Are you still stripping soaked bed sheets once or even twice in the night? It’s exhausting and you just wish it would stop! Unfortunately as you know, it’s not that easy, and if your child had a magic button that would stop them from wetting the bed, I’m sure they would have pressed that long ago!
Bedwetting is not caused by laziness or bad behaviour and is a far more common problem than you think. According to the Continence Foundation of Australia, roughly 1 in 5 children in Australia wet the bed. All children are different and some outgrow bedwetting earlier than others. But for those children who are a bit older and are at the age of school camps or sleep overs with friends, their self-esteem takes a hit and it can become a real source of worry for the child.
The good news is that there are things you can do to help your child stop wetting their bed, and you can start them right away! Most children will stop wetting in their own time but it really comes down to you as their parent to decide when you are ready to do something about it, rather than waiting for your child to be ready.
Here are my top ten tips you can put into action now:
- Talk to your Child
If your child is 5 years or older, have a chat with him and ask him how he’s feeling. You want to be able to gauge your child’s emotional state in general, so the chat doesn’t have to be about their bed wetting. Sometimes they may bring up an issue or a concern of theirs that you were not previously aware of. He may think there’s a monster hiding behind the toilet at night or he’s afraid of the dark. If he’s afraid of the dark you can leave a hallway light on or a night light beside his bed. And assure him it’s okay to wake you if he needs to go.
If your child is going through a big change in their life such as a new school, house move or a new sibling, they may be feeling anxious or stressed which can sometimes be the cause of their bed wetting. This will eventually go away once they become settled again, so in the meantime offer your sympathy, support and understanding.
- Avoid certain foods that can irritate the bladder
Certain types of food can cause young children to have accidents while they are sleeping as they can sometimes irritate the bladder. Generally try to avoid the most common bladder irritants such as fruit juices, acidic foods and tomato products. Examples of acidic foods include oranges, apples, plums, pineapple, peaches, lemons and cranberries. Dairy products can also irritate children’s bladders and make them sleepier thus preventing them from waking up to a full bladder. Try to avoid milk, cheese or yoghurt in the evenings. Even spicy or heavily seasoned foods, onions, chocolate, sugar and even honey are all known bladder irritants.
Foods that are rich in magnesium can help children’s nervous system become more responsive so they are more aware when their bladder is full. Some examples of magnesium rich foods are bananas, avocados, whole grains, some fatty fish and leafy greens. These are all good sources of magnesium.
- Drink more water!
It is a myth that restricting fluids will make it less likely children wet the bed! As a guide she should be drinking about 6-8 glasses of fluid per day and whenever she’s feeling thirsty. Staying hydrated is extremely important. Good drinking habits throughout the day will encourage her bladder to learn to hold more urine which ultimately will help her during the night. As a general rule aim for roughly 40% of her fluid intake in the morning, 40% in the afternoon and 20% in the evening.
Where possible, encourage her to drink water over fizzy drinks or juices, particularly in the evening and right before bedtime. Fizzy or caffeinated drinks including tea and hot chocolate may irritate the bladder or produce extra urine during the night. So try to keep to simple water in the evening.
- Visit the toilet at regular intervals throughout the day
If your child is drinking regularly throughout the day, naturally your child should be visiting the toilet more often, about every 2-3 hours. If they attend school, timing these toilet trips with recess and lunch breaks will develop the habit of telling their bladder when to go to the toilet. This will help put their brain in charge of their bladder instead of the other way around! Regular visits to the toilet combined with regular drinking will hydrate your child during the day therefore they’ll be less thirsty in the evening.
Then as part of their bedtime routine, make sure they visit the toilet and empty their bladder right before going to bed.
- Wake them up two hours after they go to bed
Research shows that waking your child during the night to go to the toilet won’t cure bed wetting and is not recommended as a long-term strategy. However you may find that waking your child up two hours after they have gone to bed or before you go to bed, may be helpful short-term. Most children wet their bed within a few hours of falling asleep, so allowing them to empty their bladder during this period can help them last longer between wets. However, it is very important to wake your child up completely and do not carry your child to the toilet, which brings us to our next tip…
- DO NOT Lift or carry them to the toilet!
Lifting your child and carrying him to the toilet is a BIG no-no! This is the number one mistake parents make without knowing it. Studies have found that lifting or carrying does not help children stop bedwetting. Instead it takes the responsibility for staying dry away from your child and onto you as their parent. It does nothing to teach him to recognise the signs of a full bladder. He needs to be fully awake, feel some control and able to walk himself to the toilet.
- Invest in a good quality Bedwetting Alarm
Bedwetting alarms have an 80% success rate and are the first point of call if there is no underlying health issue. Bedwetting alarms work on the principle of conditioned learning where the brain is conditioned to be open to messages from the bladder and prevent bed wetting during sleep. When the moisture sensitive part of the alarm is activated by the first drop of urine, the alarm sounds and your child should usually wake up. The brain will react by sending a message to the bladder to stop the flow of urine. Eventually a link between wetting the bed and being woken is established and your child's mind learns to 'beat the alarm', hopefully leading to dry nights. Bedwetting alarms have good long term success and are the fastest way of treating enuresis than any other method.
When I say good quality I don’t mean go out and buy the most expensive you find as some alarms can be in upwards of $300! There are affordable alarms out there that won’t cost you an arm or a leg and will still last the distance. The Parenting Garden Bedwetting Alarm Success Package is a very affordable and trusted Australian product and children love it! The program comes complete with a reliable alarm device, achievement chart, stickers, Letter to your child, Guide to Success booklet and personal support throughout your child’s journey. You can find more about The Parenting Garden Bedwetting Alarm Success Package and where to purchase from here.
- Give them responsibility
Giving your child the opportunity to show some responsibility for their bedwetting encourages them to remain positive and feel competent. Involve your child in the cleaning up process and make sure that they understand it’s not a punishment; it’s just part of what has to be done. They can put their sheets in the laundry hamper, help you re-make their bed or lay out a spare pair of pyjamas.
The idea is to make them aware of their bed wetting without scolding them or making them feel ashamed. Praising and encouraging your child’s efforts and progress is very important and giving them simple tasks to do is a positive step forward in them learning the whole process.
- Visit your GP if you are concerned
If you child is still wetting the bed at age 7, it is a good idea to make an appointment with your GP. This is just to rule out any underlying medical condition which may be causing the bed wetting. Most commonly are constipation or urinary tract infections, which are easily treated. If your child is anxious and upset in addition to bed wetting or suddenly starts wetting after being dry for 6 months or more, then it is best to visit your child’s doctor.
- Use positive reinforcement
One of the most important tips I can give you is this - Never get angry at them or lose your temper when they wet the bed as this will only increase their anxiety and stress.
Remember, it’s not their fault and it’s something they have no control over. Please reassure your child that they are not the only kid that wets their bed, this is so important. Remind them that you are there for them when they wake up drenched in wee and it’s not their fault. Practice patience (yes that will be hard) and understanding and praise them for their progress! Be very positive on the good nights and refrain from being negative on the bad ones, because it’s not their fault.
Remember, this phase will soon pass and there is light at the end of the bedwetting tunnel! I’m proof to that!