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How to Stop Bedwetting

By Kristie Farnham ; Updated April 18, 2017
Always have your child empty his bladder before he goes to bed.

Bedwetting, also known as nocturnal enuresis or nighttime incontinence, is a common source of frustration for many children and parents. More than 5 million children living in the United States are unable to stay dry while they sleep, reports the National Library of Medicine. A variety of possible causes for bedwetting exist, including an overactive or immature bladder and nerves that are not yet equipped to induce wakefulness when the bladder is full. Because reasons for bedwetting vary from child to child, there is no specific formula for curing the condition. A combination of strategies can help increase the likelihood that your child will wake up with dry sheets.

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Determine if your child is developmentally ready. Since bedwetting has a lot to do with bladder size and control, children who are younger than 5 may not be physically ready to benefit from interventions. It is also a good idea to consider your child’s mental readiness. HealthyChildren.org relays the advice of Dr. Howard Bennett, clinical professor of pediatrics at George Washington University, to wait until your child expresses dissatisfaction with waking up wet, no longer wants to wear nighttime training pants or worries about having sleepovers in fear that he will wet himself.

Limit your child’s intake of liquids before bed. According to HealthyChildren.org, Dr. Bennett says limiting fluids after dinner helps some children but only recommends this method if your child feels that it helps him stay dry. With approval from your child’s doctor, MayoClinic.com suggests allowing your child to drink approximately 8 ounces of fluid in the evening, between 5 p.m. and bedtime -- unless he has participated in some form of physical activity, in which case you shouldn't restrict fluids.

Encourage your child use the bathroom before going to bed. MayoClinic.com recommends “double voiding,” which means having your child use the bathroom right before he begins his bedtime routine as well as right before he tries to goes to sleep. In addition, introduce your child to the “triple voiding” technique suggested by AskDrSears.com, which requires your child to “grunt, grunt, grunt” three times when he is done urinating to help empty all of the pee out of his bladder.

Try a moisture alarm. This over-the-counter device buzzes or vibrates as soon as a small amount of urine comes into contact with a moisture-sensing pad inside your child's underwear. The alarm is intended to wake your child, which ideally disrupts urination and alerts your child to get up and use the bathroom. If your child sleeps through the alarm, you or another family member can help by waking him. According to MayoClinic.com, this method often results in cessation of bedwetting within 12 weeks, and AskDrSears.com maintains that moisture alarms are effective 70 to 80 percent of the time when used properly.

Be supportive and understanding. Bedwetting often causes embarrassment and low self-esteem in children, so it is important to remain calm when an accident occurs and to remind your child that it is not his fault. To increase your child’s sense of control and reduce any stress he may be feeling, teach him how to clean himself up after an accident so he feels a sense of control over something and encourage him to talk about how he feels. In addition, never punish your child for wetting the bed, and be sure to provide praise when he wakes up dry.

Tip

MayoClinic.com suggests that bedwetting is not a cause for medical concern unless your child regresses after at least six months of dry nights, is older than 6 or 7 or experiences symptoms such as snoring, increased thirst, pain while urinating or pink urine. If your child’s bedwetting is accompanied by any of these circumstances, consult a health care professional.

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About the Author

Kristie Farnham has been writing professionally since 2012. Much of her work focuses on parenting and educating preschool and school-aged children. She holds a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a Master of Arts in education from Carroll University. Farnham is also certified to teach in alternative learning environments.

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