When your child is six or over and still wetting the bed at night – it might be time to consider treatment. Your child may eventually grow out of it – but at what cost? Bedwetting can impact family life, sleep quality, sleepovers, camps, holidays and more importantly – your child’s self-esteem, particularly as your child gets older. 

There are treatment options that are very successful and very likely to get your child dry within around six to eight weeks. A large-scale Australian study was conducted in 2018 reviewing 2,861 medical charts to determine the efficacy of the ‘Practitioner Assisted Bell and Pad Bedwetting Alarm’ approach. The findings revealed a success rate of 91% with this approach within the psychology clinic. A 77% rate of success was found overall across a broader range of settings. 

Myth 1.

I’ve tried using an alarm and it didn’t work, so there is no point in trying the same thing again. 

Wrong. Firstly, not all alarms are created equal. The 2018 study, quoted above, examined only the Ramsey Coote Instruments bell and pad system, which is produced locally in Melbourne. This product is designed for use under the care of a trained practitioner and it is robust, reliable and effective. Secondly, it is recommended that a child tries an alarm again after a period of time, and the research supports repeat use up to 2-3 times with a good success rate. Third, a practitioner assisted approach will help support, monitor and trouble shoot to ensure your child reaches success. 

Myth 2

It’s best if I just let my child grow out of it.

Wrong. A link between bedwetting and poor self-esteem has been well established. Those with bedwetting also have a poorer quality of sleep. If you take action to work out this issue your child will likely be more confident and better rested. Also, keep in mind that approximately 2% of children never grow out of bedwetting. Yep, that’s correct, approximately 2% of the adult population still regularly wet the bed. 

Myth 3

If I pick my child up at night and take them to the toilet, this will help them learn what to do. 

Wrong. It might help you get through the night without a wet bed, but doing this does not help your child attain long term dryness. The skill they need to learn is to eventually rouse themselves from sleep, in response to a feeling of a full bladder, or learn to hold on, rather than just wake up randomly during the night to empty. 

Myth 4

It will help to reduce water intake. 

Wrong. Reducing water intake in the afternoon almost never fixes the problem. Children take great satisfaction in hearing ‘your parents are actually wrong, you should be drinking MORE water!’ The recommended water intake for children depends of course on age, gender, temperature and amount of physical activity. What is important is that your child starts drinking adequate water early on in the day and continues drinking a good amount of water throughout the whole day. This way, when it gets to the evening, children should not be excessively thirsty and seeking to make up for inadequate daytime water intake. 

Myth 5

Bedwetting is always completely normal and they will just eventually grow out of it. 

Wrong. This can be true but is not always the case. In children from 5 years and upwards the condition ‘enuresis’ can be diagnosed for children who regularly wet the bed. Treatment at around six or seven years of age is recommended. This condition is multi-factorial, with genetics, difficulty rousing from sleep, delay in anti-diuretic hormone and smallish bladder capacities all implicated. However, it is always best to consult your GP, paediatrician or continence nurse as sometimes (rarely) there can be underlying medical conditions associated with bedwetting. Your medical practitioner may look at constipation, sleep apnea, bladder dysfunction, diabetes, malformations of the spinal cord and a range of other medical conditions which may be associated with wetting the bed. If your child suddenly starts wetting again after a period of dryness your GP may screen for infections or may consider emotional triggers. If your child has daytime lower urinary tract symptoms (straining, urgency, frequency, pain, poor stream) this is also worth raising with your GP. Your GP may recommend further investigations. 

In conclusion

Alarm therapy is a safe, drug free and effective approach to bedwetting treatment that gives the best likelihood of long term dryness. If you need help or support around bedwetting consult a medical professional. Useful information can also be obtained through The Victorian Continence Resource Centre. 

By Maria Dhroso, the psychologist at Dry Time Kids, a treatment clinic for children’s night time bedwetting, based in Cheltenham. www.drytimekids.com.au

The research referred to in this article was conducted by Apos, Schuster, Reece, Whitaker, Murphy, Golder, Leiper, Sullivan and Gibbs (2018) and can be found in the Journal of Pediatrics.