Simple Steps Towards Dry Nights
Most parents whose child wets the bed assume that there’s little to be done about the problem other than wait it out. According to Renee Mercer, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner and author of the new book Seven Steps to Nighttime Dryness: A Practical Guide for Parents of Children with Bedwetting, Second Edition (bedwettinghandbook.com), there are several simple steps you and your child can take to achieve dry nights sooner than you ever thought possible!
If your child stays dry during the day but wets at night, the situation is likely to be confusing and frustrating for everyone involved. You’re wondering if you’re doing something wrong, your child is embarrassed, and you’re all missing the sleep you’d like to be getting instead of cleaning up middle-of-the-night messes. In addition to the immediate consequences, there are other ramifications: Your child may not be comfortable attending sleepovers, sleep-away camps, and some vacations, and his or her self-esteem might end up suffering. Still, you figure, what can you do other than wait it out?
“Many parents think that bedwetting is something that can’t be controlled and that their child will just have to grow out of it—or they blame themselves or their child for the recurring problem,” says Mercer.” And because many parents don’t talk to their children’s pediatrician about bedwetting, they don’t realize that all of those assumptions are false.”
Mercer, who has over twenty-five years of experience in pediatrics and specializes in enuresis, or bedwetting, is adamant that bedwetting is not a sign of poor parenting or of a lazy child since it is not done consciously. Actually, nearly one in twenty children under the age of ten wet their beds, so you’re not alone in living with this often-frustrating condition.
To put bedwetting into perspective, according to a 2007 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6.6% of children from ages four to ten are diagnosed with ADHD. Compare that to 13% of six-year-olds who wet the bed, which decreases to 8% of eight-year-olds, and 5 percent of ten-year-olds.
“The good news is, you can start treating bedwetting and potentially decrease how long it lasts by years,” promises Mercer. “Through a series of easy-to-tackle steps and with the help of a bedwetting alarm, you can work with your child to achieve dry nights in as little as ten weeks. So if you start now, you’ll both be able to rest easy much earlier than you ever expected.”
Make your job easier. If you aren’t already doing so, decrease your workload by using disposable pants, waterproof pads, vinyl mattress covers, etc.
“In addition to buying products that make life just a little bit easier, you can also get into some helpful habits,” Mercer says. “For example, you may occasionally wake your child and take her to the bathroom before you go to bed—especially if her pull-ups tend to leak, or if you have houseguests who may be disturbed by midnight cleanups. This might not ensure dryness, but it will be one less urination in bed! Also, place a clean pair of pajamas and underwear by your child’s bed to make middle-of-the-night cleanups easier.”
Get the whole family on board. This isn’t just your child’s challenge to overcome—he’ll need your continued help, support, and encouragement. Keep in mind that you’ll be waking up during the night as your child learns to establish a nighttime routine, as well as helping him get used to any alarms he might use and monitoring his food and liquid intakes before bed.
“Committing as a family to getting over bedwetting is crucial,” Mercer confirms. “In addition to making sure that you—the child’s parent or guardian—are on board, it’s also a good idea to make sure that siblings know what’s going on (and not to discuss it with their friends or to tease), and to enlist grandparents, or perhaps an aunt and uncle, to help with ‘practice’ sleepovers.”
Establish a bedtime routine. Some children are more likely to experience a pattern of dryness when they have a regular nightly routine. Try to start working toward dryness at a time when no disruptive events such as holidays, vacations, moves, the birth of a sibling, etc. are on the horizon.
“I recommend eating dinner at the same time each night and drinking only water afterwards,” instructs Mercer. “Don’t restrict fluids entirely; just stay away from caffeine and/or sugary drinks like juice, soft drinks, or sweet tea! Children should also urinate twice before bedtime and be involved in any pre-bed rituals such as placing extra pajamas beside the bed and attaching the bedwetting alarm.”
Refrain from punishment. It is crucial to realize that kids do not wet their beds voluntarily. Bedwetting can be caused by a multitude of factors, including genetics, small functional bladder capacity, food sensitivities, high nighttime urine production, and even constipation—but a wet spot in the morning is not a result of your child being too “lazy” to get out of bed. Most kids feel frustrated, embarrassed, and upset when they wake up to wet sheets. Punishing your child for not having a dry night will only compound these feelings and hurt his self-esteem. Being encouraging and supportive is always the route to go!”
Invest in a bedwetting alarm! Unlike conventional alarm clocks, bedwetting alarms don’t ring at a pre-set time. A moisture sensor triggers the alarm, which wakes you and your child. At this point, you can make sure that your child gets up and goes to the bathroom. After a few weeks of associating the alarm with the need to urinate, your child’s brain will begin to understand the feeling of a full bladder, and she’ll wake up on her own.
“A bedwetting alarm is crucial if you’re serious about stopping bedwetting,” Mercer asserts. “It functions as the middleman your child has hitherto been lacking because it helps her brain and bladder ‘talk’ to each other at night. There are many different types and styles of alarms, ranging in price from around $60 to $200. Your goal is to find one that your child likes and accepts, and that works reliably for her. Oh, and most families find that the money they save on disposable pants and laundry detergent quickly pays for the alarm.”
Record your child’s progress. During your efforts to achieve nighttime dryness, track your child’s progress from the time you start to use a bedwetting alarm. As accurately as you can, record the frequency of his bedwetting episodes, the size of the wet spot, the time the alarm sounds, and the number of dry nights in a row he achieves. Also, keep a log of what he eats and drinks, how tired he is, and if he’s sick—these things can help you identify possible bedwetting triggers.
Create a reward system. A little incentive never hurt anyone, and when it comes to bedwetting, having a reward system in place can keep your child motivated and help her to persevere when she becomes discouraged. Set up an age-appropriate system that acknowledges both cooperation with your evening and nighttime routine (something your child can control) and dry nights (something she can’t).
Do a sleep-away trial run. Once your child has achieved dryness, consider doing a “trial run sleepover” with grandparents or another trusted relative before leaping right into overnight birthday parties and camps. In many cases, this allows children to get used to sleeping in an unfamiliar place without worrying they might slip up and have a wet night.”
“During this trial run, pack disposable pants and a waterproof sleeping bag liner so that the outside of the bag and the floor will remain dry if she has a wet night,” advises Mercer. Also, if you are considering using a short-term medication like desmopressin (it decreases the amount of urine produced at night), a trial-run sleepover is a good time to see how it will affect your child.”
Stay the course! “Ultimately, each child and each family is unique . . . but there is hope that wetting can be ‘put to bed’ once and for all,” promises Mercer. “Be patient, remain informed, and continue to encourage your child. And sooner than you ever thought possible, your child’s bedwetting can be solved!”
Courtesy of Nemours