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How to stop bed-wetting for good

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Got a bed wetter? Sure, it can be frustrating for you and embarrassing for your kid, but it’s actually a common problem with approximately 5 to 7 million children in the U.S who wet the bed at night.

Find out what causes bed-wetting and what you can do to help your child finally stay dry.   

Bed-wetting is a big kid problem too

Although most 2- and 3-year-old kids are potty trained during the day, many still wet the bed at night. In fact, about 12 percent do even until age 6. After that point, however, experts agree intervention is needed.

One thing’s for sure: Bed-wetting isn’t caused by a psychological problem.  A significant life change such as a divorce, a death, or a move can trigger it, according to Dr. Howard Bennett, author of Max Archer, Kid Detective: The Case of the Wet Bed.

What causes bed-wetting?

There are several reasons why a child might be a bed-wetter. For starters, it could be genetic since “about three out of four children who are wet at night have a first degree relative that had the same problem,” said Bennett, who blogs at howardjbennett.com.

Bed-wetting might also be caused by a lack of communication between the bladder and the brain. When your kid is toilet trained, he or she learns to inhibit the contractions and hold the urine back. Yet even if your child is able to do it during the day, he or she may still wet at night because “whatever learning goes on between the part of your brain that is responsible for having your bladder empty or holding your urine in, is still immature,” Bennett said.

Another culprit might be that the bladder simply doesn’t have enough room. And those children often have problems holding their urine during the day as well, according to Dr. Hubert Swana, a pediatric urologist who practices at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Fl.

If your child is a bed-wetter, here’s what you can do:

See the pediatrician

If your child suddenly starts to wet the bed and never did before, he or she might have a urinary tract infection or a more rare condition like diabetes or a neurological problem. Sleep apnea could be the culprit too. Be sure to talk to your child’s pediatrician who can identify a cause, rule out other health problems, and provide solutions.

Talk about it

Studies show that kids who wet the bed have low self-esteem, probably because they feel that it’s something they should be able to control. It can help to talk about how common it is and if a family member had the same problem, share that too.  “Children often feel bad about it, and it helps to know that somebody else in the same family had the same problem,” Bennett said.

Don’t punish

Kids don’t wet the bed on purpose, so discipline won’t stop it.

Pay attention to poop

Constipation can put pressure on the bladder, making it difficult to hold in urine and causing an urge to go. If your kid doesn’t have soft, easy and regular bowel movements, talk to the pediatrician.  

Get an alarm

The bed-wetting alarm is the best solution for bed-wetting. It’s about 75 percent effective, when used properly and when both parents and child are motivated. Swana says a process should be followed: Once your child wets the bed, you must wake him or her up and then instruct your child to change the sheets, take a shower and return to bed. When children realize they have to do this each time “eventually they learn to wake up by themselves,” he said.

Try medication

Desmopressin acetate is the most common medication to control bed-wetting and it’s effective in about 50 to 75 percent of children. Ask your pediatrician if it’s right for your child.

Mark the calendar

Keeping track of both wet and dry nights can help motivate your child to end his or her bed-wetting.

Drink and pee

Encourage your child to drink more fluids throughout the day and urinate as soon as there is an urge to go. “If you don’t pay attention to your bladder in the daytime, it’s hard to pay attention to it at night,” Bennett said.

Cut the caffeine

Drinking after dinner is okay, but avoid soda and sports energy drinks, because caffeine can trigger bed-wetting.

Try lifting

Here’s how it works: Before you go to bed, either pick your child up out of bed or wake him or her up to use the bathroom. This will serve as a reminder for what it feels like when your child’s bladder is full so he or she can pay attention to it at bedtime.  “It does help them stay dry until they either outgrow the problem, or if it doesn’t work, they’re more motivated to do something like the alarm,” Bennett said.

Julie Revelant is a freelance writer and copywriter specializing in parenting, health, healthcare, nutrition, food and women's issues. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.