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Coping with bedwetting

Bedwetting Q&A | Top tips for a dry night| Mumsnetter sleepover tips

Whether it's back to school nerves, a new child in the family or a fear of the dark, many dryniteschildren experience bedwetting past the age of three. If your child is still having 'little accidents' in the middle of the night, you may be relieved to know that you're not alone.

pack shotDespite being as widespread as eczema or asthma, affecting nearly 800,000 children across the UK, bedwetting is still one of those taboo subjects people don't talk about. In fact, it's a very natural stage and not something you or your child should be embarrassed about.

Using absorbent sleepwear such as DryNites is one way to help you and your child through bedwetting. Although DryNites don't offer a cure, they can help you to cope with bedwetting, keeping clothing and sheets dry so you and your child can sleep with confidence. Designed to be worn under nightwear, they look and feel like real underwear and have a thin absorbent pad that draws wetness away from the skin.

Expert panel

Sarah JarvisDr Sarah Jarvis GP and author of Children's Health for Dummies

Janine Spencer

Dr Janine Spencer
Child psychologist

Jenni Trent-Hughes
Jenni Trent-Hughes
Agony aunt and expert in child and family issues 

Q&A with experts

DryNites asked Mumsnetters about their main bedwetting worries. Here are the experts' responses.

Do pull-ups like DryNites slow the rate at which a child stops bedwetting?

No. Children aren't aware when they're wetting the bed, and will do it whether or not they're wearing pyjama pants. Many people worry that if they put their child in pyjama pants, then they're encouraging the bedwetting. This is not the case. Other techniques can be used in conjunction with them.

For example, children should empty their bladder fully before bed and you should stop them having fizzy drinks in the evening as these can stimulate the bladder. Reducing fluids before bedtime is also a good idea, as long as your child is drinking enough during the day. The only technique that can't be used in conjunction with pyjama pants is a bedwetting alarm, and these are usually the last resort.

How much do drinks affect bedwetting? How much liquid should children drink, and when?

dry nitesEven when a child goes to bed with an empty bladder, it continues to fill up during the night. If a child then drinks at bedtime, the bladder has to cope with that as well. The bladder is a bit like a balloon that can only hold so much fluid. If a child hasn't yet developed night-time bladder control, the muscle holding the fluid in relaxes and the child wets the bed.

Mumsnetter tip
"My advice to those with bedwetters is to double or triple dress the bed, so that (in theory, at least) you can whip off the wet sheet, revealing the dry bed underneath, thus making nocturnal bed changing easier. Shower your child in the morning for social reasons." BoysAreLikeDogs

You can reduce fluid intake a couple of hours before bed. However, children need to drink a lot of fluids during the day to stay healthy. A good technique is the wee 123. When a child goes to the toilet before bed, get them to wee 1, 2, 3 times to ensure that they have fully emptied their bladder.

Is lifting your child a good idea?

It is very common even for six-year-olds to still wet the bed. Lifting is one technique that can work, as long as it doesn't become very stressful for you or your child. If you do want to lift, it's important that they wake up and are conscious of emptying their bladder so that they get used to the feeling of needing a wee in the night.

The bladder continues to fill up during the night so it's important to ensure they empty their bladder fully before bed.

You could keep a diary of your child's night-time wetting for a week or two. For instance, is anything different that they eat or drink on the nights they wet the bed? Do they wet the bed more frequently if they have a cold or are upset about something? Is there a relationship between not emptying their bowels before bed and subsequent bedwetting? Any triggers you can identify can help lessen the number of wet nights your child has.

In the meantime, it's important to be supportive and loving so that your child can develop good self-esteem.

Mumsnetter tip
"What we're trying at the moment, which seems to be working, is making sure she drinks six to eight glasses during the day and stops drinking at 5pm. She's been dry a whole week. We're going to give this regime a go for a month, and if it doesn't work out we're going to the school nurse or GP." jooseyfruit

What about children who have been dry and then regress?

It can be very upsetting for a child who is usually dry at night to start wetting the bed again. When children wet the bed because of upset or stress, it's called secondary bedwetting. Occasionally, however, bedwetting is caused by a urinary tract infection or some other physical cause. So it's always a good idea to consult your GP if your child suddenly starts wetting the bed. More often than not you'll be able to pinpoint the event that triggered the return to bedwetting.

Boy sleepingHowever, there are times when there doesn't seem to be an apparent cause. Talk to your child about what's bothering them and listen. Be gentle and don't push too hard. Most of us like to think that our children will talk to us about anything. However, children are often embarrassed to talk to their parents about things that they think are bad or somehow wrong. If the bedwetting persists with no apparent cause, contact your GP for further help.

It's very distressing for a child to wake up to a wet bed and they often feel ashamed, but it's not their fault. Provide support and comfort and once the cause of the bedwetting is addressed it shouldn't be long before your child goes back to dry nights.

What age should you seek help/advice?

There are different levels of seeking help, ranging from asking other mothers, to taking your child to an enuresis clinic. The more you know, the better equipped you're going to be to handle the occasional stumbling blocks we come across when raising a child.

Mumsnetter tip
"I would recommend going to your school nurse: my son is nearly seven and still not dry. The school nurse was really good and after some initial work with her, she referred us on to the enuresis clinic. We had our first appointment this week, I think it took about ten weeks for our appointment to come through from time of referral." Wilts

In the early days, check out some books, websites or forums to see how other mothers have coped. This could possibly help you to avoid some bad habits that might be difficult to unlearn later on.

If by the time they're off to school you still aren't having mainly dry nights, then widen your search and start actively putting into practice the advice you're given.

If by the age of five nothing seems to be changing, then a visit to the GP might be in order. And, of course, if at any time before that you're seeing other health or developmental issues then definitely go to the GP as it is a possibility that there's a connection. Your GP will be able to help you plan the best course of action. Being seen at an enuresis clinic is by referral only and most will not see children before the age of eight.

What do you do if your child isn't bothered by bedwetting?

Boy jumping on bedThank your lucky stars! One of the biggest issues surrounding the emotional aspects of bedwetting is trying to ensure that this one issue doesn't take over other aspects of the child's personality.

Too often, we see happy, well-adjusted children become shy and withdrawn because bedwetting has taken over their lives. The chances are that if your child isn't bothered by it that is a reflection of your attitude and the way in which you are handling the situation. Congratulations are in order - and please feel free to share your tips!

Are there any statistics about how many children in UK are affected by bedwetting?Drynites_2

Despite rarely being talked about, bedwetting is as widespread as eczema and dry nites boy packshotasthma, affecting one in six children aged five. Within an average primary school class of 30, this means that five children will regularly wet the bed (two or more times a week).

Bedwetting is not limited to those just out of nappies or in the early years of primary school – 10% of all children and young people aged four to 15 wet the bed at some point - that's nearly 800,000 children across the UK alone.

Experts' top tips for a dry night

  • Ensure there is easy access and lighting to the toilet at night.
  • Encourage a good level of fluid intake throughout the day but avoid sugary and fizzy drinks towards bedtime.
  • Try to encourage children to go to the toilet before bed without prompting.
  • Don't put off family holidays, sleepovers or school trips. Using disposable absorbent pants will help children cope with bed-wetting while away from home.
  • Seek help and advice from your doctor or practice nurse if worried. Some practices may have specialist centres managed by nurses or health visitors for one-to-one advice.
  • Don't be afraid to talk about it with other parents - remember that bedwetting is more common than many people think.

Last updated: over 3 years ago