Until last year my son battled with bed wetting, at seven years old it felt as though there was no end in sight and no matter how many incentives I offered it was to no avail. We made an appointment with our local GP – a necessary first step to ensure there were no underlying health problems.
In Adelaide there is a Enuresis Clinic run by The Women’s and Children’s Hospital (I am sure there is something similar in each state) and we were placed on the waiting list. It was a long wait, almost a year but there was no change during that time so when the call came, we jumped at the chance.
Within three months he was “cured” and he reached the goal of being able to go on his first school camp, without incident. Since we finished the clinic there has not been a single accident and he is a much happier, more confident child. As it can be such a long wait to get help and it can be one of those topics which can cause embarrassment, I thought I would share some of the strategies given to us during the clinic.
Drink more water. The first step was simple. During the day, drink more water. Kids get busy and don’t always make the time to drink during the day, and when they are at school it is difficult to monitor. I didn’t realise how little he was drinking during the day until we started talking about it. When they drink more water it helps to stretch their bladder, and this teaches their body to hold more water, which is essential during the night. We started with one glass in the morning with breakfast, a 750ml drink bottle before 1pm and 2 glasses after school. He then had to stop drinking completely after 5pm. No soft drinks, no sugary cordial – just water.
Give them the responsibility. Create a chart to record how much water they are drinking and mark when they have a dry night, do this every single day until they have been dry for two weeks straight. Teach your child to do this charting themselves as it helps to make them accountable. When he wet the bed, he was responsible for changing his sheets and putting them in the laundry. Giving them the power over their own body and their actions will help break the habit.
Ditch the nappies. As stressful as it can be washing sheets every day (especially during winter), it is important to get rid of the nappies. They need to be aware of the “wet” feeling so it will hopefully wake them up. Nappies are also a safety net and may contribute to laziness. Use mattress protectors instead, it won’t be forever.
Don’t wake them up. The other big “no” was not to wake them up in the night to go to the toilet. The logic is simple, their body either needs to learn to hold on, or to wake them up when they need to go to the toilet. Automatically, without assistance. And, to be honest I tried the “waking up” thing and it actually didn’t help, he would still always wet during the night.
Try an alarm. A bed wetting alarm is part of the Enuresis Clinic but we didn’t start using it until he had his drinking and charting under control. The alarm pad is placed on the bed and once they start to wet, it lets off an ear-peircingly loud alarm sound. Not fun for Mum. This wakes the child up, and ideally stops them in their tracks – and they get up and go to the toilet. My son learnt to hold on through the night, he is a deep sleeper and rarely wakes up, so the water drinking (bladder stretching and charting) strategy seemed to be the key to his success. You may even be able to hire an alarm from your local chemist.
Be positive (and patient). Shaming your child is not going to work, in fact it is likely to make it worse. There are a large number of school aged children who still wet the bed, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Positive reinforcement and support in the process is going to be more worthwhile. If they do have an accident, try again tomorrow. It will take time, but you have to put in the effort and be prepared to persevere.
I hope you found some of these tips helpful, bed wetting can be stopped – you may just need to try some new strategies. A checkup from your GP is a good idea, and if it is an issue you may be referred to a Enuresis Clinic like we were.