How to help a child who’s wetting the bed

Bedwetting – also called enuresis – is a common condition. But while it’s nobody’s fault, it can have a serious impact on your child’s self-esteem and emotional wellbeing. And according to the World Bedwetting Day campaign, it can also affect a child’s daytime functioning, both at school and in social situations.

According to the NHS, one in 12 children in the UK wets the bed regularly at the age of four and a half (regularly means at least twice a week). The problem gets less common as a child gets older, with one in 40 children wetting the bed regularly at seven and a half, and one in 65 at nine and a half.

World Bedwetting Day is held every year in May to raise awareness of bedwetting as a condition that can and should be treated. The campaign aims to encourage affected families to discuss bedwetting with their GPs to get the help they need.

Available treatments include using a bedwetting alarm. This includes a sensor that you attach to your child’s underwear that triggers the alarm if it starts to get wet. While these aren’t prescribed on the NHS, your GP may be able to borrow one for you from your local clinical commissioning group (CCG), or you can buy one privately. They may be helpful because they help your child to wake up when they need to go to the toilet.

Medication is also available when bedwetting alarms aren’t suitable or if they don’t help. Your GP can prescribe a medicine that helps to reduce the amount of urine your child’s kidneys produce, which they take just before going to bed, or treatments that relax the muscles of the bladder.

Self-help tips

Meanwhile there are lots of things you can do yourself to help your child stop wetting the bed. Here are some suggestions you can try:

Check for daytime problems Does your child run to the toilet a lot during the day? Do they go to the toilet more than their friends? If so, mention it to their GP as they may have a problem such as constipation or a urinary tract infection that may be causing night-time problems too.

Monitor their fluid intake If your child drinks too much or not enough fluids, it can have an effect on whether or not they wet the bed. The amount your child needs to drink depends on how active they are and what they eat. But according to the NHS, here are the general recommendations for children’s daily fluid intake:

  • Boys and girls from age 4 – 8 1,000 – 1,400ml (1.7 – 2.4 pints)
  • Girls aged 9 – 13 1,200 – 2,100ml (2.1 – 3.7 pints)
  • Boys aged 9 – 13 1,400 – 2,300ml (2.4 – 4.4 pints)
  • Girls aged 14 – 18 1,400 – 2,500ml (2.4 – 4.4 pints)
  • Boys aged 14 – 18 2,100 – 3,200 (3.7 – 5.6 pints)

Give them the right type of fluids According to the children’s continence charity ERIC, you should avoid giving your child fizzy drinks and caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and colas. You should also try to make sure they have most of their drinks during the day, but it’s also alright to give them a small cup no later than an hour before bedtime if they’re thirsty.

Get into a routine According to the NHS, most healthy children urinate between four and seven times a day. Try to get them into a regular routine for going to the toilet in the daytime, and make sure they always go to the loo before getting into bed. Encourage them to empty their bladder fully each time, especially before going to sleep.

Ensure easy access Your child should be able to get to the toilet quickly and easily during the night. So leave the hall light on or maybe even consider leaving a potty next to their bed.

Motivate with rewards The NHS claims reward schemes can be helpful in managing bedwetting. But it’s important not to use the withdrawal of rewards when they wet the bed, as it can cause stress and anxiety (which can lead to more bedwetting). Instead of rewarding them for staying dry, give rewards for other things such as remembering to use the toilet before going to bed or whenever they drink the right amount of fluids during the day.

Time it right According to ERIC, some teenagers wet the bed at around the same time each night. Setting an alarm 15 minutes before this time to wake them up so they can use the toilet can help them to stay dry. If they don’t wet the bed at the same time, setting an alarm around midnight and again an hour or two before they usually wake up may be useful.

Your local Careway pharmacist can also help if your child has a problem with bedwetting. They can recommend waterproof covers for your child’s mattress and duvet, as well as pull-ups (your pharmacist can also advise you about going without nappies or pull-ups on a trial basis to see how your child gets on).

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