Bedwetting: It’s Been Five Years And I’m Still Changing Diapers

bed wettingMy eldest daughter has always enjoyed her moments of quiet contemplation. So when she was two years old, naturally she fell in love with the toilet. Her switch from diapers to ceramic was nearly instant, bypassing those unsanitary plastic potties entirely, to our utmost relief. The toilet was her Wonderland. And once she was dry, she never wavered – barring one unfortunate incident while visiting a waterfall. She did, however, wear a pull-up at night.

Three years later, she still wears it.

Not that it bothered me much, in the beginning. After all, I still had a little one in diapers and both girls had developed in a way that they wore the same size. They also come from a family of late-bloomers; my sister’s kids were in pull-ups until the first grade.

But last year we toilet trained the little one and I started to care a bit more. We cut out after-dinner drinks, instituted a post-bedtime story toilet run, implemented terry-cloth training pants, took her for a midnight pee break, installed the dreaded potty by her bed. She woke all those mornings like she’d woken every morning of her short life: grinning contentedly and sopping wet.

Recently we had our washing machine serviced and it clicked that we could break it in anew with a morning ritual of sheets from my daughter’s bed. She had been pushing the idea of going to sleep in her “knickers” for weeks, so it was her move, really, which was a good start, we figured. Together we set aside her collection of Disney knickers for special night use and finally inaugurated our diaper-free nights 10 days ago.

The first night we changed the linens twice and lost Belle and Ariel. The second night, Cinderella went down, but only Cinderella – I was getting hopeful. By midnight the third night there had been no disruptions, so I crept into my daughter’s room to feel her little bum for moisture. I found what no mother wants to find, despite five years of diaper-changing: a fist-sized lump, stretching out poor Sleeping Beauty.

Each night since then has been different, yet with the same outcome: laundry. So much laundry, in fact, that on the seventh day, our washer broke down. Perhaps God was resting on that day.

So where do we go from here? When I put the issue out there I encounter so many camps I can’t keep them straight. Should I wean her slowly or continue this cold turkey thing? Should I escort her to the bathroom each night before I turn in? Or should I go back to diapers until her bladder has chilled out enough to cope with a daily 12-hour recess?

Or should I pay heed to this article in Slate magazine, which tells me the reason my daughter is wetting the bed may be that she’s so constipated, a mound of back-up (to put it mildly) is pressing against her bladder and causing it to fail? (Even children who have regular bowel movements, it says, may not be clearing it all out.) The treatment for baby constipation is as you’d expect: a course of baby laxatives. Do they even exist?

Though my washing machine is suggesting we cut and run, my instincts tell me to stay the course. Our mission will give new meaning to the words “spring cleaning” and ensure another Whirlpool technician gets to send a child to college. And it may just mean that, down the road, our daughter won’t pull a Sarah Silverman and write a bedwetting confessional damning our failed strategies.

In the meantime, though, I’d love to hear thoughts from the trenches (cesspools?) of night-training. Will we ever get out alive?

(Photo: Hemera)

Share This Post:
    • Kim

      My son is almost 6 1/2 and still wets at night. We went through a few weeks where he stayed dry, but it didn’t last. He wears “Good NIghts” to bed so I don’t have the laundry issue.

      Does she seem to use the bathroom frequently during the day? Last year I got a frantic call from the school nurse that my son urinates frequently. Took him to the doctor and where a urinary tract infection was ruled out. She said often in kids they are in a hurry to finish using the bathroom so they push the urine out rather than relax and let it “fall out.” This in turn can cause bladder spasms, which results in frequent urination (and accidents). Twice he did a 2-week course on Ditropan (oxybutynin). It was supposed to be twice a day but I only gave it at night because it made him sleepy. It made a WORLD of difference! Sometimes when we were out it seemed like we spent more time in the bathroom than out! Also when he was using the medication he was dry at night. It may not be a bad idea to consult your pediatrician. I know with boys they are not too concerned with bed-wetting until they are older, but I am not sure if the same is true with girls. There is also a nasal spray DDAVP that is used for bed wetting – I have no experience with it though.

