Tips for Controlling Bedwetting
I have yet to meet the parent of a bedwetting child who doesn't want to take control of what can be an understandably frustrating situation. If you're like most parents faced with bedwetting — often referred to as nocturnal enuresis — your attention may first turn towards some of the more medical treatment options such as medications and/or alarms. While there are certainly instances in which these approaches may be useful, it's always important to discuss your child's individual symptoms and circumstances with his or her pediatrician first to figure out what's recommended (as well as what's not recommended!) and to rule out any underlying conditions that might be causing the bedwetting.
Tools and Strategies
As a pediatrician and the parent of a child who used to wet the bed, however, I find it equally useful to consider the many non-medical “tools” parents and children can use to improve their bedwetting situation considerably. That's because routine bedwetting (i.e., not caused by any underlying condition) often just takes time to outgrow and is not a serious medical condition. But it most certainly can be considered seriously challenging by anyone who's been faced with an embarrassed child and urine-soaked pajamas and mattresses. Fortunately, there are several tools and strategies you can use to minimize these aspects — all of which require no formal prescription.
Given the reassuring fact that just about all children with bedwetting outgrow it over time, I've found it's most helpful for parents to focus their efforts on those things that make a difference and help minimize the dampening and discouraging effects of bedwetting. They include:
“Nighttime underwear”. OK, so that's not what they're really called, but nighttime underwear is what my husband and I called the absorbent night wear/training pants that served to keep our child's urine well-contained overnight. Given that soaking PJs and sheets can be the most frustrating aspect of having a child who wets the bed, we relied heavily on this bedtime “tool.” Fortunately, these absorbent products are readily available; some are actually designed to resemble underwear so children are generally happy to wear them.
Mattress protection. The mattresses of children who wet the bed really stand to take a beating — becoming so urine-stained and smelly they often need to be thrown away. In addition to using nighttime underwear or training pants to contain your child's urine at night, taking a double-coverage approach by covering the mattress with a water-proof mattress cover or protector can help increase the odds that you won't need to get rid of your child's mattress when the bedwetting eventually resolves.
Reading all about it. As a longstanding early literacy advocate, I have long believed that reading books at bedtime is one of the healthiest (not to mention most enjoyable) habits to instill in young children. But the benefits of reading extend well beyond helping children quiet down and establish a good sleep routine. They also serve as a great way for children (and parents, for that matter) to learn about and discuss specific topics, including those like bedwetting that parents may otherwise find hard to discuss. For young children, reading about bedwetting together can help reassure them in a very positive way that they are normal and don't need to be embarrassed.
Some children really aren't bothered by bedwetting, as was the case with mine. Others can be terribly embarrassed —withdrawing from social opportunities such as sleepovers. In part, this can be determined by age, as 5-year- olds tend to feel less shame than 10-year-olds. But it can also be a matter of personality, not to mention family support.
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