The best way to attack the problem of bedwetting begins when you and your child have had a discussion about their feelings related to bedwetting. This often happens as they get older and continue to have problems with bedwetting and they are anxious or embarrassed.
If you bring up the subject and they would rather just wear a pull up at night, and go back to playing outside rather than discuss strategies for staying dry, it is not time to tackle the issue. Timing is everything!
As you start to discuss strategies to stop bedwetting, begin with having your child keep a calendar of their dry nights. This gets them involved and gives you an idea of their level of commitment.
Then start setting their alarm clock to awake them in the morning and see if they can get up on their own. If the alarm doesn’t wake them up for school it is probably not going to awaken them in the middle of the night.
Remind them to recognize their need to go to the bathroom during the day too, and have them go every several hours to feel the sensation of their bladder filling throughout the day. Many of these kids are infrequent voiders during the day and have actually stretched their bladder wall and hypertrophied the bladder muscle.
Lastly, make sure that they are not constipated and put them on something like Miralax to ensure that they do not have stool that also compresses the bladder (the colon sits right above the bladder and can push on the bladder). Talk about a reward system that they would like to use while working on the problem. It doesn’t have to be a major reward, small things work equally well. I think the rewards should be given by the week, rather than the day.
I also give rewards for effort, not just for dry nights. Trying is the whole idea. Sometimes the brain and bladder are just not ready and you do not want your child to feel defeated even though they have tried their hardest.
If all of this is successful it is then time to set up a “bedwetting alarm system” (numerous ones available over the internet). The alarms consist of a bell and pad. The alarm sounds when the pad senses moisture. The alarms that actually buzz are more effective than those that only vibrate. Remember, your child is already hard to arouse and vibration alone will probably not work.
Once you begin using the alarm and you hear the alarm go off, you will need to go into their rooms and call their name or shake them too, to actually get them awake and to the bathroom. In the beginning it may almost be like sleep walking them to the bathroom. Then rinse off the pad and reset the alarm and put them back to bed.
Over time they should arouse more easily and the time spent awake and going to the bathroom should shorten. As you can see this is disruptive to everyone’s sleep so best done over the summer or a long winter break. It often takes at least a month for bedwetting to stop and the alarm system should really be used for several more months to reinforce the process.
There is also a drug call DDAVP that works on the kidneys to reduce the flow of urine. This medication works when given but does not “cure” the problem. I often use this for children who are worried about a camp or overnight experience, before they have started the alarm system regimen.
It has not been shown to be as effective as the alarm system, but in difficult cases I have used it in conjunction with the alarm system. You might want to discuss the pros and cons of this drug with your pediatrician.
Remember this takes time, motivation and determination on both the parent and child’s part. Remain positive and optimistic throughout the training process. It is not a sprint but a longer race, and don’t expect overnight success. Remind them of their other childhood accomplishments and that with time and determination they will be successful with bedwetting too.
That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.