Child bedwetting, also referred to as nocturnal enuresis, is defined as involuntary urination during sleep that occurs at least once a week among 4 – 7 year-old children. This phenomenon is twice as common in boys compared to girls.
There are basically two types of bedwetting, each requires a different treatment:
1) Secondary bedwetting – The child had at least 6 dry months and now he has started urinating in sleep again. This type appears in 10% of the children and it requires consulting your doctor to negate any physiological factors.
2) Common bedwetting in which the child has never ceased wetting the bed. This type includes 90% of the cases and it results from a variety of physiological but also emotional factors.
The reasons for child bedwetting
As mentioned above, children urinate while sleeping for a variety of reasons, some of which are physiological while others come from emotional distress as shown below:
1) Hereditary factor – Urologists think that 75% of bedwetting cases are genetic. You will need to check whether you, your partner or one of the grandparents used to wet the bed.
2) Deep slumber – A flaw in the body’s waking mechanism prevents the child from waking up and going to the bathroom, even though the bladder signals the brain that it is full.
3) A lack of ADH (antidiuretic) hormone – The ADH hormone is synthesized by the Pituitary Gland in the brain. It helps the kidneys regulate urinary secretion according to the level of salts in the blood and the amount of fluid in the body. Low levels of this hormone lead to increased production of urine during sleep and, consequently, to child bedwetting.
4) Bladder disorders – A bladder that does not work well or is too small to hold urine inside the body during the night.
5) Emotional factors – The child is under stress as a result of the arrival of a new baby, moving to a new house, family crisis or any significant change in his daily routine.
Helping your child stop wetting the bed
The first thing to do is to consult your doctor to negate any physiological problems that may lead to bedwetting. Once it is clear that the problem is strictly psychological, try to talk to your child giving him emotional support that he is probably lacking. Explain to him that this is not his fault and you will get over it together. The worst thing you can do is being harsh to him. Child bedwetting is caused by stress. The calmer your child gets, the faster he will be able to break the bad habit and have dry nights.
It is highly recommended that you let your child help. Encourage him to replace the sheets, but don’t do it as a means of punishment. Family support is critical and it should be accompanied by positive reinforcements. Every time your child wakes up dry, give him a reward. A sticker is a good idea. Once he obtains a predetermined number of stickers, buy him a nice gift to justify his effort.
In the past, parents were advised to limit the amount of water children drink after supper. We do not do that anymore. Water is essential to children’s health and they should drink as much as they want. Alternatively, what you can do to reduce the recurrence of bedwetting is to wake up your child 2 – 3 hours after he fell asleep and take him to the bathroom.
One final word
Bedwetting may lead to severe emotional and social problems. A child who wets the bed experiences terrible feelings of guilt, shame and low self-esteem. Fearing his problem may be discovered by others, he avoids spending the nights outdoors. That means giving up many social activities children his age enjoy.
If child bedwetting is not treated properly, it may continue to occur at a later age and cause severe behavioral problems. If you feel you can’t help your child have dry nights, you should turn to psychological counseling.