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How to Handle Bed Wetting

Bed-wetting in children under the age of 5 is so common that Jessica Greenley, D.O., a Pediatrician with The Iowa Clinic, routinely counsels her patients and their parents about it.


Your Local Health | Written by BJ Towe
Bed Wetting

Punishing your child wont’s help- and it will likely make matters worse. Bed-wetting in children under the age of 5 is so common that Jessica Greenley, D.O., a Pediatrician with The Iowa Clinic, routinely counsels her patients and their parents about it.

“At the age of 5, approximately 15 percent of kids experience involuntary bed-wetting,” she says. “It can take a while to develop bladder control necessary to obtain a dry bed.”

Even so, says Dr. Greenley, approximately one-third of parents punish their kids for wetting the bed. “That’s never something I would recommend. Evidence shows that punishing a child only makes the problem worse and can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, low self-esteem, and even depression,” she says.

Greenley urges parents to stay calm, be patient and normalize the situation as much as possible. “Bed-wetting is not the child’s fault. It’s not the parents’ fault. The child will typically outgrow it on their own.”

If your child is about 5 and still wetting the bed, Greenley offers these tips:

  • Have your child use the bathroom every two to three hours throughout the day.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of non-carbonated, caffeine-free fluids during the day, but restrict liquids before bedtime.
  • Have the child try to use the bathroom before going to bed.
  • Reward these good behaviors — as well as those times the bed stays dry all night.

If after a couple of months these tips haven’t helped, consider talking with your Pediatrician about a moisture alarm, which will awaken your child when they urinate. “It’s an effective, noninvasive approach,” says Greenley.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

Bed-wetting that continues past age 5 or returns after the child has been dry for six or more months may indicate an underlying health concern. It’s important to discuss it with your child’s Pediatrician.

Once other potential causes have been ruled out, medication may be prescribed. But it’s only a temporary solution; bed-wetting returns when the medication is stopped.

“Medications may be most helpful for children wanting to participate in social activities, such as sleepovers, without worrying about waking up to a wet bed,” says Greenley.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Greenley or a Pediatric provider at The Iowa Clinic, call 515-875-9420.

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