Bothered by Bedwetting

Dear Dr.Mom

My son, who will be eight in March still wets the bed nightly. The only time he doesn’t have a wet pull-up in the morning is when I get up several times during the night and take him to the bathroom. His doctor says he’ll probably outgrow it. But, it’s bothering him a lot. He feels like he can’t spend the night with friends, even cousins. He really wants to stop, but just can’t. We have put no pressure on him at all(I hope that’s not the problem). I’ve thought about ordering a bed wetting alarm. Any thoughts?

—-Thanks, Carol Anne

You are such a wise mom to not make a big issue of your son’s bedwetting and to not put any pressure on him. As you have so keenly observed, he really cannot control it even though he really wishes he could. Your son’s doctor is right in that he will eventually outgrow his bedwetting, most children do before they reach puberty. However, your son sounds motivated and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t try to achieve nighttime dryness sooner rather than later.

First, let’s look at some facts regarding bedwetting and children:

  • Bedwetting is also known as nocturnal enuresis. This occurs in approximately 15% of children age 5 and older. These are children who have never achieved dryness at night.
  • Children who wet the bed do not have emotional problems. They did not do anything wrong. They are not lazy.
  • Children who bed wet typically produce more urine at night and do not wake up when they need to in order to empty their bladder. They are usually dubbed “deep sleepers” by their parents because they truly are deep sleepers.
  • Bed wetting occurs because a child’s brain and their bladder fail to communicate at night. In time, the brain and bladder do eventually catch up.
  • Children who bed wet usually have smaller bladders than other children their age.
  • Bedwetting is genetic.
  • Children who bedwet should not be made to feel ashamed or guilty. They truly cannot help it.
  • 85% of children who bedwet will eventually outgrow it without intervention.
  • Children older than age 6 who bedwet should still be evaluated by their doctor to ensure no other factors are causing their bedwetting, such as diabetes, chronic constipation, or a chronic UTI.

Now for the question at large, should anything be done about bedwetting? Wait it out or intervene?

  • Treatment should be based on the individual child.
  • In your child’s case, he is both bothered by the bedwetting and sounds motivated to try something. So, I would say for him, it could very well be time to intervene.
  • By far, the most effective treatment out there is the bedwetting alarm. These alarms work by teaching your child’s brain to respond to a full bladder even while sleeping. Unfortunately, this can take some time, typically about 12 weeks and can require night time parental help in the first few weeks. However, if done faithfully, dryness is usually achieved and without relapse.
  • Limiting fluids before bedtime may or may not help. Usually, children who wet the bed will still have nighttime accidents even in light of fluid restriction. It really depends on the child.
  • Another temporary treatment is a medication known as DDAVP. This medicine which is usually sprayed into the child’s nostrils acts like his anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) and will decrease the amount of nighttime urine production. This does not cure bedwetting and is only a temporary fix, often used for sleepovers or camping trips.

The bottom line is that bedwetting is more common than you think and is something that will eventually stop on its own. However, for children bothered by bedwetting and motivated to achieve dryness, alarms are a good way to go. Just remember to empathize with your child and praise his efforts. Help him keep the big picture in mind: he won’t always be wetting his bed, eventually his brain and his bladder will catch up with each other.

Do you have any stories to share on bedwetting?

Every Wednesday I will be answering a question from You! Please submit your parenting or health related question to mommamd4two(at)aol(dot)com. I’m looking forward to hearing from you and featuring your question.

16 Responses to Bothered by Bedwetting
  1. Jessica
    February 9, 2011 | 5:25 am

    Thanks for talking about this, we had this issue for years with my daughter and I finally figured out the best way to deal with it was to just give it time and thank goodness she finally out grew it. I had never heard of that nasal spray before though. Great information as always.

  2. Missy@Wonder, Friend
    February 9, 2011 | 8:45 am

    I do not know how you do it, but you always manage to post about something exactly when it's weighing heavily on my mind!

    I'm going to email you!

  3. Working Mom Journal
    February 9, 2011 | 9:13 am

    I did bedwet longer than my siblings. You are right, it will go on its own. Sometimes I even dreamt of using the bathroom, only to find out I was still on my bed…..go figure. Thanks for your advice…realy helpful

  4. Stacey
    February 9, 2011 | 11:16 am

    Great article. My 11 1/2 year old still struggles with bedwetting. We are currently using an alarm and were having a lot of success until my son washed the alarm. I have found that if I wake him and make him use the bathroom when I go to bed, he is able to stay dry. But the alarm was definitely worth the money. I just need to replace it, so we can continue using it!

