The Bedwetting Blues
Don't Get Mad, Get Help
Understanding the Cause continued...
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 'anti-diuretic 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
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 first step is to work with the child's doctor to rule out
any illness and to develop a safe and effective treatment plan. The two main
approaches are behavioral modification and medications that inhibit urine
production. "Almost all kids can be dry within about 12 weeks, with
treatment," says Greene.
Sensors, Alarms, and Buzzers
One of the simplest methods to cut down on wettings is to limit
a child's fluid intake -- especially milk and caffeinated or carbonated drinks
-- in the last hour or so before bedtime. Then make sure the child goes to the
bathroom before bed. While this will limit the amount of urine in the body and
reduce the odds of wetting the bed, it still doesn't shut off the urination
switch during sleep.
The most common method to address that issue involves placing a
moisture-sensitive sensor on the bed or under the child's pajamas. The system
sets off a loud alarm in the presence of fluid. Most bed-wetters urinate while
deeply asleep and sleep right through the alarm, sometimes even switching it
off without waking up. Because of this, parents also need to get up, wake the
child, and take him or her to the bathroom.
After several weeks of this, the child's brain should learn to
avoid the unpleasant circumstance of being awakened in the middle of the night
by not urinating during sleep. This method has a nearly 95% success rate, says
Greene, but requires commitment on the part of both parents and children who
will need to wake up frequently until the child can stay dry.
A variation of this approach (that doesn't require a sensor) is
to set an alarm clock for a few hours after bedtime (and subsequent times
during the night) so the child can wake up, go to the bathroom, and then go
back to sleep. Again, parents also need to wake up to make sure the child
doesn't just shut off the alarm but actually gets up. Over a few weeks, the
child will stay dryer longer and the amount of time between alarms can be
increased. "Eventually, the body gets to a point where it is conditioned to
hold its urine all night long," says Brownell.