Bedwetting is a completely normal part of childhood – and let's be honest – who hasn't wet the bed?
For some though, the problem persists, but even this is mostly completely normal (albeit little discussed) disorder.
Commemorated each year on 29 May World Bedwetting Day calls attention to the medical problem called primary enuresis (involuntary bedwetting), a condition usually appearing when the neural pathways between the brain and bladder matures a little slower than in others.
Did you know? Up to 20% of 5-year-old children and older still have this problem, reports Protect-A-Bed South Africa.
In addition to the physiological causes, this common condition can be attributed to genetics or even circumstantial factors such as changing family dynamics or problems at school.
If the child is dry during the day, this excludes many medical conditions. Before attempting to rectify the problem, two basic tests must be done:
- urine test to exclude infection and diabetes, and
- ultrasound to confirm that the structure of his urogenital system is intact.
Understanding bedwetting as a parent
Once the problem has been identified, here are three things Protect-A-Bed South Africa wants you to know that'll help you handle the situation:
1. Your child is not naughty or too lazy to get to the loo
After allergies, bedwetting is the most common chronic childhood disorder, and sufferers include teens and even adults. So always bear in mind that your child has little control over the matter.
2. It's treatable
In most cases, the underlying cause can be pinpointed to purely physical reasons which include an overactive bladder, an over-production of urine at night, or a reduced ability to wake up when the bladder is sending signals to the brain.
3. Bedwetting can seriously affect confidence
Sufferers often feel shame, guilt, anxiety and embarrassment. Bedwetting can negatively impact a child’s self-esteem, prompting isolation and underperformance at school.
- Also see: Helping your child deal with change
8 steps toward treatment
Here's what you can do to ease your child's burden:
1. Limit fluid intake before bedtime
Limit fluid intake 3 to 4 hours before going to bed. Cutting refined sugars, carbonated drinks, chocolates, salt and spices from the diet has been shown to help.
The first step in treatment is to reassure both you and your child that this is a benign and normal condition, which he will outgrow.
3. Give him responsibilities
Give him responsibilities around this enuresis: get him to take linen and pajamas to the laundry basket himself, replace the wet bedding and clothes with fresh dry ones and run his own bath in the morning.
Let him learn to wake when his bladder is full - this involves having him recognise the sensation of having a full bladder and to try and “hold on” a little more during the daytime. This allows the bladder wall to stretch and gives him practice of toning the sphincter muscles at the base of the bladder.
5. Positive reinforcement
It’s important that he receive positive reinforcement and encouragement, as opposed to scolding and punishment. This is an involuntary and unintentional event which embarrasses and humiliates children.
6. Try homeopathy
Minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc will help control bladder muscle spasm, while brewer’s yeast and spirulina will build protein structures in the bladder wall. Homeopathy is effective, using remedies chosen to match your son’s nature or temperament. Treatment helps the symptoms of anxiety and upset that often seem to accompany enuresis.
7. Keep a diary
Recording accident-free nights in a diary can do heaps to boost your child’s confidence, advises Dr Michael Mol, celebrity doctor and DryNites Pyjama Pants ambassador. Taking notes also has the added bonus for you if you decide that consulting a doctor is the best course of action.
8. Seek medical advice
Even though the problem may resolve with time, if you’ve been dealing with the situation for a while it’s best to talk your GP who’ll be able to refer you to a specialist like a paediatrician or paediatric urologist, says Dr Mol.
Did your child wet their bed after the age of five? How did you handle the situation? Tell us your tips and tricks by emailing to email@example.com and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to receive Parent24 stories directly to your inbox.