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Advice for Parents

Like Brother, Like Sister

Help for Families with Multiple Nighttime Wetters

Bedwetting, or nighttime wetting, is always a challenge for both parent and child, and when there's more than one child wetting the bed, it can become even more difficult to manage. But with a little advice and the knowledge that it commonly runs in families, you'll be well on your way to better mornings.

A Family Affair

Nighttime wetting is a common occurrence among children and young teens — an occurrence beyond their control. It is even more frequent if one or both parents wet the bed as children. "Studies show that if one parent was a bedwetter, then 40% of their children will also wet the bed," says Dr. Michael Ritchey, a pediatric urologist at Hermann Hospital in Houston, TX. "If both parents were bedwetters, then 60–70% of their children will experience the condition."

So, if one parent dealt with wet sheets, chances are at least one will experience the same problem. And in some families, nighttime wetting will come in multiple doses, affecting more than one child.

Glynda has two out of three children who wet the bed. "Both my dad and brother were bedwetters when they were growing up," says Glynda. Karla Giramonti, a nurse practitioner in the Division of Urology at the Albany Medical Center in New York, says she is not surprised that more than one of the Glynda's children experiences nighttime wetting. "I tell parents that if one child wets the bed, chances are the other children will experience the same problem," she says.

However, if you have some children who wet the bed and some who do not, it can be difficult for kids to understand. Glynda says she has trouble trying to explain to her children why two out of three wet the bed. "There tends to be a ‘Why us, not him?' mentality," she says.

Though her children do not talk to each other about the problem, they are supportive of each other. "They respect each other not to discuss it," Glynda says. "My middle son and daughter have never blabbed that their big brother wets the bed."

Differences In Treatment

Dr. Ritchey explains that treatment for families with multiple nighttime wetters is no different than if only one child wets the bed. "However, it is usually easier to treat the second child," he says. "Parents tend to be less concerned if an older sibling has already been treated and outgrown the problem."

Siblings may also have varying responses to different treatment methods, such as experiencing different side effects as a result of taking medication. And while there is no universal solution for nighttime wetting, there are ways to manage it, such as wearing GoodNites® Bedtime Pants or GoodNites* TRU-FIT* Underwear, that can help parents and kids cope with nighttime wetting to reduce the stress on everyone until the child outgrows it.

"I'll try anything regardless of past experience," says Giramonti. "I treat each child as a new patient." So what may not work for Big Brother might be the perfect solution for Little Sister.

Sarah is the mother of two children who wet the bed. "Our son, Alan, who is in elementary school, continues to have trouble staying dry at night," she says. But her older son outgrew the condition when he was 5.

Why do some children outgrow nighttime wetting earlier than others? "We don't know why children outgrow bedwetting at different ages," says Giramonti. However, we do know that children are more likely to outgrow nighttime wetting the older they get. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nighttime wetting occurs in 20% of 5-year-olds, 10% of 6-year-olds and even 3% of 12-year-olds.

Special Challenges

If you have multiples, meaning twins or more, you may experience the added challenge of having children of the same age wetting the bed. If the children are identical, sharing the same genetic code, there is an even greater chance that, if one wets the bed, the other will. Parents of multiples become experts at doing everything several times, and helping children through nighttime wetting is no exception. Whatever you do for one child, you will do for the other, whether it be monitoring fluids at bedtime or taking each child to the bathroom before you go to sleep at night.

Jessica, the mother of identical twin boys, says she has become stronger because of her experience. "I have to be stronger than some of my mom friends who don't have twins who wet the bed," she says. "I mentally prepare myself to keep their self-esteem strong by constantly explaining that this is a natural thing they are going though and they are OK. It's tiring, but that's my life right now. I know that this, too, will pass!"

One of the toughest challenges Glynda faces is getting support from others. "When the subject comes up with my friends, they look at me with disbelief," she says. "It is as if they think I am doing something wrong to have two bed wetters." Which, of course, is not true. It's important to seek support from people who understand that nighttime wetting is not anyone's fault, such as other parents with kids who wet the bed. The GoodNites® website, as well as the GoodNites® message boards, offer several ways to connect with other parents who are going through the same thing.

When you have three kids, laundry is always going to be a challenge, and with more than one waking up to a wet bed, it can become overwhelming. "On the occasion that both my son and daughter have accidents on the same night, it becomes a large amount of laundry to get the beds remade," says Glynda.

To help lighten the laundry load, children can wear absorbent undergarments, such as GoodNites® Bedtime Pants, to keep the sheets dry. "Our kids wear disposable undergarments at night," says Amy, the mother of two children who wet the bed. She notes that GoodNites® Bedtime Pants probably cost the same as doing laundry each day. "It is also less stress for everyone," she says.

Tips of the Trade

The following are suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) and moms with more than one child who wet the bed to help your children get through the nighttime wetting blues and on to drier days:

  • Put a stop to teasing. The AAP suggests enforcing a "no teasing" rule for family members who do not wet the bed.
  • Focus on each child's achievements in other areas. The NKF recommends talking about accomplishments in sports or at school in front of others, so each child can receive positive feedback.
  • Let the children know that wetting the bed is a private matter — they do not have to discuss the problem in front of other children. "We sat my middle son down and gently told him that his older brother's bedwetting was a family matter," says Glynda. "It was not to be discussed with others."
  • Handle each child experiencing nighttime wetting separately. "My son can become really frustrated about the condition," Glynda says. "But, so far, my daughter does not seem too self-conscious about the issue."
  • Keep the challenge of changing wet sheets to a minimum. Hayes suggests layering the bed with multiple sheets and plastic protectors. If an accident occurs in the middle of the night, you can simply remove the first layer of sheet and plastic, and the bed will be ready to go. "I have waterproof mattress pads on every bed in the house — even Mom and Dad's bed!" says Ann, who has two children who wet the bed.
  • Use absorbent products. Many moms cite the benefits of reduced laundry, and thus less stress, as well increased self-esteem in children who wear such products.

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