Ask an expert: How can I help my child to stop wetting the bed?

Wetting the bed is a common childhood condition
Wetting the bed is a common childhood condition
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A continence expert from the children's bowel and bladder charity ERIC gives advice on how parents can help stop older children bed-wetting.

My seven-year-old son still wets the bed, and both he and I are embarrassed about it. Is this normal at his age, and what can I do to help him stay dry at night?

Alina Lynden, a helpline adviser for ERIC, the children's bowel and bladder charity (eric.org.uk/bedwetting), says: "Wetting the bed is a common childhood condition affecting half a million children and teenagers in the UK.

"Around 12% of seven to nine-year-olds regularly wet the bed. However, it's something which can have a huge impact on a child's day-to-day life, affecting their self-esteem, emotional wellbeing, achievement at school and social life. Children may feel so embarrassed about their bed-wetting that they avoid sleepovers or going on school camp for fear of their 'secret' being discovered. Extra washing to deal with it and disturbed sleep can also take a big toll on family life.

"There are lots of things you can do now to try and help him get dry. The most important thing to start with is to give him lots of support and reassurance - let him know it's nothing he's done wrong and he's not the only kid his age to wet the bed still. Together you can make a plan to try and stop or manage his wetting.

"Make sure he's not having bladder problems such as frequency or urgency in the day, and get these treated if necessary. Check out whether he could be constipated - does he poo at least four times a week and not more than three times a day?

"Work out whether he's drinking enough during the day (six to eight glasses of water-based fluid is best) and make sure he knows to stop drinking an hour before going to bed.

"Encourage him to have a quiet wind down without screens in that last hour before sleep and to do a sitting down wee before he gets into bed.

"Have a short trial of around a week or so without night-time pull-ups on to see if this helps his awareness levels. Make sure the bed's well protected.

"If you try all these things and they make little difference to his wetting, book an appointment with your doctor or the school nurse. It's really important that all children who are bed-wetting over the age of five years are seen by a health professional so they can try to work out why the child is having night-time accidents.

"They should start by ruling out an underlying reasons for the wetting such as a urinary tract infection or constipation, and get these treated first if necessary. Bed-wetting can also be a symptom of other illnesses such as diabetes. Children should therefore always be checked by a doctor to find out if there's another cause.

"Left untreated, bed-wetting won't necessarily go away by itself and not all children will grow out of it. The sooner it's investigated and treated, the better chance you have of getting them dry at night."

For more advice call the ERIC bladder and bowel helpline freephone 0808 169 9949.