When children wet the bed or have accidents during the day, it can be concerning and stressful. You might have tried all of the things to get them to the bathroom to ensure they don't have an accident, but if you're having trouble, know you're not alone, mama.
Here is what you need to know about bed wetting and other forms of pediatric incontinence (when kids can't hold their urine).
What is bed-wetting?
Pediatric incontinence is a term used to describe a child's inability to control their urine or bowel movements, resulting in the involuntary loss of liquid or stools.
Should I be worried about my child's bed-wetting?
While incontinence can occur during the day (diurnal), night (nocturnal), or both, daytime incontinence is generally diagnosed around age 4, while nighttime incontinence, more commonly known as bedwetting, is diagnosed around age 6.
Before these ages, both are considered quite normal, despite parental concerns.
One study found that most children stop wetting the bed between 29 and 41 months, but as many as 10% still do at 53 months.
What are the types of pediatric incontinence?
Urge syndrome: Children with an overactive bladder who feel the sudden need to urinate more frequently than normal.
Dysfunctional voiding: The sphincter muscles contract when the bladder is trying to empty, causing urine to be retained. This will cause your child to feel the urge to go frequently since they're unable to fully empty their bladder. This may also be associated with constipation or loss of bowel control (encopresis).
Lazy or underactive bladder: The bladder doesn't signal the need to go until it's filled with a large amount of urine and the bladder has difficulty emptying completely.
Neurogenic bladder: Bladder symptoms are associated with a neurological condition such as myelomeningocele, spinal cord injury, or other neurological disorders.
What causes bed wetting and pediatric incontinence?
Common incontinence causes include:
- Developmental delay
- Stress or anxiety
- A physical impairment
- An infection such as a urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Conditions such as diabetes or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Bladder muscle or nerve dysfunction
- Weak bladder and pelvic muscles
- Your child ignores the urge to go too long or does not want to stop participating in fun activities to go to the restroom
- Your child doesn't feel the urge to urinate until it's too late
How can we stop bed-wetting?
When it comes to addressing pediatric incontinence, the first and most important thing to do as a parent is to support your child. Do not approach them with anger or frustration, as this could increase their stress and anxiety. Accidents are not their fault. Calmly reassure your child that everything is fine.
Then, be sure to visit their doctor. Incontinence often goes unreported with the belief that children will simply grow out of it. However, it may be caused by a treatable condition such as a UTI or may signal a significant underlying medical problem, including bladder or kidney disease, or even neurological issues.
There are a few ways to treat urinary incontinence, including treating the underlying problem if one is found, taking medications to treat the symptoms, counseling, exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles, and more. Your child's doctor can help you figure out which is the best route for your child.
Also, remember that sometimes pediatric incontinence can't be cured and can only be managed.
Another very important step involves teaching your child proper voiding techniques. It can also be beneficial to make a few simple lifestyle changes to reduce stress on the bowels and reduce symptoms:
1. Practice timed voiding.
Remind your child to use the bathroom every few hours. After waking up, after meals and before bed are also great times to go. If they don't want to stop participating in an activity, calmly remind them that the activity will be waiting for them to return afterward.
2. Clean up their diet.
There are certain foods, such as caffeinated beverages, snacks high in carbs and sugar, and spicy and greasy foods that can add stress to the bowels. Be sure to provide a diet with plenty of water or sugar-free juice, fruits, vegetables and whole grains for the right amount of fiber and nutrition.
3. Develop a system.
Set up a chart to reward your child for making it through dry days and nights. Add a sticker for each successive period and give them rewards for making it through multiple days without an accident.
4. Recruit help.
You don't have to take on the stress of managing incontinence alone. Let friends, family members and your child's teachers know so they can assist with their needs.
5. Be prepared.
Have everything your child might need in the event of an accident, such as extra diapers, a change of clothes, extra underpads, hand sanitizer, sanitary wipes and disposal bags. This will make clean-ups quick, discreet and easy.
Speak with your doctor about the monthly cost of these supplies, as you may qualify to receive a monthly shipment of incontinence supplies directly to your home. This alleviates the stress of having to buy these items in local department stores and the worry of running out.
It's perfectly natural to feel a little embarrassment and anxiety about pediatric incontinence, but there's no reason to try and keep it a secret. By recruiting help and visiting your child's doctor, incontinence will become much easier to manage, allowing your family to relax and return to their normal routine.