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The best strategy for dealing with bedwetting

Bedwetting is the unintended, involuntary voiding of the bladder while your child sleeps, mostly at night. It can occur at any age, but 3-6 years is probably the peak period. Boys are more affected than girls and bedwetting even sometimes continues to 9 or 10 years and then resolves spontaneously. There is no ‘normal’ age for children to stop bedwetting - each child’s development is unique.

Parents often ask at what age they should stop putting nappies on their babies. This depends solely on the readiness of their baby.  My advice is to start to introduce this change to babies gradually. For instance, start by allowing your toddler of 18 months or two years to wear underwear during the day and at night still use nappies or pull-up trainer pants. Little ones themselves will mostly guide you with readiness cues, if you’re observant.

The most common mistake parents make is to scold and put pressure on their little ones when they wet the bed. You may think you need to fix the ‘problem’ immediately but instead, take it step by step – overnight dryness is a milestone which can’t be achieved in a day or two. Instead, simply clean up without a fuss and make practical plans, like using waterproof sheets and nappies for a longer time. If your child resists night nappies, explain that it will help to keep the bed dry, and also wait until they are sleeping deeply and then pull on trainer pants. In the long run, this approach, while honestly evaluating the causes, will yield most success.

Common bedwetting causes

There are three main considerations:

1.       Emotional triggers.Bedwetting might indicate that your child isn’t coping with stress in the home or daycare environment. Looking at what changed at the time the bedwetting started can help you to discover the underlying cause. It can also help to have a family discussion, talk to your child’s teachers or caregivers, or get professional help from a child therapist or counsellor.

2.       Potty training stress.If a child is forced into potty training using harsh measures or before she’s ready, it may delay night dryness.

3.       Genes.If there is a family tendency to bedwetting, your child may have inherited it! These children often sleepwalk and talk too, and they tend to sleep too deeply to register that their bladders are full and need to be emptied. This will inevitably resolve in time and calls for a gentle approach.

Sometimes bladder infections or structural abnormalities of the urinary tract can be the cause of bedwetting too. In most cases of what parents call ‘bedwetting’, it is however more likely to be due to pressurised ‘toilet training’ and undue emotional pressure.

Can you encourage your child not to wet the bed?

There are some approaches for dealing with bedwetting which include:

·         Bedwetting monitors – these detect moisture and sound an alarm, waking the child who usually instinctively pinches off the urine flow and empties the rest of her bladder in the loo. However, some children sleep through the alarm or find the monitor stressful.

·         Star charts – positive reinforcement schemes can work for some children, but may pressure others and make the problem worse.

·         Medication – this may be necessary if your child has a weak bladder sphincter, but it’s better to try homoeopathic remedies and use good quality nappies or trainer pants first, and save medication for a last resort. 

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