Imagine this: you’ve just fallen into a deep sleep when your child appears at your bedside and wakes you up with the dreaded phrase “I had an accident!” You bid a good night’s sleep goodbye, and get up to clean up your child, change out the bedding, and start yet another load of laundry. The frustration and concern wash over you, and you wonder, “When will this end?”
Bedwetting is a common challenge for many children from toddlerhood all the way up through the double digits. It’s problematic for various reasons, from the inconvenience of midnight sheet changes to health and cleanliness concerns. Many parents feel lost when it comes to fixing bedwetting. The good news is that sometimes the solutions are easier than you’d think! In this blog post, we’ll explore when and how to intervene on bedwetting and I’ll provide you with a roadmap to navigate this (hopefully short) phase.
How Do You Know When It’s Time to Intervene on Bedwetting?
The journey to conquer bedwetting begins with recognizing when the time is right for intervention. Bedwetting is a common occurrence, and every child is different in terms of when they are physically and developmentally ready for dry nights. To gauge if your child is ready for bedwetting intervention make sure they are:
- Fully Potty Trained During the Day: Look for a consistent pattern of being fully potty trained during the day and staying accident-free for at least a month.
- Completely Independent with Bathroom Use: Your child should demonstrate complete independence in using the bathroom. This means they know when they need to go and can handle all aspects of bathroom use (e.g. getting on and off the potty, pulling up and down pants, wiping, washing hands) without assistance.
- Free from Other Sleep Problems: Ensure your child is a healthy sleeper with good habits who is already sleeping through the night most nights on their own before you start night-time potty training.
Make Sure YOU Are Ready
Before embarking on the journey to nighttime dryness, preparation is key. Here’s what you will need:
- Gather Necessary Materials: Equip yourself with essential tools, such as a mattress protector or bed liner, extra pajamas for potential accidents, a clean-up kit, and additional sheets. Nightlights can help light the way to the bathroom and ensure that a step stool or any other items your child might need in the bathroom are readily available.
- Time and Patience: Be ready to dedicate at least two weeks to the training process and ensure you have both the time and patience to follow through consistently. Don’t start nighttime potty training when you are stressed, have a lot going on, or have an unusual schedule.
- Communicate with Your Child: Sit down with your child and explain the plan to work on staying dry at night. Keep the conversation positive and emphasize how proud you are of their newfound skills and independence.
Steps to Successful Nighttime Potty Training
There’s a lot to remember and to think about when you are getting ready to start any new bedtime routine. Here’s a few must-dos for nighttime potty training:
- Establish Motivation: To make the process enjoyable for your child, create a system of reinforcement. Transform training into a fun adventure. Track how many nights in a row your child stays dry with a visual aid, such as a sticker or star chart. Celebrate this progress with exciting rewards, like a special breakfast, and, most importantly, lots of praise!
- Get Rid of Pull-Ups: Pull-ups can make it too easy for your child to urinate without realizing or caring. Removing them is a pivotal step in the training process, even though you might expect a few initial accidents. These are part of the learning curve.
- Limit Fluids Before Bed: To encourage nighttime dryness, limit your child’s fluid intake in the two hours before bedtime to no more than 6 ounces. Ensure your child uses the toilet and fully empties their bladder immediately before bed. Avoid sending them to bed with drinks or liquids.
- Teach Open Communication about Accidents: Let your child know that if they have an accident and it wakes them up, they should tell you right away. If this happens, remain calm and reassure them that accidents happen while they are learning. Praise them for their swift communication, guide them through clean-up, and encourage them to empty their bladder before tucking them back into bed.
What to do if Progress Stalls: The Urine Alarm
If, after a week of trying the above strategies, your child isn’t making progress but meets all the criteria for nighttime potty training, consider using a urine alarm. A urine alarm is a small device that your child wears that senses the tiniest bit of moisture and sounds an alarm to wake your child up. For most children, this alarm is a bit startling and causes them to not only wake up but to tense their muscles, stopping the flow of urine. They can help teach your child to notice when they have to urinate at night, and can help strengthen the muscles used to hold urine in. There are several different types of urine alarms including “bell and pad” methods, and sensors that go in the child’s underwear. I prefer the sensor method as they tend to work better and they can more quickly and accurately detect urine. Here’s how to introduce a urine alarm:
- Explain the Urine Alarm: Describe what a urine alarm is and how it can help to your child, make sure they understand how it works and why you are trying it.
- Practice During the Day: This step might seem silly, but it’s the most important part! Practice using the alarm during the day. Have your child lay in bed and pretend to be asleep. Dip the sensor in some water to set off the alarm, and then have your child practice getting up and quickly getting to the toilet. Do a few “test runs” to make sure your child understands how the alarm works, and how to turn it off.
- Use the Urine Alarm at Night: When your child is comfortable with the urine alarm, transition to using it at night. Continue rewarding dry nights and consider rewarding their response to the urine alarm as well.
Bedwetting doesn’t have to be a long-lasting challenge for parents or children. By following these steps and implementing the strategies discussed, dry nights can be in your near future. If progress remains slow or bedwetting continues, don’t hesitate to seek the guidance of a professional. With patience, consistency, and understanding, you can navigate bedwetting with confidence and compassion.