If your tot has nighttime accidents, he’s not alone: Up to 7 million children are bed wetters, estimates The National Kidney Foundation. But why does it happen even after a toddler is potty-trained—and what can you do about it?
Bed-wetting is common for kids under age 5, says Max Maizels, M.D., co-author Getting to Dry: How to Help Your Child Overcome Bedwetting. “Usually, it’s a combination of having a small bladder and sleeping heavily at night,” he says.
And while it’s not a big deal, medically, bed-wetting can still be embarrassing for kids and frustrating for parents. According to Maizels, one of the best ways to help your child overcome bed-wetting is to stay calm and offer support. “Usually parents care much more about their child wetting the bed than the child himself,” he says.
A better approach? Understand that nighttime accidents aren’t your child’s fault—and that there are ways to overcome them. Here’s what Maizels suggests:
Limit nighttime drinks Let your child to drink liquids as usual at dinner, then cut them off for the rest of the night. (If he says he’s really thirsty later on, offer him small ice chips rather than an entire glass of water.) Then, have him make sure to use the bathroom before bed.
Steer clear of sugar Limit your tot’s intake of sugary junk food or drinks (especially those that contain caffeine), which can irritate sensitive bladders.
Sound the alarm “Bladder alarms” are worn by kids at night and make a noise when he has had an accident. The alarm is an effective treatment because accidents tend to occur in small spurts, rather than lots of urine released at once. The alarm rouses your child during a spurt, giving her time to go to the potty to finish emptying her bladder. We like the alarms from tryfordry.com.
Aim for healthy bowels A recent study from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina found that undiagnosed constipation could contribute to bed-wetting in kids. Make sure your tot gets enough fiber by encouraging him to eat fruits and vegetables. (Kids should get 10 grams daily plus an additional gram for every year of age. So, 13 grams for a 3-year-old.) If he doesn’t have a bowel movement every day, prune juice can help, too.
Utilize incentives Stickers on a calendar or other small rewards can help boost your child’s confidence. For every night of dryness, let your child put a sticker on his calendar, which can be added up to earn extra TV time or another treat.