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When your child wets the bed, nights can be filled with anxiety and upset. You’re not looking forward to washing yet another set of sheets, and your child hates waking in the morning feeling embarrassed and ashamed.

Bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis, doesn’t have to ruin your and your child’s evenings. There are routines you and your child can try to help control the problem. At the same time, taking steps to address bedwetting in a productive, positive manner can improve your relationship with your child and improve your child’s overall state of mind.

Bedwetting: It’s More Common Than You Think

One of the important things to remember about bedwetting is that it’s a very common problem, affecting millions of children.

That may not be much comfort when you’re dipping that teddy bear in vinegar for the umpteenth time to get rid of the urine smell, but almost all children with nocturnal enuresis stop wetting the bed before they hit puberty. Without treatment, 15% of children who wet the bed outgrow it in each passing year. Children who are helped with behavioral therapy, bedwetting alarms, and medications may outgrow bedwetting sooner.

Behavior therapy to stop children’s bedwetting includes developing and practicing routines that reduce the likelihood that your child will wet the bed. Some suggestions that might work for you and your child include:

Bedwetting Busting Routine No. 1: Stick to a Regular Bedtime

Following a regular routine can benefit anyone with incontinence issues.

“Predictability is good, routines are good,” says Gregory Fritz, MD, professor and director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychology at Brown Medical School.

By helping your child stick to a regular schedule, you can help train them to empty their bladder at the appropriate times throughout the day and night.

Of course, you don’t need to be militant about timing -- it’s fine to allow your child to stay up a little later than usual on the weekends or during vacations from school.

Bedwetting Busting Routine No. 2: Limit Liquids in the Evening

There’s no need to restrict water and other fluids excessively, but tapering your child’s consumption of fluids during and after dinner is worth trying. Remember that bedwetting is not caused simply by having a full bladder overnight, but by failing to wake up to urinate when the bladder needs to be emptied. So, be careful not to restrict water and other fluids to the point that your child is uncomfortably thirsty.

It may also be helpful to cut back on drinks containing caffeine, like cola or hot chocolate, in the evening hours. Caffeine can increase the rate at which urine is produced.

Another way to cut back on fluids at night is to encourage your child to drink more fluids during the day. Save the treats such as cola, sweet teas, juice, or hot cocoa for after school. Encourage the whole family to drink just a small glass of water with dinner.