Helping Your Child from Bedwetting

When Chris and Angela Radford realized that their son Joshua was going to have a problem with bedwetting they were disappointed, but not surprised. “Angela’s brother wet the bed through his teen years,” Chris said, “and her mother had a problem with it as a child. I don’t think I’ve seen people sleep more soundly than the people in her family.”

Chris and Angela tried many techniques to help their son overcome his nightly wetting. They withheld fluids in the evening, got him up in the night, taught him visualization techniques, and even tried medication.

“Nothing ever worked every night,” Chris said. They didn’t try using a bedwetting alarm as they knew their son would simply sleep right through it. “That didn’t seem to be a viable option,” Chris said. “It would just interrupt our sleep.”

The couple finally resigned themselves to helping their child learn ways to compensate until he reached adolescence—the age when other family members outgrew the disorder

Though Renee Mercer, MSN, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner who specializes in the treatment of children with nocturnal enuresis or bedwetting, and author of the new book, “Seven Steps to Nighttime Dryness,” understands that children who wet the bed are difficult to rouse, she still encourages parents to give alarms a try.

“Typically children do not wake up at first at the sound of the alarm,” she said, “but with time your child’s brain will begin to associate the sound of the alarm with a full bladder and he will wake up on his own. It helps the brain and bladder ‘talk’ to one another.”

According to Mercer, bedwetting, defined as “the nightly release of urine by children older than age six who should have developed nighttime dryness,” affects between five and seven million children in the United States, and is a common problem worldwide.

The National Association for Continence concedes that while nocturnal enuresis is not a serious medical disorder, it can lead to “significant stress within the family.” Throughout history children have been punished, shamed and chastised for the problem.

Today we know that bedwetting is not the child’s fault.

“There is a gene that controls bedwetting and it is an inherited condition,” Mercer said.
Though Mercer knows that bedwetting is not a problem with an easy answer, and that children progress at their own rate, she has seen success in her patients when both parents and children remain committed to a series of “easy to tackle” steps that include a bedwetting alarm.

Though the program takes weeks to months for results to be apparent, it can decrease bedwetting by years.

Here are a few components of Mercer’s program:

Purchase products that make life easier such as disposable pants, waterproof pads, vinyl mattress covers, etc.
Invest in an alarm. Most kids will continue to wet nightly and have no independent response the first few weeks of using the alarm. Eventually, you will see a decrease in the frequency of wetting episodes.
Involve the entire family. Parents must be committed to waking up during the night and helping the child react to nighttime alarms. Siblings should be made aware of the program and warned that teasing will not be tolerated. Extended family members can host “practice sleepovers.”
Establish a bedtime routine. Eat dinner at the same time each night, and avoid sugary drinks and sodas in the evening, which can exacerbate bedwetting. Children should also urinate twice before bed and be involved in pre-bed rituals such as placing extra pajamas by the bed and attaching the alarm.
Refrain from punishment. It is crucial to realize that children do not wet their bed on purpose. Parents must remain encouraging and supportive.
Record your child’s progress from the time you start using an alarm. Keep a log of what he eats and drinks, how tired he is, if he is sick, etc. Also track frequency of episodes, size of wet spot, time the alarm sounds, and number of dry nights.
Create a reward system. Though your child can’t control bedwetting, a reward system can help keep him motivated and willing to persevere.
Stay the course! Remember, your child will experience victories as well as setbacks.

With his parents’ support and special products such as sleeping bag liners, Joshua Radford was able to lead a full life that included scout campouts, sleepovers, and family trips.

“He never once said, ‘I don’t want to go,’ though I’m sure there were times it was awkward,” Chris said.
Chris stresses that families must remember that it is not the child’s fault. “The bottom line is that the body is supposed to stop producing as much urine at night. Clearly our son’s wasn’t.”

For information about products to help manage bedwetting visit:

Editor’s note: Names of individuals in this article were changed to protect their privacy.

Categories: Infant/Pre-School, Little Ones