      Another thing to try may be a bed wetting alarm. I have seen them on Amazon, and I’m sure they are on many sites. I remember my cousin using one when she was younger (and I would be sleeping over her house in the bottom bunk terrified she was going to pee through the top bunk’s mattress and pee on me)! They have a sensor that will activate an alarm when it detects wetness. I know in my son’s case he is a very heavy sleeper (wonder if me being in the fire department while he was pregnant has anything to do with that), so I believe that is why he doesn’t wake up to use the bathroom.

      Good luck! I would be interested in hearing an update when you find something that helps!

    • Kim

      My son is almost 6 1/2 and still wets at night. We went through a few weeks where he stayed dry, but it didn’t last. He wears “Good NIghts” to bed so I don’t have the laundry issue.

      Does she seem to use the bathroom frequently during the day? Last year I got a frantic call from the school nurse that my son urinates frequently. Took him to the doctor and where a urinary tract infection was ruled out. She said often in kids they are in a hurry to finish using the bathroom so they push the urine out rather than relax and let it “fall out.” This in turn can cause bladder spasms, which results in frequent urination (and accidents). Twice he did a 2-week course on Ditropan (oxybutynin). It was supposed to be twice a day but I only gave it at night because it made him sleepy. It made a WORLD of difference! Sometimes when we were out it seemed like we spent more time in the bathroom than out! Also when he was using the medication he was dry at night. It may not be a bad idea to consult your pediatrician. I know with boys they are not too concerned with bed-wetting until they are older, but I am not sure if the same is true with girls. There is also a nasal spray DDAVP that is used for bed wetting – I have no experience with it though.

      Another thing to try may be a bed wetting alarm. I have seen them on Amazon, and I’m sure they are on many sites. I remember my cousin using one when she was younger (and I would be sleeping over her house in the bottom bunk terrified she was going to pee through the top bunk’s mattress and pee on me)! They have a sensor that will activate an alarm when it detects wetness. I know in my son’s case he is a very heavy sleeper (wonder if me being in the fire department while he was pregnant has anything to do with that), so I believe that is why he doesn’t wake up to use the bathroom.

      Good luck! I would be interested in hearing an update when you find something that helps!

    • Jen

      Long term bedwetter here. I had accidents off and on until I was about 7 despite being potty trained by 2. I know for me the issue was simply that I was a heavy sleeper (still am) coupled with having a rather small bladder. My mom used to limit my liquid intake for the few hours before bed AND I would try and go both before and after putting my pjs on. It definitely limited the bedwetting, but it did not completely end it.

      Frankly, I think once you’ve ruled out actual medical/psychological issues with your doctor, the best thing is to simply give her time and perhaps keep her in the pull ups in the evening until you notice she’s staying dry more often than wetting. That’s what my mom did after a few weeks of trying and I eventually stopped needing them long before we ever had to worry about what to do for sleepovers. I was not able to control my bedwetting or train myself because I wasn’t conscious while I was doing it and I didn’t wake up until I was already soaked. I don’t know what type of kid your daughter is, but I was definitely the type that would have been more upset constantly waking up soaked for months on end then I was with having to wear pull-ups for a bit longer than most kids.

    • kim

      my 6 yr old wears pull ups at night. we tried going without, but she doesn’t wake up even when she’s drenched in pee. and i don’t have a washer, & don’t have time or money for daily trips to the laundrymat. we limit drinks at night as well, and she goes before she goes to bed. i was waking her up before i went to bed to go as well, but sometimes she had a hard time falling back asleep, & then she’d have a rough morning. for now, my current plan is to put her in pull ups until she wakes up dry in the morning, for a decent period of time. we haven’t even had day one yet, though.

    • LizB86

      My daughter is six and still bedwetting (deep sleeper plus small bladder, the typical reasons for late bedwetting). On her pediatrician’s advice, we ordered a bedwetting alarm kit and started using it a week and a half ago. The alarm trains your child’s bladder and brain to communicate with each other better. My daughter has already made good progress. Now when the alarm goes off, she wakes up more quickly (at first she was pretty out of it) and gets herself to the bathroom right away. One night she even woke up on her own without wetting the bed. The kit came with two waterproof pads for her to sleep on so you don’t need to do daily laundry. The alarm
      training process typically takes two to four months and is successful with 70 to 80% of children. Google “The Bedwetting Store” to see the different products. Good luck!

