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Helping Bedwetters: Tips From the Trenches

Parents and doctors offer their best tips for helping your bedwetting child -- and you -- cope.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD

Bedwetters can take a toll on everyone's patience, not to mention the toll taken on a good night's sleep. If you're the parent of a bedwetting child and are feeling frustrated, here are practical tips on what to do and how to cope.

Ask the Doctor About Bedwetting

If your pediatrician doesn't ask you about your bedwetting child, ask your pediatrician. Some doctors think parents will bring it up, says Howard Bennett, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., practicing pediatrician, and author of Waking Up Dry. Some parents don't think it's a medical problem, or their child doesn't want them to bring it up. As a result, he says, "parents and doctors are not always talking about this."

But if you do, your pediatrician will tell you that bedwetting is very common and declines with age. While 20% of 5-year-olds are bedwetters, 10% of 6-year-olds are and just 3% of 12-year-olds, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Bedwetting tends to run in families. If both parents wet the bed as kids, their child has an 80% chance of wetting the bed.

Your pediatrician may also tell you that you have a range of strategies to resolve bedwetting:  From letting nature take its course and waiting for your child to outgrow bedwetting, to the use of a bedwetting product such as protective underwear or bedwetting alarms, to medicine or other treatments.

Understand the Causes of Bedwetting

Parents can get frustrated with their bedwetting child. Some think their child is being lazy or is wetting the bed for spite. Yet neither is true, says Bennett. Some cases are due to medical problems, trauma, or stress. But most of the time it's just delayed maturation. As the child matures, the message sent from the brain to the bladder to pee or not to pee becomes more reliable.

"The overwhelming majority of people, once they understand why the kids are doing it -- that it's physiologic -- not the parent's fault, not the child's fault, they can relax," Bennett says.

When you understand the causes, it's a lot easier to be patient and understanding, agrees Jane, 45, of Bethesda, Md., whose youngest of three children, Billy, now 10, wet the bed.

She and her husband educated themselves about the condition. "The more we read and learned about this, it struck us as a physical inability to stay dry," she says. "So for us it seems unbelievably important that our child not feel shame or humiliation with it."

Her motto: "It could take a while, but there are definitely ways to cure it." They chose to use a urinary bed alarm, which includes a moisture-detecting sensor that sets off the alarm so the child gets up. After about six months of consistent use, Billy stayed dry every night. When he had a relapse a year later, they went back to the alarm again for a week and he was dry again.

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