School Holidays -time to ditch the diapers?
Posted by Karen Radford on
What are the odds of growing out of bedwetting?
Many parents of school-age bedwetters have been advised by relatives and health professionals to leave a bedwetter in diapers as eventually, they will grow out of it. And, 15% of bedwetters do spontaneously stop every year.
However, the statistics associated with this spontaneous cure rate mean that by the age of 9 over half of all those children who wet the bed at 5 will still be wetting the bed! These are not great odds after 4 years of putting up with the costs of extra laundry and disposable diapers, but more importantly, the costs to a child’s self-esteem.
By the age of twelve 1 in 3 bedwetters are still wetting the bed and by 16, 1 in 6 bedwetters still haven’t outgrown it. ☹☹☹
Even if someone in your immediate family was a bedwetter as a child and grew out of it at a certain age, this is no guarantee your child will also stop bedwetting at the same age.
So, if you have a school-age bedwetter maybe it’s time to think about night toilet training?
The upcoming school holidays provide a good opportunity to start using a bedwetting alarm when there may be less pressure on you and your child in the mornings.
Get with the programme
Research has shown that bedwetting alarms are the only proven method to successfully treat most children who suffer from Primary Nocturnal Enuresis (the medical term for bedwetting).
Bedwetting alarms work by training the child’s brain to recognize, then respond, to signals from the bladder during sleep. They do this by substituting the weak or inoperative full-bladder signal with a strong one -the sound of an alarm when the child wets. Over time the brain connects the sound with the feeling of a full bladder and wakes the child in response, before the alarm triggers. This is commonly known as conditioned learning.
Also, children stop bedwetting more quickly when they stop using disposable diapers. For this reason, the long-term use of disposables is generally not recommended by continence specialists.
Night toilet training with a bedwetting alarm does require a willing patient (your child) and good support staff (Mum and Dad). It also takes practice and persistence and is likely to result in broken nights’ sleep -hence school holidays are a good time to start when your child can sleep-in if they need to.
Invest in a bedwetting alarm which will suit your child. Things to consider include:
- Boy or Girl. For boys, the size of the sensor is more important as they can wet in a variety of positions depending on how they sleep, whereas girls tend to wee from the same spot. A sensor with a good catchment area is very useful for boys
- Restless or calm sleeper. Body-worn bedwetting alarms which have a sensor attached to a cord that plugs directly into the alarm can be less effective with restless sleepers as they risk pulling them out. Also, children who can’t be bothered getting up to go to the toilet when the alarm triggers can just remove the cord and stop the alarm. Wireless alarms where the alarm box is placed on remote bedroom furniture are better for such children as they have to get out of bed to turn the alarm off which encourages them to finish going to the toilet.
- Safety electronics -some wired alarms continue passing current through the sensor once the alarm has triggered. This can cause the urine to acidify and result in skin irritation or nappy rash. Try to avoid these types of alarms.
- The point of an alarm is to wake the child during sleep….so the decibel rating and the frequency of the sound are relevant. The resonant frequency the human is most responsive to is 2000-5000hz. An alarm which rings in this range is best.
Develop a night toilet training plan with your child. This will include:
- ensuring there is bedding protection in place;
- spare sheets and night clothes for a quick turnaround.
- dirty laundry receptacles;
- toilet visits immediately before bed;
- toilet arrangements when the alarm triggers:
- will they go to the toilet by themselves, or;
- wake you up for help if you do not respond
- cleaning child up;
- cleaning and preparing alarm for re-use
- ensuring easy access and vision to find the toilet at night
Coach your child at bedtime for as long as needed. This will include:
- positive reinforcement: letting them know that they can stop bedwetting just like other children their age and that you will help them do this;
- practising the night time routine when the alarm sounds, so they are prepared.
In the morning, record progress towards dry nights to keep the child motivated and engaged. Milestones along the way may include:
- waking to the alarm during sleep;
- for deep sleepers who may sleep through the alarm, responding positively to Mum or Dad waking them may be the initial milestone. Remembering being woken can be another -give them a different code word each night when you wake them and ask them to repeat it to you at breakfast (this helps them focus on what is happening at night which is an important part of training the brain to recognize the full bladder signals during sleep);
- responding to the alarm and getting up and taking themselves to the toilet;
- helping with the clean up after bedwetting;
- dry nights.
How long will it take?
Night time toilet training with an alarm can take from just a few weeks to 3 months. In 10% of bedwetters, it can take longer than 3 months. Persistence and parental support are key.
The sooner you start, the sooner your child can experience the joy of dry nights and the self-confidence this engenders.