"Another wet night? That's how my mom would greet me in the morning", says Janine Pearson describing how her mother reacted to Janine's childhood bedwetting. She didn't scold me, really, but her words were teeming with disapproval. I'm sure it made my problem worse, she says. I was always on edge at bedtime. Janine's father had been a bedwetter too, and although he never comforted her, he has come forward to give support to her own child, Brandon, who is also suffering.
She explains to Brandon that it's not his fault, and that it's quite common. She reminds him that she doesn't do it any more either. I think sharing this with him has brought us closer, but I'd still love to give him more help. Janine hears the same questions from her son, as she had when she was young, "Why me? When will I stop? and Can you fix me?" And it breaks her heart.
Why my child?
Bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis, is a common problem for young children. Approximately 12 to 15 percent of children five years of age wet regularly (about twice a week), by seven years about 10 percent, and by the age of 10 about five percent still wet at night. So your child is not alone. More than likely, some of his friends wet the bed, too. That fact alone can offer some comfort to a worried child.
"The most important thing to remember is that children do not want to wet the bed. They aren't being manipulative or lazy. It's a sleep issue", says Dr. Mort Goldbach, a pediatrician at the Enuresis Clinic, at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. Most children who wet at night are very heavy sleepers.
Doctors agree that there are a few reasons for bedwetting:
- If one parent wet the bed , theres a 40 percent chance a child will inherit the problem.
- If both parents wet the bed, there's an 80 percent chance a child will inherit the problem.
- A shortage of vasopressin, a hormone that is responsible for limiting the production of urine during sleep, may cause the child to wet at night.
- The signal that wakes us up to tell us to go doesn't wake bedwetters they sleep right through the call of nature.
Other factors, such as ADHD or problem constipation, predispose a child to bedwetting. It's important to have your child assessed by a doctor to ensure no other medical reason is the cause of the problem. Regardless of the reason, the most valuable information to give your child is that it is not his (or her) fault and give reassurance that it will stop.
When will it stop?
Dr. Goldbach explains that "it's a maturity issue, Some kids get dry earlier; some kids get dry later. Unless the wetting is interfering with a child's life, and the child has been to a doctor to ensure he's healthy, it might be best just to wait it out." Normally, most doctors advise waiting to see a doctor until the child is seven years old before seeking medical advice, but, if you're concerned, mention it to your family doctor.
"Often parents seek help when they themselves are upset, or there's peer pressure", says Goldbach. After affirming that the child is healthy, doctors will assure parents that by 11 years of age about 72 percent of children stop and by 15 years, 99 percent stop wetting.
How to cope?
Bedwetting can become problematic for an older child facing overnight functions with friends. When the child sees it as interfering in his life, and it's becoming an emotional problem, there are several coping techniques.
"Discipline gives the wrong message, but you can just leave out sheets and tell your child, If you happen to wet the bed, no problem, just change the sheets." Goldbach doesn't recommend this with younger children. But allowing a child over seven to take ownership of the bedwetting helps them to cope.
Doctors also point to the option of wearing an absorbent bedwetting pant as a great way to take the stress off the child and the parents. "I tell the children to take off the pant every now and then to give themselves a chance to be dry, just to see what happens."
Some physicians suggest limiting the amount of fluids your child has before bedtime, but be careful you are not restricting liquids to the point that your child becomes dehydrated. Avoid caffeinated drinks, such as pop or chocolate. Drinks with carbonation, diet drinks, citrus juices and tomato juice should also be avoided before bed. Water, apple juice, cranberry juice or milk are your best choices for the end of the day. Setting a regular bedside alarm to wake the child doesn't work well, but wet alarms are the method most specialists prefer to help a child become conditioned to waking when they start to wet. Bedwetting alarms have moisture sensors that when placed in underwear will sound at the first drops of urine. Some alarms can include a sound, vibration, and a light, giving your child the needed cue to get to the bathroom.
If your child is afraid to get up and walk to the bathroom in the night, make a special trip to buy him his own flashlight for his room. Let him decorate it, if he would like that, and make sure its in easy reach of his bed. Night lights in the hallway can help guide him in the dark. Let him choose some fun ones.
Prepare your child with books about bedwetting that he can relate to. Although most children love a trip to the bookstore, purchasing a storybook about bedwetting might be embarrassing, so ordering online might be a wise way to provide a choice in books for him. Some children would rather have the book left in their rooms with little fanfare. You know your child best, but the thing to remember is your support will be the key to helping your child get through this time in his life.
"The crazy thing is that I believe bedwetting actually made me a better person", says Janine. "I truly know I am more empathetic towards other people who might have difficulties. I'm not as judgmental as I might be, and I know Brandon shows compassion for other kids, too."
When you go to the doctor, be prepared to answer standard questions such as:
How often does your child wet the bed?
Does your child have daytime accidents?
How often does the child void?
How often does the child have bowel movements?
Does he ever get constipated?
Are the bowel movements especially hard or soft?
Is it difficult to wake up your child?
Is there a family history of bedwetting?
Was your child ever dry?
Is anything happening in the home (a move, a divorce, a new sibling)? PC