What Can we do to Prevent Bedwetting?

Q: My 6-year-old son still wets the bed at night. What can we do?

A: Bed-wetting is normal and very com­mon. It affects about 40 percent of children at age 3, 20 percent of 5-year-olds, 10 percent of 6-year-olds, and 3 percent of 12-year-olds.

Several factors lead to bedwetting: an increased production of urine during the night, a small bladder capacity, poor arousal from sleep, and constipation. It takes time for the neurodevelopmental connection between the brain and the bladder to mature. Every year, 15 percent of children older than 5 who wet the bed become dry with no intervention.

In the meantime, there are several steps you and your son can take to help him stay dry at night:

  • Reduce beverages about two hours before bedtime and make sure your son uses the bathroom before getting into bed.
  • Wake your son up to use the bathroom before you go to bed.
  • Consider a bed-wetting alarm. If you have tried the above steps and it doesn’t help, look into one of these devices, which set off an alarm to wake your son if it senses urine.
  • See your child’s doctor if the problem persists and nothing seems to help. There is a possibility your son may have an infection or something physical causing him to wet the bed.

It’s important to be sensitive to your son’s feelings – do not punish or shame children for being wet at night. Remember that bedwetting is no one’s fault and lots of kids his age have the same problem. Also let him know if there is anyone else in the family who had bedwetting. About 45 percent of children wet the bed if one parent wet the bed as a child, and 75 percent wet the bed if both parents were bedwetters.

Congratulate him for waking up at night to urinate, having smaller wet spots or having a dry night.

Time, patience, and taking steps like those above should help your son stay dry at night.

For more information, talk to your doctor or visit www.healthychildren.org, the official American Academy of Pediatrics web site. 

Today’s expert is Kenneth Branstetter, MD, pediatrician, ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics in Neenah.