Tips to Stop Bed Wetting

Families who have children that struggle with bed wetting know how life-altering it really can be. From missed sleepovers, embarrassment, and increased time in the laundry room, it is a disruptive problem for the whole family. 

Bed wetting is a fairly common issue that affects 5-10% of children. There are many possible causes including pelvic floor muscle imbalances, constipation, sleep disorders, or even behavioral problems. Bed wetting can be limiting for both children and parents. The good news is, there is help! Below are a few of my tips and tricks I give to my patients and their families to stop bed wetting. These can reduce, or even eliminate your child’s bed wetting.

Curb Bed Wetting with Your Bedtime Routine

Your child’s bedtime routine is important. Not only for prepping their body for sleep, but also prepping their bladder for sleep! Some of my favorite bedtime routines for bladder health include:

  • Double voiding. In a nutshell, this means urinating twice before bed. This will help your child fully empty their bladder before going to sleep. I usually recommend having your child urinate, then wash their face, brush their teeth, etc., and then urinate again right before laying down. 
  • Limit fluid intake 1-2 hours before bed. This one is pretty self-explanatory. If your child drinks a bunch of water right before bed, that extra water will be filling their bladder at night and may lead to an accident. Your child doesn’t need to limit their overall fluid intake, but rather drink the amount of water they need earlier in the day so by the time they are done eating supper, they’ve had their daily fluid intake. 
  • Using a bed alarm. If you find your child sleeps so hard that they sleep through a bed wetting accident, a bed alarm may be a good option. The bed alarm will trigger when it gets wet, which will wake up your child. Eventually your child will wake up when they need to use the bathroom rather than sleep through it. This can be disruptive to sleep in the early stages, but can be very effective for the long-term.

Daytime Habits are Important

Keeping dry during the day will help your child stay dry at night. Even if daytime accidents aren’t a problem for your child, there are a few different things you can try with the goal of eliminating bed wetting. 

  • Timed voiding. This is a fancy way of saying your child uses scheduled bathroom visits. If timed voiding is used, I usually recommend your child urinates every two hours, only when they are awake. Emptying their bladder more frequently during the day may cut back on nighttime accidents. There are many different phone apps or watches you can use to remind your child it’s time to go!
  • Water intake. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water during the day! This will not only keep them hydrated, but also will help to avoid extra fluid intake right before bed. And the type of fluid does matter. Certain drinks such as pop, juice, or flavored water can irritate the bladder and lead to accidents. Water really is best! 
  • No holding! If your child feels the need to use the bathroom, they should go! Many children tend to “hold it” so they can keep playing. This can lead to increased muscle tension making it harder to fully empty their bladder, which can lead to night time issues. 

Body Positioning While Going

Believe it or not, how your child sits on the toilet while urinating matters. Your child’s pelvic floor muscles need to be able to relax to best empty their bladder. He or she can do this by sitting with both their feet flat on a stool, and leaning forward resting their elbows on their thighs. In this position, the pelvic muscles open up, allowing for improved emptying of their bladder. 

Body Positioning

Focus on Constipation 

Most people don’t know that constipation is the number one cause of bed wetting in children. With that being the case, wouldn’t it make sense to resolve any constipation issues first? Your child’s colon and bladder both take up space in their small pelvis. When your child is constipated, the stool in their colon will place increased pressure on the bladder, which will force urine to leak out when your child is sleeping. Curious to learn more about relieving constipation? See these tips to fix constipation.

Give It Time

I don’t mean wait for your child to grow out of it (although that may happen), but to give the above strategies some time to see if they will work for your child. I usually recommend my patients be consistent with the above advice for a few weeks or a month before stopping and trying something new. It takes time for your child’s body to adjust to the new changes, and sometimes it takes a few weeks to see progress. 

Get Help, If Needed

There are many professionals who have extensive training to help resolve your child’s bed wetting, including pelvic health physical therapists. A trained pelvic health professional will be able to assess the strength and coordination of your child’s pelvic floor muscles, both of which are essential in staying dry at night. We can also help develop strategies that work best for your family in reducing nighttime accidents. Other professionals may also work with these issues, including occupational therapists and chiropractors. Do your research to see which option may be right for you and your child. 

With all the help that is available, you can help your child overcome bed wetting. Allowing you and your child to enjoy life to the fullest! 

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Dr. Jill is a mom, wife, and women's health physical therapist. She married Ryan in 2010 and they have 2 children, Easton (2013) and Molly (2015). Their family enjoys being active by participating in various activities, being outside, and going to the lake in the summer. Jill has been a physical therapist for 10 years. She is a Women's Health Certified Specialist and has earned a Certificate of Achievement in Pelvic Health Physical Therapy. She is also certified in pelvic floor dry needling. She practices at Apex Physical Therapy and Wellness in West Fargo. She loves her work and greatly enjoys advocating for the health of women! Jill feels very lucky to be able to work part-time, which makes for a very busy clinic schedule but also a lot of good time at home with her family. Give her a follow on Instagram.

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