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What to do About Bedwetting?

Advice from a pediatrician mom.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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Dear Doctor,

For the past few months, my 8-year-old son has been having problems with bedwetting. At least two or three times a week, he wakes up wet. It’s upsetting and embarrassing for him, and frustrating for me! I have him go to the bathroom right before he goes to bed, but it doesn’t seem to work. What else can I do?


"Tired of Wet Sheets"

Dear Tired of Wet Sheets:

First, rest assured that you (and he) are not alone. Bedwetting is very common. Studies show that roughly 20 percent of kids still wet their beds by age 5, 10 percent by age 7, and 5 percent by age 10. The problem is twice as common in boys as it is in girls and if one or both parents had a history of bedwetting, then the child is more likely to, as well.

The good news is that the majority of children will outgrow the problem on their own, without any intervention at all. But still, it’s frustrating for both kids and parents, and so when a parent comes to me for advice, there are a bunch of tips that I recommend that really do work.

One important thing to do is limit how much liquid your child drinks toward the end of the day. Plan for your child to have two-thirds of their drinks during the first half of the day. He can have a little bit to drink at dinner, but after (especially in that hour or so before bedtime) he shouldn’t drink at all—not even little sips of water.

Throughout the day, encourage your son to use the bathroom regularly. Every two hours or so, make sure he urinates so he gets used to emptying his bladder more often.

You’re doing the right thing by having him urinate before bedtime, but it may be that he’s not fully emptying his bladder. I usually tell parents to have their sons sit on the toilet, because when boys are standing, they tend to rush and only urinate a little bit. By making him sit down, it kind of forces him to empty all the urine that’s in his bladder.

Another trick is called “double voiding.” That means you have your child urinate twice: first when he’s starting to get ready for bed, as part of his normal routine, and then again once he’s settled and ready to go to sleep, right before lights out.

If those measures aren’t effective, another option is a bedwetting alarm, which is a pad you put on the mattress that is attached to an alarm. When the child starts to urinate, the alarm sounds and that wakes the child up. This method is pretty effective, but it usually takes a few months to see a consistent response.

Finally and most importantly, reassure your son that many kids have this problem and that every child will stop eventually. As a mom who likes to keep everything nice and clean, I understand how aggravating it can be if your child is wetting the bed. But it’s really important not to blame the child for what’s going on, or shame them in any way. If there are siblings in the home, make sure they don’t tease your child who wets the bed. Everything should be done in a positive, matter of fact way.

“It’s really important not to blame the child for what’s going on, or shame them in any way. ”
Dr. Minu George, pediatrician
Dr. Minu George, pediatrician | Photo credit: Donna Alberico/The Well

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Published February 5th, 2019

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