  5. Life Without Pink
    February 9, 2011 | 12:12 pm

    I love your posts giving advice to moms. My son is almost 5 and still had to wear a pull up to bed. Most of the time he makes it through the entire night but then there are nights he doesn't. We try and wake him up before we go to bed…Is this normal at this age???

  6. Mrs.Mayhem
    February 9, 2011 | 12:22 pm

    Melissa, I love the encouraging and supportive tone of this post. Bed wetting is a sensitive subject, and I think it's great how your stressed that it isn't the child's fault.

  7. Stefanie
    February 9, 2011 | 12:46 pm

    My sister has been dealing with this for some time now with my nephew and is getting discouraged. I can't wait to share your post with her :) Thank you!

  8. Liz
    February 9, 2011 | 1:13 pm

    No, other than a little girl I used to babysit was a bedwetter, and her mom used an alarm, too.

    Hang in there, mama!

  9. Lula Lola
    February 9, 2011 | 1:21 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I'm checking out the alarm asap! Would you suggest using them with a pull up or without? I dread the mess without would make, but I'm not sure they'd work with the pull up absorbing most of the moisture. Sorry to bombard you with so many question!
    I can't tell you how much I appreciate this post!

  10. KLZ
    February 9, 2011 | 2:04 pm

    I'd never heard of the bedwetting alarm before. It's good to know you've got a great resource for this kind of information over here – and much less scary than WebMD

  11. Laura
    February 9, 2011 | 4:37 pm

    One of our four sons dealt with this, and it was hard. I remember an overnight school trip he took. Several moms with boys in the same situation arranged for them to be in the same room, and that helped. He was, and still is, our deepest sleeper. Makes sense, Dr. Mom.

  12. Cheryl D.
    February 9, 2011 | 9:41 pm

    My daughter, probably because of her autism, took FOREVER to day-train. I had no inclination to tackle night training at all. When she was finally using the potty pretty good during the day (at about 5.5 year old), she expressed interest in getting rid of the pull-up at night. I told her that she had to wake up dry for a week, either by going potty during the night, or just not having to go. After that, she could get rid of the diaper. That night, she woke up during the night to use the potty (a first). She went through the whole week, so she stopped using the pull-ups. I wish day-time training was as easy! LOL!

    They're just ready when they're ready during the night!

  13. TheBabyMammaChronicles
    February 10, 2011 | 9:37 am

    Very informative. Thanks for sharing

  14. heather of the eo
    February 10, 2011 | 4:40 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. My going on six year old still has a wet pull-up every night. His three year old brother has been dry for months. We didn't do anything different with them, it was just different because they're different. How many times can I say different?
    I appreciate this advice/response because so many people don't understand this issue so they judge it harshly.
    Thank you again. Great post!

  15. Lady Jennie
    February 14, 2011 | 11:14 am

    I am so grateful for this advice. I'm so grateful for your blog! (even the sick mommy posts). :-)

    My 5 year old son wets his bed and it really helps for me to know he can't control it. We try not to make him feel bad, but there is an expectation that he can control it. We'll work on changing that.

  16. Cathy
    August 10, 2012 | 11:18 am

    Greetings from Bedwetting Mom!

    Your advice is right on the money. I come from a large family of chronic bedwetters. And I still (at 30-something) wet the bed.

    My Mom (a wonderfully practical, calm and compassionate woman) stressed to us, over and over, that bedwetting itself is not a big deal. “How many of life’s problems can be solved by tossing something in the trash or the washer?”, she would say. For my siblings, whose enuresis was primary, she stressed that they would outgrow it. And, of course, they did.

    My bedwetting was different. I stopped wetting the bed before I started school. But it started again in high school. Mom was just as practical, calm and compassionate with me, but secondary enuresis is serious. She got me to the doctor right away. In my case, it has turned out to be a symptom of a neurological condition that’s incurable, but seems to have no other symptoms.

    At any rate, Mom was right. Bedwetting is just not a big deal. It didn’t keep me from sleepovers, or camp, or travel sports, or college, or grad school, or a great husband, or a successful career in a demanding profession, or three wonderful kids.