and bowel!

  1. Encourage them to drink enough during the day [6-8 glasses.] The bladder needs the exercise of filling up and emptying out!
  2. Avoid fizzy or caffeine-rich drinks which can irritate the bladder. If they don’t like water, give them sugar-free squash.
  3. If they are at school, about half of their liquid intake will happen there, so it is really important that they refill their water flask. Ask your child’s teacher or TA to keep an eye on this.
  4. For good bowel health, give them a diet rich in fibre, plenty to drink and plenty of exercise.
  5. Restricting daytime fluids can cause the bladder to be less efficient so don’t go down this route!
  6. If you are still giving a bedtime bottle, you need to drop it.
  7. An hour before bedtime, discourage them from having a drink
  8. Use the toilet just before bedtime.

At bedtime

Explain to your child that you’re going to help them see if they can manage to have a dry bed. Try not to make them feel bad however about the fact that they still wet the bed at night. They might already be feeling embarrassed about wetting their bed and they might also feel like they are letting you down. So keep the conversation positive and encouraging.

Have a calming and familiar bedtime routine.

Use waterproof bed protection and have spare bedding to hand in case of accidents.

Leave a soft light on and if the toilet is not easily accessible or if they are scared at night, have a potty or wee bucket in their room.

Many parents choose to lift their children and put them on the toilet later in the evening when they are asleep. Nowadays this isn’t considered to be a good idea, as the child doesn’t learn about bladder control, and it just teaches them to wee in their sleep. 

From a sleep point of view, it is not good to disrupt that very special and precious deep sleep that happens at the start of the night either. There is also the risk that rousing a child out of deep sleep can cause distress and confusion.

When they wet their bed

If they wet their bed, remain calm and if they wake up, change the sheets, encourage them to go to the toilet to see if they have any more wee left and then re-settle them to sleep. 

Let them know it’s okay, it’s not their fault and you’re not cross. 

 If your child manages a dry night, praise them gently but don’t overdo it, or they might feel they’ve let you down if they wet their bed next time.

Do not use a reward chart, as night-time dryness or wetness for that matter is not something that is entirely within their control. You can, however, praise them for the things that they have done to help themselves achieve dry beds. Waiting until morning to have a drink or going to the toilet when you ask them to, and so on are all things to be praised.

Expect just the occasional dry night at the first few attempts without a nappy.

If they don’t manage a dry bed after 3 – 4 weeks of trying, you should give up and try again a few weeks later or when they start to have dry-ish nappies in the morning.

When to get professional help

If they are still regularly wetting their bed after the age of 5, talk to your GP or school about getting a referral to a bedwetting clinic. These clinics will only see children over the age of 5.

The bedwetting clinics offer both assessment and treatment, often with a bedwetting alarm or medication. They also offer advice about sleepovers, school trips etc.

The important message here is that even if bedwetting goes on for a long time, children do achieve dry beds in the end and until that happens, neither they nor you should feel embarrassed or ashamed.

Further Help

If you’re struggling with your older child’s sleeping, such as bedtime fears, night waking or falling asleep too late, I am here to help you.

My 1:1 Consultations

If you choose to book a one-to-one consultation with me, you will receive my expert advice along with an individual sleep plan for your child. You will be in very safe, experienced hands and I treat every parent and child with kindness. As a qualified health professional, I can help families with medical and developmental issues. My success rate is outstanding, with over 15,000 face-to-face sleep consultations with families from all over the world.

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