Dear Dr. Heather, I have a seven-year-old who has peed in his bed forever. I have tried numerous attempts to get him to stop, like waking him up to go, buying him a night lamp, etc. However, none of these have worked, and now I am thinking it might be psychological, or that maybe something is happening to him and I don't know about it. Whenever I ask him why he wets his bed, his only answer is "I don't know". Can you help me? The medical doctors have ruled this out as "normal" and tell me that one day he will stop, but WHEN??? Thank you for your time.
In desperate need of help,
I know it's hard, but bedwetting is common and fairly normal for a lot of kids this age, especially boys. There seems to be a genetic component, as well. It's important to not get into shaming him or trying to control the wetting....you have to leave it up to him. He should wear big-kid size pullups and be responsible (or at least help with) changing sheets when necessary, but the motivation to be dry has to come from him. Leave him in the nighttime pullups until he's dry consistently, so there's no pressure or worry about it.
They have those "bell and pad" things that go off when the kid pees, but it seems like they only serve to wake up the rest of the household, EXCEPT the kid himself....since bedwetters usually sleep really deeply. In fact, some doctors think that bedwetters' brains are a little different, in terms of their ability to transition between sleep and wakefulness. Bedwetters may simply not have developed the ability to awaken yet from sleep in order to go to the bathroom. This ability usually develops over time, though.
In later childhood, by about age 7, bedwetters may start to worry about what others think of them, and feel upset that they can't control their bodies at night. Reassure these kids that you will help them to do what it takes to eventually gain nighttime control; help them restrict fluids after 6pm, make sure they empty their bladder right before bed, and limit nighttime sweets, which can have a dehydrating effect. Getting a little extra sleep at night, even as little as 30 minutes more, can help for some. You can also keep trying to awaken him a couple of hours after going to bed to have him empty his bladder. But this should only be done with the child's cooperation and agreement. Let them know that you have faith in their bodies, and their ability to gain nighttime dryness when they are ready. And try to eliminate sources of shaming or ridicule. He's doing the best he can, and shame only worsens the problem.
We worry more about trauma, a medical condition or psychological stuff when there is an abrupt change...as in, they USED to be dry, and NOW...it has suddenly changed. But if he has always more or less been wet at night, and if there are no other indications in his daytime life that things are amiss...well, then, it looks like you're just gonna hafta be patient.
Of course, for something like this, you always need his pediatrician's blessing that nothing else is wrong, but other than that, all I can do is assure you that it WILL stop.
Let us know when that happens, we'd like to hear how it goes!
Aloha, Dr. Heather The BabyShrink