Bed wetting in older children

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Bed wetting is not a subject us parents take great joy in dealing with. Even so, it is simply a part of life with young children.

sleeping, bed wetting, bed wetting day, Lloyds Pharmacy
Hoping for a dry night. The reasons for bed wetting in older children can be complex, but simple steps can be taken to help the situation. Pic credit below.

We have been fortunate with our two daughters. Bed wetting, or nocturnal enuresis to give its medical name, has never been a huge issue. That said, we have certainly been woken up int the middle of the night by distressed children needing clean sheets on a number of occasions.

Today, 24 May, is Bed Wetting Day, an event organised by, among others, the International Children’s Continence Society and European Society for Pediatric Urology. For the majority of kids, bed wetting is simply a phase they go through, especially while they are under the age of five or while they are being toilet trained.

Sometimes there are straightforward explanations for bed wetting in older children. It may be related to the stress of moving house or starting school. Again, this will very often pass.

Bed Wetting Day has been organised to highlight the fact that for some, it is a more complex condition. If not treated, it can lead to damaged self-esteem.

When it has happened with our children, we have simply cleaned everything up, changed bedding and night clothes and gone back to bed. It’s not been mentioned again. This approach worked for us, but what about for families where it is a more serious issue?

In support of Bed Wetting Day, Lloyds Pharmacy has produced and published a range of materials on its website. There is information about what can cause bed wetting and hints and tips to help parents and carers deal with the situation.

I have had a good read through the materials and learned quite a bit. For instance, if one or both parents experienced bed wetting as a child, their own offspring have an increased chance of wetting the bed also.

Parents can find the situation stressful if they have a school-age child who still regularly wets the bed. It is important to make clear that bed wetting is not linked to laziness or poor toilet training. Although the reasons are not always understood or clear, there can be a variety of explanations.

The following can all cause bed wetting;

  • Lack of a hormone called vasopressin that regulates the amount of urine the body produces at night
  • Constipation, as a full bowel can put pressure on the bladder
  • An over active bladder, causing the muscles in the bladder to contract before the bladder is full, therefore making the child want to go to the toilet frequently and urgently.

Those are some of the causes, so what can be done about it? There are various suggestions on the Lloyds Pharmacy website. For instance;

  • Ensuring the child goes to the toilet at bedtime and making it easy to go to the toilet at night by leaving doors open and night lights on.
  • Managing liquid intake and making sure the child drinks around six water or water-based drinks during the day so they go to the toilet regularly (between five and seven times a day)
  • Following on from above, making sure about a fifth of that intake is in the evening
  • Avoiding fizzy and caffeinated drinks as these can increase the need to urinate
  • In the short term, and to stop bed wetting becoming a major issue, use of pull ups or absorbent, disposable sheets can be helpful as the child may feel less stressed.

What have been your experiences of bed wetting with your children? Was it a passing phase or is it something that took a while to pass? Have you any hints and tips for families who deal with it on a regular basis? I invite you to leave a comment below.


Pic credit; Smenglesrud, reproduced under Creative Commons agreement.

Disclsoure; This post wasproduced in association with Lloyds Pharmacy

2 thoughts on “Bed wetting in older children”

  1. I wet the bed until I was 13; 3 of those years were at boarding school where I received no end of “banter”. Mopping your own urine off the work desk you sleep over and then having to exchange your mattress in front of everyone really “builds character”. All the time your matron and housemaster ridiculing you for being an inconvenience and childish respectively made for a great boarding experience. But then it was a military school so “what did I expect?”

    *place heavy sarcasm on “words”.

    1. Wow Tony, I would like to have thought that even 20-odd years ago such an approach was considered outdated. What a dreadful experience and a way guaranteed to ruin self esteem. It’s horrifying enough to think of it happening in our lifetime, I certainly hope times have changed.

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