    • Almost dry.

      Former bedwetter here. Not to alarm you, but I wet the bed regularly until I was about 11 or 12. It was less frequent the older I got but still MUCH more than normal. My parents handled it wonderfully and I felt no shame or worry over the problem. My doctor told them I had a bladder issue of some kind that would likely persist until puberty when my body did some final growing. Given that I was 3 when they figured this out, I can’t remember the exact name of the problem. But my parents handled it like any other medical condition you can’t control. We made our best efforts: a plastic mattress cover, lots of spare sheets and pjs, and a trip to the bathroom right before bed. After that even if I wet the bed for 2 weeks solid, my mom or dad was there helping me wash up, change, get new sheets, and get back to bed. They never complained or got frustrated. Not once. This attitude really helped me come to terms with it. I already knew it wasn’t normal. Big kids didn’t wet the bed, but because my family never treated it like a failing on my part, I learned to live with it.

      My advice-have her take a trip to the doctor to rule out medical problems, get her some goodnites, and get ready to be patient. All those bed alarm training type things might work for her, but they don’t apply to all cases, and I would have just ended up failing and feeling terrible.

    • CW

      Have you tried eliminating dairy products from her diet? I would do a 30 day trial of a dairy-free diet to see if it helps at all.

    • The Mommy Psychologist

      There’s some great alarm systems available. Many of these have great success. I recommend them to the parents I work with all the time. Also, you should have a medical evaluation as well. Sometimes there’s a medical problem contributing to it.

      “The child psychologist who thought she had all the answers to parenting until she became one herself.” http://www.themommypsychologist.com

    • Andrea

      Rule out any possible medical issue with a visit to the pediatrician. If nothing is wrong, then let it be! My son wore diapers at night until he was almost 8 years old. We tried EVERYTHING and nothing worked. His bladder was just too small to hold pee for 10 hours. It went away by itself.

      Keep her in the pull ups at night, trust me she won’t go to college wearing diapers.

    • Kate

      Your comments echoed how I was feeling about 2 months ago. We had tried it all, and even despite a successful potty time at 10:30 every night, if we tried without pull-ups it was on a good night, 50% chance of staying dry.
      Lots of wet sheets, lots of soaked pajamas, and a little girl who was starting to recognize that her 4 year old sister didn’t need pullups at night anymore but she did.
      We ruled out any medical problems at her 5 year checkup. Doctors advice? CHILL :-) And so we did, and encouraged her to as well.
      In February my daughter turned 6. And guess what? She started having dry nights. We did not change anything. After 5 straight dry nights, we ditched the pull ups. Only a couple accidents since then. We DO still get her on the potty at 10:30pm, but wake her to go instead of lifting them from bed like we used to.
      Of course I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t make the efforts like reducing bedtime drinks, and ruling out medical problems. But it’s all too easy to convince ourselves that we’re not doing enough…sometimes they really do just grow out of it :-) Good luck!

    • EA

      Get an alarm. They really work, although it takes some time. In fact, my 7 1/2 year old son is still wearing it almost a year later – it goes off every once in a while now (maybe once every month or couple of months), but he rarely has to do more than change his underwear when it does. Also, especially for the first month, have several extra-long mattress covers you can tuck into the sides of the bed, strip out when a leak occurs, and quickly pop another one on. I realized really late in the process that I should have been doing the latter all along instead of putting the covers under the sheets.

    • Barbara

      Hi Ellen

      Was not sure if you meant she was opening her bowels at night as well as wetting? With the bed wetting I can tell you about our experience.

      My children used the Desmopressin tablets, same medication as the nasal spray mentioned above.

