Nighttime Wetting in the Recently Potty Trained ChildBy Howard J. Bennett, MD
Learning to become dry is a process. Children develop the ability to consciously hold back their urine between 18 and 24 months. That’s why pediatricians usually recommend holding off on potty training until a child is at least two.
In order to prevent accidents, parents take recently toilet-trained children to the bathroom every few hours. This is done because the ability to consistently hold back urine can be tricky, and setbacks can occur when the skill is first being learned. Even 5- and 6-year-olds have occasional daytime accidents because they wait too long to go to the bathroom or they are distracted by other activities.
After children achieve consistent daytime dryness, it can take months or years for them to become dry at night. The reason for this is because it’s harder for the brain and bladder to “stay in sync” with each other when a child is sleeping.
When the bladder fills up with urine, it signals the brain. During the day, a person stops what he’s doing and goes to the bathroom. At night, the process is different. Once signaled, the first response from the brain is to relax the bladder so it can hold more urine. If a child is wet at night, it’s because the bladder can’t hold more urine or the child doesn’t wake up following repeated signals from the bladder. Some children are also wet during shorter sleep periods such as naps.
Most pediatricians do not diagnose a child as being a “bedwetter” unless she continues to wet the bed after age six. But whatever you choose to call them, there are still millions of kids in the United States who wet the bed after they become potty trained.
Before the age of six or seven, most kids don’t care if they’re wet at night. As a result, more involved behavior programs such as the bedwetting alarm are less likely to be successful in this age group.
The easiest and least disruptive management tool to help children as they transition from daytime to nighttime dryness is to wear an absorbable garment such as GoodNites Bedtime Pants when they’re sleeping.
Using disposable nighttime protection helps kids sleep better and makes it less stressful for everyone to begin their day. Rather than waking up in a wet bed, it’s a simple matter of taking off the child’s GoodNites Bedtime Pants, wiping his bottom if necessary, and sending him off to school or daycare after a nutritious breakfast.
The ultimate goal for kids is to be dry at night, and remain comfortable and confident in the meantime. Parents can encourage and support their children by doing the following things:
- Make sure your child gets plenty of fluids during the day. If a child doesn’t drink much throughout the day, he may be thirsty and need to drink a lot after dinner. This can increase the odds that he’ll be wet at night. Children shouldn't’ be forced to drink, but having bottles of water available makes it easier for them to stay well hydrated.
- Encourage children to go to the bathroom as soon as they feel the urge to go. It’s normal for kids to put off urination because they don’t want to stop what they’re doing. It’s important for parents to avoid creating a power struggle about regular urination, so encourage them in a positive manner.
- Make sure your child has regular bowel movements. Constipation can cause a host of problems including day and nighttime wetting. If your child is wet at night, try to adjust his diet so she has one or two soft, easy to pass stools per day. If you can’t achieve this goal, talk to your doctor about other ways to encourage the regular passage of soft stools.
Millions of children continue to be wet at night after they have been successfully potty trained during the day. It can take years to learn to stay dry all night. Until this happens, disposable garments like GoodNites can be a real timesaver.