Training a child to be dry at night could be thought of as “more an art rather than a science” because there are so many factors to juggle! Children and their caregivers are all individuals with their own personalities and perceptions.
Not all children develop at exactly the same rate. There are different styles of parenting – and brothers and sisters are involved too.
Being sensitive to all these factors will help you negotiate what can sometimes be a tricky area of childhood development.
Scan the situation for any barriers to improvement.
- Is there a fear of the dark or monsters lurking in the toilet, maybe a fear of falling in? Question the child sensitively. Aim to make the toilet “a happy place” (ie. the child is comfortable to be there and not a lonely place, plus the toilet is child-friendly to sit on).
- Is the toilet easily visible and accessible at night – perhaps a night-light?
- Are you yelling or appearing angry? Yelling won’t solve anything: if the child’s own bladder can’t “yell” loudly enough to wake them, your anger at discovering another wet bed won’t solve anything either – and it may cause bigger (emotional) problems.
- Are your child’s drinking and toileting habits working well? Children need to drink plenty of water daily for best bladder function. Plenty of fluids (water is best) will encourage the bladder to learn to hold more urine. If the child is going to the toilet a lot during the day, maybe their bladder is not trained to hold larger volumes of urine. It’s advisable to get some professional advice here – a simple bladder training program could help.
- It’s normal for children to have occasional wetting accidents during the day until they’re school age. A small number of school-age children wet during the day and night – a visit to the doctor is strongly recommended.
Relapsing: the child who was dry but is bed-wetting again
By the age of 10, about 8 out of 100 children will relapse. Usually these children are no different from those who have always wet the bed, but some specialists believe they’re more likely to have a medical or psychological cause (perhaps a urine infection or a big emotional upset).
The children who are in the relapse group tend to be those who were an older than average age when they first controlled their bladder at night, ie. they’d already shown some sign of delay in developing the right “wiring”. Check with the doctor so the child can be checked for infection or other physical or emotional problems.
The child who’s never been dry
It’s extremely rare to find anything wrong. The main cause is that the child has difficulty waking from sleep in response to that full bladder feeling: the messaging “wiring” between bladder and brain simply isn’t fully developed yet.
Is their bed flooded, or a disposable product drenched – and more than once a night perhaps? In some of these children the kidneys produce a lot of night-time urine. This could be due to not having a natural rise in the level of the anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) which makes the kidneys slow down urine production overnight.
– This article is written with information from the National Continence Helpline