Nighttime bedwetting, also known as nocturnal enuresis, is when the bladder empties itself during sleep.
There are two types of bedwetting:
1.Primary enuresis - this is bedwetting that has been ongoing, with no breaks.
2.Secondary enuresis - here, bedwetting occurs after a child has been dry through the night and now they have started to wet the bed.
Although it can be a cause of stress for parents and children, there is generally nothing to be worried about. Most children will experience it at one time or another. Some children go through a bedwetting “phase” which usually resolves itself as the bladder matures or the trigger is found.
In cases where bedwetting is prolonged or recurring, medical help can be of assistance - even if it’s just to rule out serious medical issues.
Causes of toddler bedwetting
As you may expect, bedwetting is especially prevalent in toddlers.
It’s very important that kids never feel as though they are to blame when they have an accident. Even though it’s obvious to us that a child would never wet the bed on purpose or because they are being lazy, they are very sensitive to our reactions. That’s why clear but casual communication about it not being “a big deal” is crucial.
Typical causes of bedwetting include:
- An overactive bladder - this is when a child’s bladder cannot store urine so it expels it.
- A full bladder - drinking large amounts, particularly caffeinated or sugary drinks, can be hard to deal with for a small person’s bladder. There’s no need to restrict all fluids, but drinking water only, after 4pm, is a good rule of thumb.
- An inability to wake up when the bladder is full - our children are still developing, and sometimes the hormones responsible for holding urine until they can be woken, don’t work every time.
- A urinary tract infection (UTI) - irritation of the bladder because of infection can cause larger and more frequent urinations.
- Stress or emotional changes - Children can experience bedwetting when they are going through a change (like a new school) or something stressful (like bullying).
In some cases, there is an underlying medical issue, so if your little one does not respond to any bedwetting treatments, it’s a good idea to speak to a GP.
Treatments for toddler bedwetting
Bedwetting incidents are more of an inconvenience than a problem.
In most cases, they will become less frequent and then stop altogether. If not, there are plenty of things you can try to help your little one feel better and stay dry through the night.
- Patience and support - this is the most important tool in your chest. A child who feels as though they are doing something wrong and upsetting their parents is more likely to continue to struggle.
- Mattress protector - not only will one of these save your mattress, it will also make cleaning and changing the bed much less of a hassle. Asking your child to help will make them feel as though they are contributing, helping their confidence around the situation.
- Nighttime toilet training pants - if your little one is distressed about wetting the bed, keeping them dry while they develop and overcome bedwetting can be invaluable.
- Bedwetting alarms - while sometimes considered to be controversial, these alarms do have a good long-term success rate. They sound an alarm when they detect wetness, to let a child know that they need to wake up and use the bathroom.
For more information see Toilet training or Nighttime toilet training.