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When They Wake Up Wet

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Close up of young Asian boy's face as he's lying on a pillow sleeping peacefully with his head resting on his hand.
Does your child still wet the bed? Here are some tips for helping you and your kid get through these nightly inconveniences.

My oldest son struggled (and honestly still struggles sometimes) with bedwetting. To help him — and lessen our already towering load of laundry — we’ve established a few rules and have incorporated some simple exercises aimed at keeping his bed dry throughout the night.

Training

What goes in must come out. So to keep fluids from coming out in bed later that night, all drinks stop about two hours before bedtime. We remind our son to get a drink before that time, but it’s also a subtle reminder that there will be no more beverages soon.

Our son also tends to want to rush through everything, urination included. So we have him practice taking his time. Whenever he goes to the bathroom, he’s to until he feels like he is finished, and then, clench his muscles as if he’s holding it for a slow count of five. Next, he’s to release again, draining anything that may still remain in his bladder. This process does three things: 1) It helps strengthen his pelvic floor muscles; 2) It forces him to slow down; and 3) It ensures that he empties his bladder completely every time.

Prevention

Being overly tired can also cause a child to wet his or her bed. In an effort to prevent this, we try to maintain a dependable bedtime schedule. We’ve learned that it’s not just about training our child, but also training his body. He falls asleep faster because his body is expecting to settle down and is ready for sleep. This allows him better quality sleep over time, and lessens wet beds due to being overly tired.

Pre-emptive bed making

Occasionally, a wet bed still happens. For just such incidents, I’ve reverted back to something I did when my son was still in the crib. I make his bed in layers. The first layer is a waterproof cover that slips over a mattress, often called a mattress pad, covered with a fitted sheet. Then, the next layer is exactly the same: another waterproof mattress pad topped with another fitted sheet.

This way, when an accident happens in the middle of the night, all I need to do is strip the top layer, and the bed is clean and dry immediately. Don’t want to keep layers of sheets on your child’s bed? Keep a plastic tub of clean sheets stashed under your child’s bed instead. You’ll have a set ready to go whenever you need it, allowing both of you to get back to sleep without a midnight run to the linen close.

The goal: sleep

My goal was always to keep my child in “sleep mode” as best I could. This helped ensure that we could both slip back into a sound sleep quickly. (After all, the upside to cleaning up a middle-of-the-night-mess is that there isn’t likely to be another one once I go back to sleep.)

I avoided turning on the lights in the room and used the hallway light instead. I also kept my voice soft, calm and reassuring so that both my child and I remained as relaxed as possible. The more relaxed we were, the less intrusive the accident felt and the quicker we could return to clean, dry sheets.

Bedwetting prevention on a budget

Not surprisingly, there are a number of products on the market. These range from absorbent disposable underwear to paper pads with waterproof liners that adhere directly to the outside of a child’s fitted sheet. (The child sleeps directly on the disposable paper pad. While there’s no denying their ease-of-use, these products come with hefty price tags. One way to take advantage of the convenience in a more budget-friendly way is to use these items for special situations only.

For example, the disposable underwear can help your child feel much more confident about participating in sleepovers without fear of embarrassment. Additionally, the disposable sheet liners are ideal on vacation, when having an extra set of sheets on hand is impossible.

But thinking outside of the box can help protect your child’s bed, too. Waterproof mattress pads can be expensive. Consider purchasing a few yards of waterproof material at a local craft store and cutting it down to size instead. In a pinch, a large plastic garbage bag sandwiched between the fitted sheet and the mattress pad also works to keep the wet where you want it — only on the sheet.

The future

Lastly, remember to reassure your child that there’s nothing wrong with him or her. Bedwetting is exceedingly common, but worry, anxiety and feelings of guilt can actually make the situation worse. If you also struggled with bedwetting as a child, don’t hesitate to share this with your child. Knowing that you grew up and successfully overcame bedwetting will give your child the hope and knowledge that he or she will someday, too. Regardless, your child may feel embarrassed, and this only increases with age. Reassure him or her in the middle of the night when it happens and again in the morning, letting your child know that he or she will someday overcome it.

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