At what point does bedwetting become a concern?
Hello, I have a three-year-old daughter who potty trained early and has been potty trained since she was two. However, she still wets the bed often at night while she’s asleep. I know this is common for her age. Her father and I are divorced and she does go back and that plays a part. She goes back-and-forth with her five-year-old sister. At what point does this become a concern? What else can we do to help keep her dry at night?
It sounds like you know your daughter very well. And it sounds like you have a lot of insight into what domestic stresses may be triggering the bedwetting. Yes, bedwetting is very common in three-year-olds. Most of the time children, especially girls, naturally grow out of it by age six. Yet, here are a few ways you can both help her stay dry at night. Be sure there is no underlying cause that needs to be addressed:
- Keep a bedwetting calendar. She is old enough to help you. Each morning log whether she had a “dry night” or “wet night.” As an incentive, give her a prize at the end of each week if she has more dry nights than wet nights. In addition to keeping a calendar, keep your own journal as to daytime triggers that may be promoting nighttime wetness, such as at your house, at Dad’s house, and so on. Be sure Dad is on board with this program.
- Take bedwetting as an opportunity to help your mother/child relationship shine. Before she goes to bed be sure she empties her bladder completely, as many three-year-olds get lazy and leave a half-full bladder before bedtime. Tell her to “grunt three times to get it all out.” Use your fist to show her how the bladder works and how she needs to squeeze out all the pee, so she wakes up dry. Be sure to use the positive phrase “wake up dry” instead of the negative term “wake up wet.” That’s her goal – to wake up dry. Additionally, wake her up before you go to bed and take her to the bathroom – and be sure she is awake enough to “grunt three times to get it all out.”
- Urine Sample. Because urinary tract infections are more common in girls, it would be best to get a “clean-catch urine culture” and urinalysis done by your child’s doctor.
While nighttime wetness is a nuisance, let her help you clean the bed and wash the sheets the next morning. As you help her work through this stage of childhood you are imprinting on her growing brain, “Thank you, Mom, for helping me work through this nuisance.” She is then more likely to turn to you ten years later as a trusted resource when teen challenges commonly come up.
For additional information, please see our books: You Can Go to the Potty and The Portable Pediatrician. Also, see our website, AskDrSears.com/bedwetting, where you will find a step-by-step way to help her enjoy more dry nights.
Written by: Martha Sears, RN
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”