Is your child still wetting the bed? Our Clinical Psychologist talks about what is normal and how YOU can help!
Bedwetting can be highly frustrating for both parents and children alike! In families where bedwetting is a problem, parents may well ask themselves whether their children will EVER be dry at night! It sometimes helps to put things into perspective and remind yourself that very few adults (except for the much older ones maybe) have to wear a nappy at night! As worrying as the problem may be, a little humour can always help to get one through the trying times!
That is not to say that we should ignore the problem. Children who wet their beds at night can become anxious, which makes the problem worse. Some may even avoid sleep overs with friends because they are embarrassed, and this may affect self-esteem and social relationships. Many parents are not sure how to handle the problem and may unwittingly do things that make the situation worse.
Our Ask Us Team receives many emails from parents wanting to know how they can help their children. We thought it would be a good idea to share some of the advice! Read on as we look at what bedwetting actually is, the reasons for bedwetting and what parents can do to help.
What is bedwetting?
We all know that bedwetting means that children wet their beds at night! However, bedwetting also has a medical term. Nocturnal Enuresis is the term used by doctors to refer to regular bedwetting past the age when a child can reasonably be expected to be dry for most of the time. (Diurnal Enuresis is when the child also wets during the day) It won’t be called Enuresis if your child wets the bed occasionally (all children have 'accidents') – only if it happens at least two or three times a week for over a period of three months.
There are two types of Enuresis or bedwetting - primary and secondary. Primary bedwetting is when children have been wetting the bed continuously since they were little (in other words they have hardly ever been dry at night). Secondary bedwetting is when they start wetting the bed again after being dry at night for 6 months or longer (regression).
Remember that developmental age is also very important when deciding whether your child has a problem or not. Some children just take a little longer than others and that is quite normal. According to statistics, about 7% of boys and 3% of girls aged 5 still wet their beds at night. By the age of 10, this drops to 3% of boys and 2% of girls. You can expect your child to start having occasional dry nights from the age of around three and for those dry nights to become more and more common as your child matures – until they are dry at night for most of the time (oh happy days!).
Now that you have the down low of what bedwetting is, let’s have a look at what can cause bedwetting in children and what you can do to help them make it through the night without any accidents!
Causes of bedwetting
Bedwetting past the age when a child is expected has a number of causes which vary from child to child.
The causes of primary bedwetting (your child has never really been dry at night) are:
- The child produces large amounts of urine just before bedtime and during the night
- The child doesn’t wake up when his/her bladder is full (deep sleeper)
- The child doesn’t use the toilet during the daytime when they need to and rather “keeps it in” (bad bathroom habits!)
- The child’s bladder is not mature enough yet to hold the urine for the entire night
- Genetics and gender also play a role. Enuresis tends to run in families and boys take longer to be dry at night than girls do.
The causes of secondary bedwetting (regression) are:
- Emotional causes are often the cause of secondary enuresis (when a child starts wetting again after a period of dryness) This could be due to family stress, anxiety, problems at school, abuse or other trauma
- Diabetes – high levels of sugar in the blood cause the body to produce more urine to get rid of it
- Organ, nerve or muscle abnormalities surrounding the bladder
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
- Neurological problems
How to help
So, the BIG question is: How can I help my little one to overcome bedwetting during the night? Here are some tips:
- Think about the situation calmly and ask yourself whether you are expecting too much too soon. If your child is under three years old, it may be just a question of maturing.
- If there are any issues that may be causing stress or anxiety, rather focus on these than on the bedwetting (which is just a symptom)
- Visit your doctor to rule out any physical causes (such as a urinary tract infection, diabetes or any structural problem)
- Make sure that your child is not constipated as this is one of the most common problems that is associated with bedwetting. Increasing your child’s fibre and fluid intake will get those bowels back into action!
- Try and limit your child’s fluid intake in the evenings and during the night. The less that they drink, the less likely they will be to wet those sheets! However, do not deprive your child of liquid altogether – rather make moderation the key!
- Get your little one to use the bathroom as frequently as possible, especially in the evening and before they go to bed. An empty bladder at night means less fluids in the bladder!
- It’s useful to have an alarm set for the time that your child normally wets the bed (especially for the deep sleepers!) Whether you carry them to the bathroom or let them go themselves, it will eventually train their brain to wake up on their own and avoid any unwanted accidents.
- Be patient with your kid. Wetting the bed at night is as embarrassing for them as it is tiring for you! Speak to them with kind words and reassure them that things will get better. The more love that you give, the more likely they are to overcome the bedwetting. Remember that one of the major causes for bedwetting is unstable emotions so make sure that you are supportive and understanding of what they are going through! Punishing a child for wetting the bed will only make things worse!
- Start up an incentives chart where you reward your child with stars for not wetting the bed at night. This can be fun as well as work on the unconscious mind of the child to not wet the bed as they will start looking forward to that yummy treat or that new toy at the end of each week!
- In the case of depressed or anxious children, some doctors may prescribe a prescription anti-depressant. In some cases, this may be necessary, However, we urge you to consider all other alternatives before you resort to prescription psychiatric medication for your child.
How natural remedies can help
Depending on the problem, natural remedies can be very helpful in safely helping your child to stay dry at night. Here are our best recommendations:
- DryNight is a homeopathic remedy for children and helps to strengthen immature bladders, balance the urinary tract system and soothe anxiety around bedwetting
- MindSoothe Jr is an effective natural herbal mood tonic for children. It may be used when children struggle with anxiety, stress or depression – especially during difficult emotional times.
- K-OK KiddieCalmer is a homeopathic formula that encourages confidence and a positive outlook in shy, nervous children
- Kali Phos is a tissue salt that is well known for gently settling the nervous system during times of stress.
- UTI-Clear is a herbal remedy that is very effective in resolving bladder infections naturally.
- Triple Complex Diabetonic is a tissue salt combination that can assist in balancing blood sugar and insulin levels for children with diabetes.
With a loving and stable home environment plus treating any underlying medical conditions (as mentioned above) and the support of natural medicine, bedwetting can become a thing of the past. Say goodbye to smelly mattresses and wet sheets in the morning and help your child be more confident, naturally!