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Bedwetters Anonymous

You know what’s great? That my 8 year old is not totally stressed out that she is still an occasional bed wetter. It happens to her about once every six months, and the way I’ve explained it to her is that she gets into such a deep sleep that she doesn’t even realize that it is happening until it does. She’ll tell me by saying, “Mom, I was in a really deep sleep last night….” And I know what’s coming.

Benign bed wetting is fairly common and can make kids quite anxious and avoid sleepovers and other situations where this might happen. When talking to patients & parents about this topic I think it’s important to get out of the way IMMEDIATELY actual physical causes of bedwetting—like urinary tract infections. Medical causes do happen, as do psychological ones—like a significant life change for a child— a new sibling, parent divorce, move, or other transition. And these are all important. But once these causes have been considered, then you’re back to my 8 year old, a random, occasional bedwetter.

Some kids wet the bed very regularly and there are some strategies that can be really helpful to aid in decreasing the number of sheets washed per week, such as:
• Limiting fluids by mouth after 6pm
• Waking them up for a bathroom trip once in the middle of the night
• Even trying out one of those bedwetting alarms can help make families’ lives much easier when they are dealing with this.

Older kids do NOT want to sleep in a pull up so I really recommending trial and error of some of the other strategies to help kids manage. One pediatrician colleague told me “kids won’t go to college as bedwetters” and I’ve repeated this over and over to try and reassure people far and wide that it’s simply a matter of time before it’ll all be in the rear view mirror.

Occasional bed wetting does seem to run in families, and most kids totally outgrow it by the time they are teenagers. For the “rare” or “occasional” crowd, I generally suggest NOT MAKING A BIG DEAL ABOUT IT. At all. I can guarantee that kids are never happy that it happens so there’s really no need to pile on here. The less anxiety, the better.

If you’re reading this and have experience in this area, I hope you’ll comment and share what you know; what has worked and what hasn’t. If you’re new to this gig I really suggest trying the “deep sleep” explanation: it shifts any and all blame from the child and puts it into some perspective for them. I’ve known kids who wet their beds up until 12 or 13 years old. They’re in college now, and you know what? They’re fine. And sleeping in a dry bed each night.

Christina Johns, MD, MEd is the Senior Medical Advisor at PM Pediatrics. As a parent, pediatrician and pediatric emergency physician with a master’s in education, she shares her own expertise, plus the wealth of knowledge from our highly skilled staff, with patients and families everywhere.


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