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How to Solve Bedwetting Problems

Below is the text of a post from the blog of Dr. Molly O Shea, a Michigan-based pediatrician. The original article can be read HERE.

Dr. Molly O'Shea: Ask the Pediatrician
Bedwetting is common; here's how to manage it

I get a lot of questions about bedwetting. I often suspect parents are going to bring it up when I walk into the room for a well visit for a really healthy 8-year-old boy and find both parents in the room.

In an attempt to solve the problem, parents have limited fluids after dinner, given their child a pep talk about getting up during the night if they feel the need to pee, and some have even set their own alarm or wakened their child when they go to bed to pee during the night. A few have tried dangling a big reward (like a new bike) if the child can stay dry, and others have punished their child for these wet nights. These strategies have something in common: They don't work.

What parents don't understand is that this is a very common problem, and their child is not to blame. Most kids complete potty training and stay dry throughout the day by age 3 1/2 to 4 years, but nighttime dryness can take much longer to achieve. Did you know that 9 percent of boys and 6 percent of girls still have consistent bedwetting at age 7? These percentages decrease only slightly by age 10, and even at age 18, about 0.5 percent of people wet the bed at least twice a month.

Sometimes the cause of bedwetting in school-aged kids is a sleep disorder. If your child snores a lot during sleep, be sure to mention this to your doctor. Very rarely is bedwetting caused by a neurologic problem and associated with constipation and clumsiness.

So what is a parent to do? First, it is appropriate to bring your child to the doctor to confirm there is no physical cause for the problem. This is especially true if your child never had bedwetting issues and has suddenly started wetting the bed.

Because an immaturity of the neurologic system is at the root of the problem, trying to train your child to stay dry at night before he or she is ready is futile. I liken it to trying to teach a 6-month-old to walk. How then do you know when your child is ready? If you have a family history of bedwetting and know the age at which the relative achieved dryness, you can start trying about 6 months or at most a year ahead of that age. If he has been wet every night of the week for years, and suddenly you are getting a couple of dry nights each week, it is a good time to try. Other signs of readiness are a desire to be out of Pull-Ups at night.

The best method for night training is to use a bedwetting alarm. These alarms awaken the child as soon as there is any wetness on the sensor. This process can take several months but is over 80 percent effective.

What about medications? DDAVP works by essentially turning off the kidneys so less urine is made. The medication works for about half the kids and can be tried if your child is going to camp or a sleepover.

Eventually, your child will achieve consistent night dryness either through normal maturation or the help of an alarm.

Dr. Molly O'Shea is a Troy-based pediatrician. Read Dr. Molly's blog at

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