Bedwetting is a common childhood experience. In children under the age of five it is usually attributed to the capacity of the child’s bladder. Often, the bladder is simply too small to hold an entire night’s urine output. Further, children at this age may sleep deeper or otherwise not respond during sleep to the urge to urinate. This sense usually develops further with age and is not a concern. However, persistent bed-wetting, especially if it occurs suddenly, should always be investigated.
Bedwetting can be a sign of health complications including bladder and kidney infections and diabetes. If your family doctor has ruled out a physical cause for the bedwetting, it is safe to explore other options. These can include everything from bedwetting alarms, to dietary considerations.
Punishment and reward are both common tactics for addressing bedwetting, however neither is particularly effective. Punishment should never be used. Children who wet the bed often experience a sense of shame and suffer from reduced self-esteem. Punishment only furthers these negative feelings and does nothing to address the issue.
While providing a reward for dry nights may be recommended by some, it too does little to actually assist your child. Bedwetting as a result of bad behaviour is much more rare than most realize and it is usually only one of many acts of misbehaviour. So this type of behavioural modification is not effective. Further, by rewarding dry nights, a sense of disapproval comes to be associated with wet nights and this further impairs feelings of self-esteem.
Psychological factors should, however, be addressed. Stress, anxiety and fear are common emotions linked to bedwetting. Unfamiliar surroundings, such as sleeping in a new bed, or being away from home can also be triggers. Look for patterns with your child’s behaviour and address concerns with your healthcare provider.
Bedwetting alarms work when an underdeveloped sense of urge is suspected. These alarms go off when the child first begins to urinate and allows him the opportunity to wake and use the bathroom. This helps to develop your child’s response to the urge to urinate. While alarms have a high success rate in this area, they must be used consistently and it may take several months for your child to remain dry every night. If you choose this method, follow the directions provided with the alarm and work with your healthcare provider to establish goals to reduce your child’s reliance on the alarm after progress is made.
Food allergies and sensitivities are an often overlooked trigger for bedwetting episodes. In fact, studies have shown that up to 80% of bedwetting episodes that last later in childhood (past age six) are attributed to food allergies. Here, you want to look for patterns in your child’s eating habits as related to wetting episodes. You may need to enlist the help of a professional to identify trigger foods and eliminate them from the diet. Further, realize that traditional allergy tests do not always show food intolerances and sensitivities. Pattern finding, and elimination and rotational diets are often your best ally.
Common food allergens associated with bedwetting include: milk, wheat, corn, egg, nuts, sugar, and chocolate. Milk has been demonstrated to be most allergenic and should probably be your first choice to eliminate. Refined sugar is also a major concern and you will want to be sure to eliminate it in all forms, including processed foods, carbonated beverages and fruit drinks.
You will want to consult with a professional on how to effectively eliminate these foods from the diet, how to appropriately replace them, where necessary, and how long the foods will need to be eliminated for. Each child is unique and will require a different course of dietary change. Further, while restricting liquids immediately before bedtime may be helpful, it is not a long-term solution and severe restriction can be quite harmful to your child’s health.
Overall, in dealing with bedwetting remember to maintain a positive attitude. Your child will sense any reactionary displeasure on your part and this will further complicate matters. Bedwetting is very common and up to 25% of children still wet the bed by age six, so do not feel that you are dealing with this problem in isolation. It may take time and patience, but the right solution can be found for your child’s bedwetting problems. To best address the situation remember to be observant, keep an open mind, and talk frankly to your healthcare providers about any concerns you have.
Allergies Disease in Disguise. Carolee Bateson-Koch DC, ND. Alive Books. 1994.
Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Phyllis A. Balch, CNC. Avery. 2000.
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Bedwetting. 2012.
Hi, I'm Shara Vickers, a Nutritional Health and Fitness Specialist located in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Please have a look around to find out more about my approach to health and the coaching and consulting services I offer to both local and long-distance clients.