“It is very common,” said Dr. Jeffrey M. Donohoe, a Georgia Health Sciences Children’s Medical Center pediatric urologist. “Children’s bladders are smaller, and they tend to be hard sleepers. So, essentially, their brains and bladders have not coordinated how to wake and void.”
Other risk factors include not getting enough sleep and drinking too many fluids in the evening. Occasionally, emotional factors – moving to a new home, starting school or changing family dynamics – may contribute to a child’s bedwetting.
“Most children outgrow bedwetting over time,” said Donohoe. “The majority of kids are able to control their bladder at night by age 5 to 7. However, boys may take a little longer than girls, so I usually encourage parents to give it another year or two with boys, and the problem will likely correct itself.”
For younger children, reassurance and rewards work best. As children age, they need to learn to motivate themselves and accept responsibility to solve the problem, he said.
To help prevent bedwetting, Donohoe recommends that parents:
- Ensure that the child is getting enough sleep.
- Limit the child’s fluid intake at night.
- Identify and minimize psychological stressors.
- Be patient and reassuring with the child.
- Keep a diary and be aware of the child’s daytime and nighttime voiding habits.
Donohoe advises that children:
- Use the bathroom immediately before going to bed.
- Become familiar with their bowel and bladder habits, being honest with their parents about them.
- Become self-motivated, assuming responsibility to help correct the problem.
Children older than age 7 who are motivated to stop wetting the bed may benefit from a bedwetting alarm, Donohoe said. When the alarm goes off, the parent should make sure the child is getting out of bed and going to the bathroom. The alarm system helps train the child to wake and void when necessary.
If the alarm system fails after a serious attempt, medication may be a necessary supplement to improve bladder capacity and/or help the kidneys recirculate more urine.
Children with daytime problems, such as a slow urinary stream, urinary retention, a urinary tract infection or constipation, should see a doctor.
Georgia Health Sciences University.