What causes bedwetting?
No one knows for sure – or whether it’s the same in every case – but because bedwetting tends to run in the family (a child who wets the bed often has a parent or close relative who also did in childhood), most experts believe it is genetic. It may be that bedwetters’ nervous systems are slower to mature – and so their brains aren’t getting the message during the night when they need to pee. Or it may be that they are deeper sleepers than other kids and simply sleep through their bodies’ signals. Or they may have bladders with smaller capacities or may make more urine at night than kids who have an easier time staying dry and are simply physically unable to hold it.
Should I be worried that my child is still wetting the bed?
Most of the time, bedwetting is simply developmental and nothing to worry about. Given time, the vast majority of children outgrow it on their own. This is especially true if your child has consistently been wetting the bed. But if your child has been dry and suddenly starts wetting the bed, there may be an underlying medical issue (a urinary tract infection, constipation) and you should consult your child’s doctor. In fact, parents with children who wet the bed should always feel free to discuss the matter with their child’s pediatrician. He or she will not only be able to rule out any medical issues, but also may be a great source of advice in coping and conquering bedwetting. Neither you nor your child should feel embarrassed or ashamed.
What can I do for my child as he or she contends with bedwetting?
The best thing to do is educate, support, reassure and encourage your child. Let him know that bedwetting is common – one out of five children deal with it – not his fault (it’s genetic) and nothing to be ashamed of (if you or a family member also struggled with bedwetting as a child, let him know that too). Never punish your child and try not to express anger or frustration. Remember: Your child is not wetting the bed because he’s too lazy or careless to make it to the bathroom. It’s biological and beyond your child’s control. (You can certainly cheer dry nights.) Listen to your child’s concerns and reassure him that most children grow out of it. Offer comfort and love.
At what age does bedwetting become a cause for concern?
Most children grow out of bedwetting on their own. But if your child is upset about wetting the bed, consult your pediatrician about possible treatment options.
Besides offering support, what else can I do for my child?
You can let your child sleep in pull-ups, so you don’t have to change all those sheets. You can try waking your child to use the bathroom two or three hours after he falls asleep. You can try a urinary alarm, like a moisture sensor that can be placed in a child’s underwear that sounds an alarm to wake him when it senses urine. You can limit liquids (though not excessively) at night, cut down on salty snacks, eliminate caffeine and make sure your child uses the bathroom (maybe even twice) right before bedtime. It’s a good idea to make sure your child gets adequate sleep on a consistent basis. And you can talk to your doctor about medications, though these tend to work more as short-term solutions handy for sleepovers rather than as ultimate cures.