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Bed-Wetting Myths Debunked

What to do and not to do if your child wets the bed.

Don't Blame the Victim

"It makes matters worse when parents yell and scream at their children for what they do in their deep sleep," Shubin says.

And some parents still believe that bed-wetting is the child's fault. In fact, bed-wetters may even be punished by their parents for wetting the bed, and that's the worst possible response.

Stanford's Greene agrees: "Many parents feel like it's their fault or their kids fault or that their kid is lazy and children often feel very guilty and ashamed and what this leads to is punishment and that only makes bed-wetting worse.

"For kids that are under 5 or 6, it's normal, they are not doing something wrong and it won't last forever," Greene says. "Kids need reassurance and encouragement, not punishment."

Consider that though 20% of 5-year-old children wet the bed, only about 5% of 10-year-olds and 1% of 15-year-olds -- like Terry -- wet the bed. And betwetting that continues into adulthood occurs rarely, according to the NKF.

While babies produce urine around the clock, toddlers start to go to the bathroom on a daytime and nighttime schedule once their bodies start to produce a substance called 'antidiuretic hormone' (ADH) that inhibits urine production. In addition, as kids mature they become more sensitive to the feeling (produced by stretching of the bladder walls) that they need to urinate.

Children who continue to wet the bed beyond the age of 6 may not be producing enough ADH hormone at appropriate times or may not yet be attuned to their bodies' signals, or both, says Greene.

Parents should start looking into formal treatment sometime between the ages of 6 and 7, according to the National Enuresis Society or sooner if the child seems troubled by the bed-wetting.

"Older kid are not as likely to outgrow it and these are the kids that deserve specific help -- whether an alarm, medication, or a combination," he says. "With help, most kids will be dry within 12 weeks," he says.

I will never sleep through the night again.

If parents like Terry's find themselves setting their own alarm to wake their children during the night to urinate, they should purchase a bed-wetting alarm. "They really do work," says Shubin. Enuresis alarms sound in response to wetness and can be purchased at drugstores for as little as $60. They have a cure rate of 75%, according to a study published in the journal Pediatric Psychology. And when combined with medication such as desmopressin (DDAVP), which acts on the kidneys to reduce the flow of urine, the urine alarms are even more effective, the study says.

Just don't give up too soon, Greene says. "Many parents say, 'I tried it for a couple of weeks and it didn't work,' but enuresis alarms often take up to 12 weeks to make a difference." Be patient.

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