How to Help Your Child Stop Wetting the Bed
When should you be concerned that your child is still wetting the bed? And what help is available? Our experts offer practical tips.
You’re frustrated. You’re exhausted. Your child is already in school – and they’re still wetting the bed at night. You’ve tried limiting liquids after dinner. You’ve woken your child up in the middle of the night and asked them to go the bathroom. Still, no luck.
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You aren’t alone. Parents often worry about bed-wetting in their children, a problem defined as “involuntary urination in children 5 years of age or older.” But in reality, about 15% of children in the U.S. are still wetting the bed at age 5.
Dr. Kwon says bed-wetting isn’t a concern until your child is 7 years old.
When your child is older than age 7 and still wetting the bed, you might want to talk with your child’s primary care physician or a pediatric nephrologist or urologist. The underlying issue is usually a bladder that’s not yet matured.
Also, keep in mind that about 15% of children age 5 or older actually stop wetting the bed each year.
“When I meet a child who is wetting the bed, it’s twice as likely to be a boy. He usually presents with no other medical problems,” Dr. Kwon says.
Dr. Kwon says the parents are usually upset because it’s an ongoing issue – and everybody needs to get some sleep. There are chances too that there’s a family history of bed-wetting as well. To combat bed-wetting, doctors suggest:
Although there are medications (including a synthetic form of a hormone) that can address bed-wetting, Dr. Rhee doesn’t prescribe them unless a child was already put on the medication by another provider.
“There are side effects,” she says. “Plus it’s a temporary fix, a Band-Aid remedy, when what we want is an overall solution.”
Families often wonder if a child is bed-wetting on purpose. Parents will ask, “‘Don’t they want to get better?’” Dr. Kwon often tells parents that it’s typically not their fault nor is it their child’s fault. “I tell them not to get too stressed, because this issue often resolves on its own,” he says.
Dr. Rhee adds it’s also important to talk to your child to see if there is motivation to change. If they are motivated to change, a bed-wetting alarm can be the solution.
You can clip the alarm to the child’s underwear or place it on the pad on the bed. Once the device detects any moisture, the alarm goes off. But if the child isn’t independently motivated, the alarm may have no benefit for the child and may just further frustrate the family.
“If they’re still sneaking drinks late at night and eating what they shouldn’t, then it doesn’t make sense to invest in an expensive bed-wetting alarm. So, I directly ask a child if bed-wetting bothers them, to find out if it’s the parents’ frustration that brought the child to the appointment or their own,” Dr. Rhee says.
As the child gets older and has opportunities to go to slumber parties and weekend trips, bed-wetting can affect their confidence and social life. This will most likely motivate the child to solve the problem and avoid feeling embarrassed.
Occasionally, bed-wetting is a sign of something more significant, including:
If a child also has daytime incontinence, age is something to consider. Generally children will outgrow the issue. “In preschool, about 20% of children have daytime incontinence. But, only 5% of teenagers have these symptoms,” Dr. Kwon says.