Coping with your child’s bed-wetting

Paul Zmaj, M.D.
Posted on March 24, 2016

Is your child struggling with bed-wetting? With the right approach, you can help him or her overcome this stumbling block.

 In children, urinary incontinence (UI) — or the loss of bladder control —most often occurs in the form of bed-wetting. While bed-wetting is not considered a serious medical condition, it can cause a child significant embarrassment and potentially cause him or her to refrain from typical, age-appropriate social activities, such as sleepovers.

 Contributing Factors

The exact causes of bed-wetting are often unknown. However, multiple factors, such as the inability to recognize a full bladder while asleep, an overproduction of urine during the night, and slower development in a child, often contribute to the condition. More serious health issues, including diabetes, kidney issues, nerve problems, obstructive sleep apnea, a urinary tract infection (UTI), or a structural problem in the urinary tract, can also cause UI in children.

Unrecognized constipation is also a frequent contributor to both daytime and nighttime wetting. If a child is passing adult-size bowel movements, having solid bowel movements, experiencing constipation, or is straining to produce stool, the child may benefit from increasing his or her intake of dietary fiber and fluids. Often, aggressive bowel management enhances the resolution of urinary incontinence.

Cause for Concern?

 Children develop control over their bladders at different rates. More than 98 percent of children have developed control over daytime urination by the age of 5. However, bed-wetting or nighttime wetting — also called nocturnal enuresis — affects roughly 30 percent of 4-year-olds and 20 percent of 5-year-olds.

Bed-wetting and UI typically resolve themselves naturally with age. However, if your child age 6 or older is regularly having problems with bed-wetting or UI, you should consider consulting a specialist to discuss treatment options and plans.

Limiting the Leakage

Methods for managing and treating bed-wetting include:

  • Covering your child’s mattress with a waterproof mattress cover
  • Having your child wear absorbent briefs overnight
  • Limiting the amount of fluids your child consumes after dinner
  • Making your child use the restroom before bedtime
  • Using a bed-wetting or moisture alarm
  • Waking your child in the night and taking him or her to the bathroom

When limiting nighttime fluid intake, be sure that your child is well-hydrated early in the day to aid in bowel management. If these methods do not seem to help your child, you may want to consider discussing other treatment options with your child’s doctor.

 Positive Parenting 

 Here are some steps you can take to help reduce any stress your child may be experiencing due to bed-wetting:

  • Assure your child that bed-wetting is not his or her fault and that many children have the same problem.
  • Ensure that your child’s siblings do not tease him or her about bed-wetting problems.
  • Let your child help with any necessary cleanup after a wetting episode, such as changing the sheets and mattress cover.
  • Refrain from punishing your child for wetting the bed, and instead offer support.
  • Keep a positive attitude after wetting episodes and during the child’s process of developing bladder control.

Always exercise patience and understanding while helping your child in his or her efforts to develop bladder control.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Pediatric Urologist, Dr. Paul Zmaj, please call 423-778-2564.

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