Bed-Wetting Myths

boy in bed wearing underwear

Is raising a child who struggles with bed-wetting stressing you out? Relax! It's much more common and normal than you might think. Most doctors don't consider nighttime wetness as a cause for concern in children five and under, and even after that, there is no cause for alarm. Studies suggest approximately 5 to 7 million children older than age 6 suffer from nocturnal enuresis.

Avoiding Bed-Wetting Shame

The first thing parents and caregivers need to realize about enuresis, is that by definition, it is involuntary. Nighttime bed-wetting is not done on purpose. There are a number of different reasons for a child wetting the bed, and none of them are because the child wants to wet the bed. Some parents believe that bed-wetting is the child's fault. They may even punish the child to get them to stop. Nothing could be further from the truth. It may be one of the most harmful myths about bed-wetting because it can ultimately make things much worse. Nervousness or stress may only magnify the problem. "Misunderstandings about bedwetting have kept it from being viewed as a legitimate medical problem," Dr. Sears explains on his parenting website. "If the lungs malfunction, the child is medically and sympathetically treated for, say asthma. If the bladder malfunctions, the child is thought to be lazy, stubborn, and immature."

Secondly, bed-wetting can be developmental. Just because your child is dry during the day, it doesn't mean they can be trained the same way at night. If you are worried because you're 3-year-old is not staying dry through the night, stop worrying. A developing bladder may be unable to hold urine all night. Bed-wetting is considered normal before age 5.

child in bed with pajamas

Understanding Late Bed-Wetting

While many kids stop wetting the bed by their sixth birthday, up to seven million don't. After age six, children suffering from enuresis could be having a problem for many reasons, one of which may be because their bodies are not producing enough ADH. ADH is a hormone produced by the body that slows down urine production at night so the bladder does not overfill. A synthetic version, called DDAVP, can be prescribed for children with chronic or severe cases and is available in nasal spray or tablet form.

Bed-wetting is hereditary. It is likely that kids who struggle with wetting the bed have close relatives who also struggled as children with bed-wetting. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers from Denmark announced evidence in 1995 of a possible gene which is prone to link cases of bed-wetting. Since then, researchers have identified two genes - ENUR1 and ENUR2 - that often appear on the chromosomes of those who wet the bed as children. It is believed that these genes affect either the amount of urine a child produces at night or how easily they can wake up when their bladders are full.

Since there are several variables which may contribute to bed-wetting, there are numerous ways parents can try to help or encourage children, if and when they are capable of outgrowing the tendency.

Try to limit the amount of fluids your kids drink prior to bed. While this may not always matter, it can't hurt. No more than 2 ounces in the last two hours before bedtime, and make sure they use the bathroom right before bed every night. Leave all caffeine by the wayside, as it is a natural diuretic. Also, make sure your kids are getting enough sleep at night. When your children are drastically overtired, their bodies may not naturally trigger wake-up in the night when their bladders need to be emptied.

toddler wetting the bed

If your child did not previously have an issue with wetting the bed, and it has recently started without reason, make sure you take them in to see a doctor, as it may be a sign of a urinary tract infection or another issue.

There is no doubt that frequent bed-wetting can be a frustrating issue for families. Not only can it cause embarrassment for the child if handled improperly, but it is costly and time-consuming to clean every day. Another option for parents to consider aside from medication for low ADH, is the possibility of getting a bed-wetting alarm. Some people think that if their child is a deep sleeper, a bed-wetting alarm won't work for them. That isn't always the case. Enuresis alarms sound in response to wetness and can be purchased at drugstores for around $60. While many children may sleep through the buzzing, the alarm helps alert parents to wake the child and help them get to the bathroom. Gradually, over time, the brain learns the connection to the bladder in the night. Patience, not panic, is key to overcoming bed-wetting nightmares.