I wet the bed again


by Lisa Marie Conklin

Young Girl Making Her Bed

Allowing children who are old enough to help clean up after they wet the bed can reduce shame and embarrassment. ©Adobe Stock

I know changing wet sheets and pajamas in the middle of the night is no fun for our kids or parents, especially when traveling and staying with friends or family. So when my sister shared her concerns about her family’s upcoming visit – that her kids might ruin a mattress or a sofa cushion – I did what I could to ease her anxiety.

I simply put down some waterproof padding and provided some extra sheets for middle-of-the-night changes – and didn’t make any special mention of my preparations to the children.

Happily, my nieces and nephew have outgrown their bedwetting and now enjoy full nights of uninterrupted sleep. But for the years it continued, it was a source of embarrassment, for them and their parents.

Bedwetting of course is a common problem.
“Fifteen percent of all children wet the bed regularly at age 5,” says Sean Corbett M.D., a pediatric urologist at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville. “This amount decreases by about 15 percent each year as children get older.”

It’s twice as common in boys than girls, and if at least one of his or her parents did so as a child, a child has a 25 percent chance of bedwetting. If both parents were bedwetters, the percentage goes way up – to 65 percent.

Two Kinds of Bedwetters
“Primary nocturnal enuresis” is a fancy name for consistent nighttime bedwetting after toilet training. “Secondary nocturnal enuresis” begins six months or more after toilet training, maybe after a stressful event or illness, says Corbett.

Allowing children who are old enough to help clean up after they have an accident also can reduce shame and embarrassment.

Shame-Free Explanation
If a child feels embarrassed when they’ve wet the bed, “stay calm and reassure children that wetting the bed is a normal part of growing up,” says Laura Shaffer, chief psychologist also at the University of Virginia Health System. “You might also share with them stories of other family members who wet the bed when they were younger to help normalize it.”

Let Kids Be Part of the Solution
Allowing children who are old enough to help clean up after they have an accident also can reduce shame and embarrassment.

“Having children help with solutions like changing the sheets, wiping themselves off, putting on clean PJs, and putting sheets and PJs in the laundry can help them feel better by having a hand in taking care of the situation,” says Shaffer.

Just be sure to let your child know these tasks are just part of the process and not a form of punishment.

Managing Bed Wetting
Good daytime toileting habits can sometimes help reduce bedwetting. Make sure your child doesn’t “hold it in,” and urinates on a regular basis throughout the day, including right before bedtime.

Corbett also recommends limiting fluid intake for several hours before bedtime. Avoid bladder irritants such as citrus and caffeine, too, especially later in the day.

You’ll also want to be aware of bowel movements, as constipation is a significant factor for about one-third of children who wet the bed. Younger children may not even realize they are constipated, so it will require some due diligence on your part.

“It is important to note even children who defecate regularly can still be constipated, particularly if stools are difficult to push out, cause pain, or are very large in size,” notes Corbett.

Medications Can Help
Although children outgrow bedwetting, some families may choose to use medications to reduce the accidents. Desmopressin is a medication commonly used to decrease urine production at night. Sometimes, Ditropan is given to increase bladder capacity, if Desmopressin alone doesn’t work.

“It’s important to note that medications typically just ‘cover up’ the problem but can be very useful when children and families are very bothered by bedwetting,” says Corbett.

Alarming Options
An enuresis alarm can be quite effective. It clips in the underwear and sounds when the child is wet. That may not wake the child, but each time the alarm goes off and a parent takes the child to the bathroom, it helps by setting a pattern.

“Over time, this retrains the brain that it should wake up in the night prior to peeing,” says Corbett. “The alarm typically works the best when the child is very motivated for the bedwetting to resolve.”

A Travel Tip
And finally, when traveling, keep extra wipes, PJs, and sheets in a plastic container near the bed for easy nighttime access.

Lisa Conklin writes frequently for Valley Living from Catonsville, Maryland.


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