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The End of Bedwetting

How to Tell If Your Child Is Ready to Stop

It may happen all at once, or your child's bedwetting may start to slow down over several months. But when a child stays dry more and more often, parents take notice. Could this be the end of enuresis?

All kids are different, even when it comes to bedwetting. Some wet the bed every night, some do it a few times a week. Others can go several days without an accident and then wet every night for a week after that. Because each child's situation is different, when your child will finally grow out of it depends on a number of factors. And the end will happen differently for each child.

"Sometimes kids wake up dry one day and that's it, and some gradually stop wetting so often," says Dr. Charles Shubin, pediatrician and director of pediatrics for Mercy Medical Center Family Care in Baltimore, Md. "It happens different ways for different kids."

Consider the following factors and how they relate to your child's enuresis.

A Look at the Numbers

To determine when your child will likely outgrow bedwetting, consider the numbers. Twenty percent of 5-year-olds wet the bed, 12 percent of 6-year-olds still wet the bed and 15 percent of kids who wet the bed stop each year after age 6. You can use these numbers to estimate how much longer your child will wake up wet. If your child is 8 or older, then chances are he or she is almost through bedwetting. For younger kids, keep in mind that most doctors don't consider bedwetting a problem until a child is older than 6.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics defines bedwetting as wetting two or more times a week in children over 5 or often enough that it bothers you," says Dr. Howard Bennett, pediatrician and author of the book Waking Up Dry: A Guide to Help Children Overcome Bedwetting. "But these days it's easier to manage with protective underpants and bedding."

Family History

If a parent or an aunt or uncle wet the bed as a kid, then chances are your child's bedwetting is hereditary. And family history may offer some insight into when your child will overcome wetting.

"Genetics play a big part in bedwetting," Dr. Shubin says. "So look at how old family members were when they became dry." For example, if a parent or other family member grew out of bedwetting by age 7, then your child will likely grow out of it around the same age.

Anticipate Relapses

Even if your child has been dry for a few weeks, relapses are a possibility. Some kids will wet occasionally, even after long periods of dryness. And many kids will gradually outgrow bedwetting.

"My children didn't grow out of bedwetting all of a sudden; it was less frequently and then stopped," says Cynthia Sheldon, a mom from Elmwood, Neb. But that doesn't mean that relapses will last for long.

"Thirty days dry is considered cured," Dr. Bennett says. "If they relapse after that, it's usually a periodic thing." Periodic relapses may be caused by disruptions in usual sleep patterns or other changes in routine.

Be Supportive

Kids may become frustrated when they wet the bed and they may not understand that relapses are normal, especially after a long period of dryness has built up their confidence. If your child wets after a dry period, he may be discouraged and upset. The key is to helping your child deal with these feelings is to be supportive and realistic.

"Prepare kids that they may wet again," Dr. Bennett says. "Allow them to talk and express their feelings, but give them realistic information." Explain the situation in a way that they can relate to and understand, such as sports metaphors. For example, a softball team may have a great season with several wins in a row, but that doesn't mean that they won't ever lose a game again.

Positive reinforcement may help your child cope with the frustration of bedwetting relapses. And your support will help boost your child's self esteem and cope with their feelings of embarrassment.

"Bedwetting is a developmental problem, not a behavioral one," Dr. Shubin says. "Be accepting of it and reward your kids for doing the things they can control, such as limiting liquids before bed."

Every parent with a child who wets the bed pines for the day when it all comes to an end. And although a few dry nights in a row doesn't necessarily mean that your child is done with wetting for good, it may mean the end is coming. What's really important is that you realize the end will come. In the meantime, be supportive and understanding of your child and use products that make bedwetting easier to manage.

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