Nighttime Bedwetting in an Older Child

An NPN reader asks our natural parenting mentors:

My almost six-year-old son wets the bed over fifty percent of the week. We limit liquid intake before bed but it does not seem to help. He sleeps really hard. We wake him at eleven o’clock every night, and unless I get him up at three in the morning, chances are pretty good that he will have an accident. I tried “training” his bladder by delaying the time I wake him by an hour each morning (three, to four, to five in the morning), to only getting him up at eleven o’clock at night. None of these methods seem to help. He has dairy, gluten, soy and peanut allergies (not sure if those are contributing factors to any of this), which he never consumes. Help would be so greatly appreciated.

Here’s what our natural parenting mentors had to say:

Melissa: It is certainly a wonderful day when our children reach the stage where they can get through the night without wetting the bed. It can be frustrating to tackle this when a child seems to be getting to an age where expecting nighttime dryness would be normal. It is normal, however, to have difficulty staying dry at night at almost six years old. It is considered normal to have occasional accidents even up to eight to ten years of age in some children. Fifty percent success at five years old is actually a good thing to celebrate! My second son is seven years old, and he has nighttime dryness success approximately one to two nights per month, so fifty percent from my perspective is great success.

It is true that allergies or other causes of inflammation in the body can contribute to bladder incontinence. If your son has allergies, it is possible they are a contributing factor, but likely only if he is sensitive or allergic to other foods or substances that he is consuming. Allergy testing by a doctor or a naturopath could be helpful in identifying other allergies.

It sounds as though your son is sleeping deeply between midnight and morning and simply does not wake when he feels the urge to void. This is considered normal and something he will grow out of. Sometimes children simply mature at different speeds, and their bodily organs, like the bladder and its communication system with the brain, need time to mature.

My son has problems with urine incontinence during the day as well, so we took him to a specialist in pediatric urology two years ago. He was ultimately diagnosed with an immature bladder and an irritable bladder, and we were reassured that nighttime wetting is not something to be concerned about yet (at age five). Having a predictable routine really helps him, including regular eating and drinking times and regular bathroom visits, and we also were told to avoid chocolate, caffeine, and carbonated beverages, as these foods make an irritable bladder worse. You could try limiting your son’s intake of the above foods and see if it helps him achieve nighttime dryness on a more regular basis. Refined sugars also stimulate inflammation in the body, so if you limit these in his diet you may see improvement.

At five years of age if he has more than the occasional daytime accident, I would recommend asking your doctor to refer you to a specialist, but for nighttime wetting at five years old your son is still within the realms of normal.

Eventually, there are resources such as underwear “alarms” your child can wear that will make a loud noise if he wets the bed, to train his brain to wake up when he has to void at night.

For now, though, I would reassure you that your son’s bedwetting is still considered very normal. Try and support him when he is successful, and reassure him when he is not, and allow his body time to mature. Best of luck!

Joni Rae: I can totally understand what you are going through because my seven-year-old JUST stopped wetting the bed this past spring (two months before his seventh birthday). We tried everything you have tried. I researched, googled, and privately agonized over his bedwetting, but nothing worked! It got so bad that we had to replace his mattress, even though we had tried to keep up with it by using mattress pads.

Finally, after a long talk with our homeopath, and then my grandmother, I learned that some kids just have to grow out of it. Sometimes, no matter what you do, they are just unable to control their bladders. It is not diet, or how often you wake them, or what they drink before bed; although these can help, they will not stop it altogether.  Some kids, especially boys, take longer to adjust because of the size of their bladders or hormones. It stinks, but all you can really do is be as supportive and patient as you can and wait until they are older and their body is ready. After all, about thirteen percent of six year olds wet the bed, but less than five percent of ten year olds are still doing it. Eventually he will stop.

Darcel: I understand how frustrating it can be when your child wets the bed. Remember it is not you or your son’s fault.  Did anyone in your family wet the bed past a certain age? It could be stress or a more serious medical reason (does not sound like it is, though). It is likely that his brain has not developed to that stage to wake him so he knows he needs to get up and go.

The National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse states that it’s normal for many children to wet the bed up until the age of seven, and sometimes longer. Have you tried those big kid Pull-Ups that look like real underwear? That way everyone gets to stay asleep at night!

I wish I had some long, well thought out answer for you, but it sounds like his body is not ready for that step right now.

Here is an article from WedMD on bed wetting myths. I think they explain it much better than I could.

My best advice is to let him wear a Pull-Up at night. The ones made by Pampers look like real underwear. Trust that your son’s body will let him know when it is ready for that next step. Until then, be there for your son. If he is bothered by his bedwetting, explain to him some of the reasons kids wet the bed. If he is not bothered by it, he can wear the Pull-Ups and no one has to talk about it again.

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