Bedwetting Usually Stops Without Alarms, Medicine or Parents' Help

Filed under: Preschoolers, Big Kids, Potty Training


Don't fear bedtime. Credit: Getty Images

Although experts recommend discussing bedwetting with your pediatrician, parents don't usually need to worry. Sooner or later, a child's brain and bladder will develop further and communicate at night better.

Until then, says Dr. Howard Bennett, a clinical professor of pediatrics at George Washington University Medical Center, there's not much anyone can -- or should -- do to speed up the process.

Bedwetting is common among young children, says Bennett, the author of "Waking Up Dry." Thirty percent of 4 year olds and 20 percent of 5 year olds are bedwetters. Each year, 15 percent of children who are older than 5 stop wetting the bed without parental or medical intervention.

Doctors typically don't intervene until a child is 6 or older and is motivated to stay dry during the night, he says. Until then, Bennett and Dr. Mark Wolraich discourage drawing too much attention to the problem. If a child becomes embarrassed about it, emphasize that many children wet the bed and that it's often a genetic condition, Bennett says. If a parent experienced bed wetting, he could share his experiences with the child.

Above all, children should never be punished for wetting the bed.

"If it's not creating a disturbance, it's helpful to wait it out," Wolraich, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, says.

While many doctors suggest limiting fluids in the evening, Bennett avoids this approach because it's not very effective and children may view it as a punishment. Instead, he recommends encouraging kids to drink more during the day, which creates more urine. By having to hold it during the day, children will practice controlling their bladders. Parents can wake their child for bathroom breaks during the night if it helps, Bennett says.

As children age, doctors may prescribe alarms to wake them when they start to urinate while sleeping. The alarm trains the brain to wake the child up when the body has to urinate.

Finally, as a last resort, some doctors prescribe desmopressin, a medicine that makes children create less urine. However, many kids relapse when they stop taking the drug, which is why the medication is unpopular except for vacations, sleepovers or other special occasions.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.