Is bedwetting ruining your child’s sleep?

Bedwetting is common in childhood, but for some families it can become a real pain point. Here’s how to help your child so you can both get a good night’s sleep.

If bedwetting is an issue for your child, it’s helpful to know there are effective ways to encourage dry nights.

Bedtime can be a notorious battle for parents, and if dry nights are the key to a well-rested family, it’s helpful to know bedwetting won’t last forever.

Why do kids wet the bed?

Raising Children Network director Derek McCormack says children wet the bed for a variety of reasons.

“Bedwetting might happen because children sleep deeply and find it hard to wake in the night, make larger than usual amounts of urine at night, have constipation, or have conditions that interrupt their sleep, like obstructive sleep apnoea,” he says.

And if a parent wet the bed as a child, their children are more likely to wet the bed, Derek says.

Psychologist and child incontinence researcher Jan Matthews says bedwetting commonly occurs when children are not responding to bladder signals when they are asleep.

She says as children get older they get better at responding to those signals and, because their bladder capacity increases as they mature, they’ll be able to “hang on” longer.

Can trauma cause bedwetting?

According to Jan, in some cases, yes.

There is evidence that stress related to traumatic events can lead to a child reverting to bedwetting after a period of dryness, she says.

How to stop bedwetting

“Try to be patient and remember that bedwetting is not a child’s fault, and most children naturally stop wetting the bed as they get older,” Derek says.

“Dry nights” are a normal developmental progression, says Jan.

Parents can try and help reduce bedwetting by encouraging their child to use the toilet before bedtime and installing a night light so children can find their way to the toilet, Derek says.

He also suggests discouraging caffeinated drinks, such as cola, during the day as these cause the body to make more urine.

“All humans have an antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which causes us to make less or more concentrated urine at night,” Jan says.

“If there is a problem with ADH there is medication to treat this.

“However, it is recommended that less intrusive learning related treatments, such as bedwetting alarms, should be used first.”

Do bedwetting alarms work?

“Research shows the bedwetting alarm is the best first treatment option for children seven years or older,” Jan says.

“However, this success has only been shown when the alarm is used according to instructions or with supervision of a professional.”

Derek adds: “Depending on how well the child responds to the alarm treatment, parents might need to use a bedwetting alarm for one to three months.”

If your child is still bedwetting after three months, Derek says it may be best to take a break or try other treatments.

Do pull-ups prolong bedwetting?

According to Jan, pull-ups are like portable toilets that provide a “safe” place to wet when your child is in bed.

If you do use them, she suggests trying nights without them if your child has a lot of dry bedtime nappies.

How to clean a bed mattress after bedwetting

Accidents happen. If you do find yourself having to clean a wee-soaked mattress, a spokesperson from Koala mattress company says a few pantry staples can help clean up the mess.

They suggest making a “magic mattress solution” in a spray bottle, using:

  • 1 part white vinegar
  • 2 parts water
  • A squeeze of a mild dishwashing liquid

The Koala spokesperson says to blot up as much of the urine as you can using a clean towel or cloth before spraying the vinegar solution on, letting it sit for 15-minutes before blotting again.

Next, sprinkle some bi-carb soda (baking soda) over the area, leave it for eight hours, then vacuum away the residue.

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Written by Sarah Vercoe.