At age 7, Billy was getting invitations for sleepovers from friends. He wanted to go, but there was a problem: how to stop bedwetting.
Bedwetting had been an ongoing issue for Billy, says his mother, Jane, (not their real names) of Bethesda, Md. Her two older children hadn't had the problem, but Billy couldn't seem to stay dry. "He wanted to start being dry so he could go to sleepovers," she says.
Billy has lots of company -- 20% of 5-year-olds and 10% of 6-year-olds are bedwetters, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Most grow out of it and usually there's nothing serious going on. But statistics and research weren't making the sleepovers easier for Billy.
So Jane broached the topic with Billy's pediatrician and heard some good news. Bedwetting solutions abound, from simple "reward" systems to using urinary bed alarms -- the strategy that ended up working for Billy.
Here, what parents hoping to help their child stop bedwetting need to know about solutions.
Addressing Bedwetting Misconceptions
Before pediatricians suggest a specific bedwetting solution or treatment, most seek to educate parents.
Bedwetting "often runs in families," says Howard J. Bennett, MD, a pediatrician in Washington, D.C., author of WakingUp Dry, and Billy's pediatrician. Usually, the child becomes dry at about the same age as the parent did. And no matter what you may think, bedwetting is not due to laziness or spite, two common misconceptions, pediatricians say.
Getting your pediatrician's input, instead of trying remedies on your own, may speed things along, according to a study published in the Journal of Urology. Researchers found that when children followed their pediatrician's advice about bedwetting solutions they were dry earlier than a group of children whose parents picked the treatment to stop bedwetting on their own.
Bedwetting: Ruling Out Medical Problems
Next, physicians are careful to take a medical history and rule out medical causes, such as constipation or infection. Most bedwetting is what doctors call primary enuresis, meaning the child has always wet the bed. Doctors think it’s usually caused by a delay in the maturation of the mechanisms controlling the bladder.
But if bedwetting occurs after the child has been dry for a year or so, it’s termed secondary enuresis, and doctors must look more closely at the cause. Secondary enuresis could occur with psychological stress or trauma, and the child may need counseling or other treatment.
If no medical or psychological causes for bedwetting can be found, the family can move on to ways to help the child stop bedwetting.
How to Stop Bedwetting: Urinary Bed Alarms
Urinary bed alarms are generally regarded as the most effective bedwetting treatment for the long term.
Alarms are available in several different styles, but all include a moisture sensor and an alarm. One model, for instance, involves a moisture sensor worn on the underwear or pajamas, attached to an alarm box worn on the shirt. The sensor detects moisture almost immediately and sounds the alarm, alerting the child to get up and go to the bathroom.