      My children were later than usual to be dry at night, eldest was 11. We used Desmopressin (medication from Dr) as they were losing confidence with going to friends houses for sleepovers/camps. It worked great. They would take it for a few months, then take a break to see if they could manage without it, going back on it if they still needed it. Then on a break they just stayed dry and that was that.
      They were shown to have small bladders and the medication just meant they did not have to put up with wet beds until their bodies were ready, we had to encourage lots of drinking water in the morning and midday to increase bladder size.

      My kids had the tablets that go under the tongue (you can have the nasal spray, but that it not often prescribed in simple bed wetting) The youngest age it can be used for is age 5, my eldest started it when she was 9 and needed it for nearly 2 years.

      THIS MUST BE CAREFULLY SUPERVISED. You have to make sure they do not drink before going to bed as the med effectively tells the kidneys to make more concentrated urine and so the bladder is not filled and so the reflex to urinate does not happen whilst they are asleep.
      If they drink loads before bed and take these meds, then the extra fluid that would normally go to the bladder is retained, they can then get overloaded with fluid, this is not safe.
      You may now wonder why I let them use it? All meds have side effects, as long as you follow the fluid rules, it’s fine.

      Get it checked out by the Dr first, there is usually a bed wetting nurse that you can be referred to who can explain all the options. Ours was great..

      Hope this helps

    • Andrea (PARENTise)

      Ah…yes, I am not the only one! My 5 1/2 yo is in the same situation. We’ve tried the cold turkey method (her request) and we try waking her up at night and having her go – but there is still a 50/50 chance she’s still going to wet. I’m not really concerned with it. Yes, I’d prefer not to spend the money on the pull-ups…but we’ll get there. She may be 11 when it happens, but it will happen. Right?

    • Natalia

      We will survive Ellen! Good news, aside from giving our children laxatives, there are many treatment options available it just takes time and patience. I found a website solely dedicated to enuresis http://bedwettingstore.com/ which discusses treatment options, causes, tips for success and more. The consumer reviews are great and help in choosing a product. After finding the website it put me at ease knowing nighttime or day time wetting is common at any age. Stay Dry and push forward!

    • Caryn

      Bedwetting is hereditary, it runs in both sides of the family. Hubby until age 8 and myself until age 10. We both had sibs and cousins who did it also. Our ped calls it a wet family and they do happen. Night time diapers were a part of our growing up. They were a normal thing and never a shameful word or anything like it. We have dd 5 and ds 3 both get a night diaper. It does pass. Some kids sooner and some later. Not to worry.

    • Pingback: The New Playground Discussion: Silver Balls & 'Fifty Shades Of Grey'

    • diapers

      I am very happy to read your articles it’s very useful for me,

      and I am completely satisfied with your website.

      All comments and articles are very useful and very good.

      Your blog is very attention-grabbing. I am loving all of the in

      turn you are sharing with each one!…

      diapers

    • me

      I personally don’t agree with night time pull ups, as I want my kids to feel when they are wet. My daughter has never had an accident but my 6 year old son still has them now and again – we have a couple of brolly sheets that he sleeps on, if he wakes, we whip one off and put the other down.

    • Mike Johnson

      Bedwetting can be a really frustrating challenge to deal with.
      Especially when our children are a bit older and have been trained for
      years. Often times a child who has started school and has had dry pants
      for years..To prevent oneself from this dreadful situation, science has invented a device called a bedwetting alarms.
      http://www.drybuddy.com

    • Mike Johnson

      Bedwetting can be a really frustrating challenge to deal with.
      Especially when our children are a bit older and have been trained for
      years. Often times a child who has started school and has had dry pants
      for years..To prevent oneself from this dreadful situation, science has invented a device called a bedwetting alarms.
      http://www.drybuddy.com

    • Junior Smith

      You can get some good advice here for bedwetting and it has helped me alot http://www.babyjunior.co.uk/bedwettingsupport.html

    • Jacoby

      I personally think, due to years of being a doctor, put her in diapers. I recommend Goodnites L/XL. Good Luck!

    • Upset brother

      My brother is still changed by our mom and babysitter. He is 20 and severly autistic and he is more like a 2yr old then a 20yr old. He barely speaks and is in diapers 24/7 since he isn’t potty trained. It’s hard to live with him I think even for mom it’s hard.