Why does my child wet the bed every night?

Ugh. Bedwetting. This is an issue in my house, and has been an issue in my house going on now for close to two years.

I have two boys. They are close together, less than two years apart. I didn’t push to potty train them, and they were day trained when they were around three years old without much drama.

But at night time…that is a different story entirely.

My oldest son wore diapers until he was about five years old, when he decided that he was ready to go without them.

He hasn’t shown me the signs that he was quite ready for night time diaper freedom (such as waking up dry), but I figured that if he wanted to try, we could try it.

Naturally, it didn’t work. At least, not right away. I put a plastic cover on the mattress, and did everything I could do to support him in his efforts to avoid peeing during the night, such as:

  • cutting off fluids an hour before bedtime
  • sending him to pee again right at lights out time
  • getting him out of bed to pee in the toilet around the time I went to bed (hours after they did)
  • not freaking out when he peed the bed (which he did)

Within a few months, he learned to wake up when he needed to pee, and in the next 12 months, he just stopped waking up having to go pee altogether.

But my second child…

My sons are very different, no matter how much my second child wants to be exactly like my first.

When my #2 little man saw his big brother dumping diapers, he decided he wanted to as well. Unfortunately, he was quite a bit younger, and not really ready to go without at nighttime.

My second child is also a really, really deep sleeper. He is incredibly difficult to wake in the morning. I also couldn’t wake him up in the middle of the night to empty his bladder. I’d get him out of bed, and he’d be limp, even as I hustled him to the toilet, and he wouldn’t even wake up when I put him to the toilet (and no pee would come).

But he also raged against diapers of any kind, including pull-ups or training pants.

He had to be like his brother.

So I moved the plastic cover to my #2’s bed, and then did the best I could, again avoiding fluids before bed, multiple trips to the toilet in the evening, no stress of judgment when accidents happened.

It didn’t get better

In fact, it felt like there was no end in sight. My #2 was four by this time….and then his birthday came around, and he turned five. And he was still peeing the bed 5 out of 7 nights a week, if not more.

I was concerned by this point, as we’d been trying this whole night time potty training thing for a year or more, without any sort of success. So I went to the pediatrician, and out of earshot of my son, I revealed my worries.

And here’s what I learned.

Bedwetting is apparently really common in boys, and is often something that is observed in families, meaning that there is a heredity component of some kind. For example, if the father, or any close relatives of either the mother or father had issues with night wetting, the doctor will nod his/her and say “hm, hmmm.” And the only solution is to wait.

Bedwetting can also have a psychological component. If your child is experiencing trauma or other stress in his/her day, that can translate to night wetting. You may be able to assist with the bedwetting by addressing the stress/trauma, and as that is reduced, bedwetting can also improve.

Staying dry at night is a very developmental thing. Everyone’s systems mature at a different rate. There is a component of sleep/wakefulness along with the maturity of the physical system that controls the pee. Sometimes it won’t matter what you do to your child, like using bedwetting alarms, punishments, special underwear, etc, your child may not get better with the wetting until their systems mature a bit more.

Other potential causes of bedwetting

There are other potential causes of bedwetting that didn’t apply to us, like:

  • Hormone imbalances
  • UTIs
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diabetes
  • Constipation
  • Structural issue inside the body
  • ADHD

It didn’t get better…until it did.

My doctor’s advice was to just stay the course. After all, everything else physically about my son was otherwise normal. Normal function here, there, and everywhere.

He didn’t recommend special products, treatments, or therapists. He said to just keep doing what I was doing, which was not freaking out about it, and to wait and see.

So that’s what we did. And for another six months, #2 wet the bed consistently. And then just a few months shy of his sixth birthday, after a week of wetting the bed at night almost every night, it stopped.

One dry night turned into two. Then three. And four. And so on.

And just like that, bed wetting was over for this child. (But not for me, I have one more who is still in diapers at night)

When should I worry about bed wetting?

As discussed earlier, night time wetting is really common, and the root cause of it has more to do with the developmental status of your child than anything else.

In fact, if your child is as old as seven, the doctor won’t bat an eye about it, through to the parent, it seems that there must be something wrong. And even after 7, night time peeing is still fairly common, though not as much.

However, there are some times when it is worthwhile to bring up the bedwetting issue with your pediatrician, such as:

  • Anytime something is bothering you (like out of the ordinary)
  • When your child has been dry for a long period of time, and then the peeing resumes
  • When the peeing at night is painful
  • When the night time pee is coupled up with unusual thirstiness, discolored pee
  • When the bedwetting is accompanied by snoring (a lot of snoring)
  • When your child starts to get rashes due to sleeping in urine
  • When your child’s confidence or mental health seems to be negatively impacted by night time wetting

If your child is wetting the bed every night…

…The likely cause is that he isn’t ready physically to be in bed at night without a diaper. That’s the most likely reason, and it probably isn’t anything he or she (or you) can actually control.

Yes, there are things that we can do to reduce the likelihood of a night time emission (such as restricting fluids, and getting them to use the toilet before bed or during the night).

But if we put a lot of stress on them or on ourselves as parents, we probably aren’t doing anything good for them, and could actually exacerbate the problem.

The best thing you can do is raise the issue with the pediatrician, and then follow his/her recommendations. And if your child is less than seven years old, I am guessing her response to your questions will be something like mine’s, which was nodding whilst saying “hm, hmmm.”

Best of luck mom and/or dad. They’ll get past this stage soon, and then you’ll wonder how it happened so fast.


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