Bedwetting is a common issue during childhood. Most of the time, wetting the bed is a developmental issue that children will grow out of. In some cases, bedwetting indicates a more serious issue and needs medical treatment.
Bedwetting is also referred to as nighttime incontinence or nocturnal enuresis. Because it only becomes an issue after nighttime diapers are dropped, it is difficult to say exactly how many young children struggle with bedwetting. Usually, children are daytime potty trained around age two, with nighttime readiness occurring sometime over the next year or two. There are some children who won't stay dry or wake up to pee overnight until age seven.
Most children struggle with what is known as primary bedwetting. Primary bedwetting relates to developmental readiness. Children who have continually wet the bed since dropping diapers, or who need still need them at an older age, are dealing with primary bedwetting.
Young children's bladders may simply be too small to hold their urine all night. Kids who cannot hold it past the midnight hour may wet the bed because their sleep is very deep in the first part of the night. Some will be able to wake and use the toilet sometime after midnight, but others will sleep so deeply that the urge to go won't rouse them at all.
Generally, children will outgrow primary bedwetting. If they are still wetting their sheets by age seven, parents should consult their pediatrician.
A very small percentage of children will experience secondary bedwetting. This type of nighttime incontinence shows up after children have been fully night trained for at least six months. Secondary bedwetting can indicate an underlying issue.
A urinary tract infection (UTI) can cause sudden nighttime accidents. A UTI may be accompanied by painful urination and even blood in the urine. Kids suffering from a UTI may feel a continuous urge to go, but not produce much urine. Seek medical treatment for a possible UTI.
Childhood diabetes is a serious condition that can cause bedwetting. Kids with diabetes have too much sugar in their blood for their body to break down properly. One biological reaction to diabetes is to produce more urine in an effort to flush the sugar out. Increased urine production leads to nighttime accidents.
Constipation can cause bedwetting because the muscles that hold urine also hold back feces. They can become strained there is a back up of fecal matter. The back up can also put pressure on the bladder or push down on it reducing its capacity.
Bedwetting past the standard age can also be an indication of abuse. Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse can cause bedwetting in older children. If a doctor finds no other medical issues, it may be time to question the child about their home life.
A variety of anatomical or neurological abnormalities can result in bedwetting. However, the vast majority of children will stop wetting their sheets as they develop and mature.
When To Seek Medical Advice
Reach out to your pediatrician if your child is wetting the bed after age seven or if nighttime accidents begin suddenly after at least six months without issues.
What To Do About Bedwetting
There are a few things that parents can do to help children become night trained sooner. Parents might wake their child around 10-11 o'clock at night and bring them to the toilet. This can help kids stay dry until the morning. It also gets their bodies into the habit of waking to pee.
Parents can also reduce their children's fluid intake one and a half to two hours before bedtime. This takes some effort and fluids need to be increased earlier in the day. this strategy is not right for all kids. Hydration is more important, and a child who is very thirsty in the evenings should not be denied.
For children suffering from secondary bedwetting, a doctor will treat the underlying issue. This may be as simple as medication for a urinary tract infection or it may be a more complicated intervention.
Children who still wet the bed consistently after age seven might try a variety of interventions, including a "potty pager" that is moisture sensitive. The pager beeps when it gets wet, awakening the child. This works to train the child to wake at the same time he feels the urge to go. After a short time, he should begin to wake on his own while he is still dry.
Childhood bedwetting may be stressful, but it important to remember that this is not something a child control. She isn't urinating willfully at night, so punishments will not work and they will only discourage her. Stay positive and patient. Your child will outgrow nighttime bedwetting on her own, or a doctor will be able to help her along. It won't last forever!