Bedwetting: Handling the Frustration & Embarrassment
Nighttime bed wetting, also known as nocturnal enuresis, is a common occurrence that can last as long 5-6 years and affects about 5 million children in the US.
In my daughter’s case, she wet the bed on-and-off until she was close to six years old. Being the control freak that I am, I worried and fretted that there was something wrong with her and immediately looked to my own failure to successfully potty-train her. It wasn’t until I let go of the embarrassment and stigma that I had about bed-wetting, went to her pediatrician, and opened up to him about her nighttime mishaps that I discovered just how common it was.
I learned that my daughter wasn’t wetting the bed because she was lazy, willful, or trying to get attention – she was having these night-time accidents because her little body had yet to mature enough to master bladder control. I also learned that nighttime bladder control was not something that I could teach her, like I could with daytime toilet training. I would just have to be patient while her body matured and let the process happen naturally.
Because we had some family issues going on, I was worried that stress was the culprit. But as it turns out, there isn’t really any research supporting the argument that stress is responsible for, or even contributes to the onset of bedwetting. But that’s not to say that stress wasn’t the reason behind our child suddenly wetting the bed after having successfully mastered sleeping through the night. Factors like divorce or separation, bereavement, moving, and other things have the potential to trigger anxiety in our little ones, and that can affect them emotionally and physically.
The most important fact to know about nocturnal enuresis is that it isn’t a behavioral issue – it’s genetic. And while most children are dry at night, by the time they reach preschool, a lot of children, like my own, may still be wetting the bed well into primary school. I was surprised to learn that around one in every ten children don’t master night-time bladder control by the time they’re ten years old.
If your child is still having night time accidents after he or she is (daytime) toilet trained, take a deep breath and just learn the facts – I promise it will help! It’s counterproductive to blame your child, or worse, to shame them by saying things like “Only babies do that.” We also shouldn’t blame ourselves for failing as the toilet training brigade because it’s nature, not nurture, in this case. The only thing our stress will do is make our children feel more ashamed and embarrassed than they already do… and that doesn’t help anyone.
The Main Reasons Why Our Kids Wet the Bed:
- Their bodies and minds have not learned to communicate, so either the bladder isn’t signaling to the brain that it is full, or the brain is not mature enough to tell the bladder to hold on to the pee. This relationship between the brain and the bladder develops differently for every child, and it can’t be forced or hurried.
- Some children are just heavier sleepers than others, thus they have a more difficult time waking up when their bladder signals that it needs to be emptied.
- Bladders comes in different sizes – our child may have one that can’t hold a large amount of urine.
- They could also be constipated, over-tired, taking in too many fluids before bedtime, eating sugar too late, or are experiencing hormone level fluctuations that cause more urine to build up at night.
What Can You Do?
- Make sure kids have around five to six drinks spread out throughout the day (water is best). Limit their salt, sugar, and caffeine intake, especially before bed.
- If they're constipated, add more fiber and water to their diet.
- Stick to a regular nighttime routine where your little one takes a trip to the bathroom, even if they say that they don’t have to go.
- Once your little one is waking up with more control, begin encouraging them to try sleeping without pull-ups. Never pressure or shame them into it. It has to be their choice. Prepare the bed in case of an accident, just to be safe but let them know that you believe they can do it. If they’re not successful, don’t make a big deal about it.
- Explain to them in biological terms why they wet the bed at night and let them know that a lot of kids do it, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
- Put a night light in their bedroom and bathroom so they are not afraid to get up and go to the bathroom if they wake up.
- Since it is genetic, tell them about another family member who may also have dealt with it.
- If they do wet the bed, make sure that they rinse off in the morning before they go to school.
With a little education and a lot of support from you, your little one can successfully overcome this challenge just in time to tackle the next one.
Are you dealing with a bedwetter? What are some things that help alleviate the problem? Share your tips with us in the comments below.