Bedwetting worries a lot of parents, but there are steps you can take to help your child — and yourself — cope with the issue.

Understanding bedwetting

First, it’s important to know that only a small percentage of night wetting problems are related to medical issues. Bedwetting isn’t necessarily a sign of emotional problems, either. Often, it’s just a normal developmental stage.

Children gradually gain control of their bladders as they mature, with most kids having conscious control over their bladders by age 5. Before this age, the use of disposable training pants at night can be helpful. But the goal for young children, including the 20% or so of kids who still wet their beds after age five, is to become aware enough of the feeling of a full bladder that they can wake up and go to the bathroom if they need to.

A full bladder causes nerves in the bladder wall to send a message to the brain, and the brain of a person with mature bladder control sends a message back to the bladder to wait, rather than emptying automatically as an infant’s does. This process has to be learned, just as children learn to stand up, walk, and speak. Just as with those processes, some parts of the control we develop are conscious and some are not, but gaining more control over our bodies is part of growing up.

Why do some kids have more trouble with bedwetting than others? Here are some of the factors that may come into play:

  • Genetics — it appears that bedwetting runs in families.
  • Stress, according to the Mayo Clinic, can be a factor. Things that small children find stressful are not the same as things that adults find stressful, so this may not be obvious to parents.
  • Constipation can cause nighttime wetting. Adding fruits and vegetables to your child’s diet can help.
  • Some kids have sensitivities to foods and drinks like citrus fruits and sodas. Sometimes these sensitivities can show up as bedwetting.

Coping with bedwetting

If your child has occasional accidents, be prepared and help your child learn how to respond to a wet bed. Let him or her help change sheets and underpad, make sure you have dry pajamas handy, and approach it in a matter-of-fact way. Don’t punish or shame kids for these incidents, and don’t restrict fluids before bed.

Talk with your child’s doctor if you’re concerned. There are solutions to the problem, including bedwetting alarms. If you decide to talk with your child’s doctor, it’s a good plan to keep a diary of your child’s bedwetting incidents, including any notes about other health issues or events that stand out. The information may help your doctor see a pattern that can help plan a solution.