Raising Healthy Kids

Bedwetting Basics: How to Help Your Child

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

“I wet my bed.” These distressing words, whether delivered in the dark of night or at daybreak are upsetting to parents and children alike. Nighttime bedwetting, what doctors call “nocturnal enuresis,” is very common. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an estimated 5 million to 7 million children and teens suffer bedwetting episodes.

“It is very normal and many children continue to have bedwetting after daytime potty training until age 6 or 7,” says Danelle Stabel, D.O., a pediatrician with Henry Ford Health System.

The good news is most children just naturally outgrow it. But that’s little comfort when it feels like the constant sheet-washing has no end in sight.

Why Do Some Kids Wet the Bed?

There are many causes of bedwetting. Maybe the child is simply a deep sleeper who does not awaken to the signal of a full bladder. Other common causes include:

  • Small bladder size
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI) or other underlying medical problem
  • Stress, fear or insecurity

Dr. Stabel notes that the condition tends to run in families. “There are often family members with similar histories from their own childhood,” she says.

Recommended Tips and Tools for Overcoming Bedwetting

Whatever the cause, the AAP advises offering support, not punishment.

The first line of defense is making sure the bladder is not full at bedtime, of course. “I recommend stopping fluids after dinner except for a small amount of water for teeth brushing, and using the bathroom right before bedtime,” says Dr. Stabel.

Most young children will wet the bed at some point during toilet training. Some children may start wetting at night again after they stay dry at night for days or even weeks. If this happens, the AAP recommends returning to training pants at night.

If the problem continues over time, though, there are a couple of tools that may help, such as bedwetting alarms. These can be helpful for children who are deep sleepers and have some bladder control. Dr. Stabel explains, “Bed wetting alarms are an effective way of training children to wake up before they wet the bed. There is a sensor that goes in the child’s underwear and senses moisture, setting off the alarm.”

Additionally, Dr. Stabel says there are medications for older children who continue to have normal bedwetting. “They are only temporary fixes until the child outgrows the condition, but it can help them socially in the meantime.”

When to Seek Help

If you are concerned about your child’s bedwetting or your child expresses concern, make an appointment with your child’s doctor.

“See the doctor if the child is over age 7, if they were previously dry through the night for at least 6 months, or if they have other symptoms of a problem, such as pain when urinating, increased frequency of needing to urinate, orhaving a weak stream,” Dr. Stabel says.

To make an appointment with a Henry Ford Health System pediatrician or provider, call 1-800-HENRYFORD or visit henryford.com.

For more tips on raising healthy kids and teens, visit our ParentWell section and subscribe to receive weekly emails of our latest posts.

Dr. Danelle Stabel is a pediatrician who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Centers in Sterling Heights and Troy.