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Understanding Bedwetting

The End of Bedwetting

How to Tell If Your Child Is Dry for Good

It may happen all at once, or your child's nighttime wetting may start to slow down over several months. But when a child stays dry more and more often, parents take notice. Could this be the end of bedwetting?

All kids are different, even when it comes to nighttime wetting. Some wet the bed every night, some do it a few times a week. Others can go several days without an accident and then wet every night for a week after that. Because each child's situation is different, when your child will finally grow out of it depends on a number of factors. And the end will happen differently for each child.

"Sometimes kids wake up dry one day and that's it, and some gradually stop wetting so often," says Dr. Charles Shubin, pediatrician and director of pediatrics for Mercy Medical Center Family Care Clinic in Baltimore, MD. "It happens different ways for different kids."

Consider the following factors and how they relate to your child's enuresis.

A Look at the Numbers

To determine when your child will likely outgrow nighttime wetting, consider the numbers. Twenty percent of 5-year-olds still wet the bed, 12% of 6-year-olds still wet the bed and 15% of kids who wet the bed stop each year after age 6. You can use these numbers to estimate how much longer your child will wake up wet. If your child is 8 or older, then chances are he or she is almost through nighttime wetting. For younger kids, keep in mind that most doctors don't consider nighttime wetting a problem until a child is older than 6.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics defines bedwetting as wetting two or more times a week in children over 5, or often enough that it bothers you," says Dr. Howard Bennett, pediatrician and author of the book Waking Up Dry: A Guide to Help Children Overcome Bedwetting (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2005). "But these days, it's easier to manage with protective underpants and bedding."

Family History

If a parent or an aunt or uncle wet the bed as a kid, then chances are your child's nighttime wetting is hereditary. And family history may offer some insight into when your child will overcome wetting.

"Genetics play a big part in bedwetting," Dr. Shubin says. "So look at how old family members were when they became dry." For example, if a parent or other family member grew out of nighttime wetting by age 7, then your child will likely grow out of it around the same age.

Anticipate Relapses

Even if your child has been dry for a few weeks, relapses are a possibility. Some kids will wet occasionally, even after long periods of dryness. And many kids will gradually outgrow nighttime wetting.

"My children didn't grow out of bedwetting all of a sudden, it was less frequently and then stopped," says Cynthia, a mother of two. But that doesn't mean that relapses will last for long.

Thirty days dry is considered resolved, Dr. Bennett says. "If they relapse after that, it's usually a periodic thing." Periodic relapses may be caused by disruptions in usual sleep patterns or other changes in routine.

Be Supportive

Kids may become frustrated when they wet the bed and they may not understand that relapses are normal, especially after a long period of dryness has built up their confidence. If your child wets after a dry period, he may be discouraged and upset. The key is to helping your child deal with these feelings is to be supportive and realistic.

"Prepare kids that they may wet again," Dr. Bennett says. "Allow them to talk and express their feelings, but give them realistic information." Explain the situation in a way that they can relate to and understand, such as sports metaphors. For example, a softball team may have a great season with several wins in a row, but that doesn't mean that they won't ever lose a game again.

"Bedwetting is a developmental problem, not a behavioral one," Dr. Shubin says. "Be accepting of it for what it is."

Every parent with a child who wets the bed pines for the day when it comes to an end. And although a few dry nights in a row doesn't necessarily mean that your child is done with wetting for good, it may mean the end is coming. What's really important is that you realize the end will come. In the meantime, be supportive and understanding of your child and use products that make nighttime wetting easier to manage.

Nighttime Wetting Basics

According to Dr. Charles Shubin, three points to remember when your child wets the bed are:

  • Give it time. Your child will eventually grow out of nighttime wetting.
  • It's not your child's fault. He cannot control nighttime enuresis, so don't place blame.
  • Control what you can. You can avoid giving your child caffeinated beverages at nighttime or teach her bladder control techniques.

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