An easy strategy for night-time wetting

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  October 11, 2012 06:00 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Dear Barbara,
Another potty training question for you, this one is with regard to night wetting. Our daughter just turned 3 and has been potty trained during waking hours for over a year now (she expressed interest in the potty very early). That said, she has always had difficulty staying dry while she sleeps (our pediatrician explained that a different part of the brain that controls continence when you are awake vs. asleep.)

Within the last month, our daughter has had some continued success staying dry during her nap (which is usually 1.5 – 2 hrs) and has been so proud of being a “big girl” and that she doesn’t have to change into a pull-up anymore for nap.

Of course, now that she doesn’t have to wear a pull-up during nap, she is pushing back on wearing one for nighttime sleep. We have let her wear underwear a few times, however, she usually wakes between 2-4 am after having an accident (bedtime is 8:30pm). She has always been a great sleeper (in her own bed, not getting up at night, settling herself down etc.) but I have noticed that after we change her clothes and sheets after the accident, she has been having trouble settling down back into sleep and then asks to get into our bed etc. I want her feel like a big girl, but I also don’t want this disrupted sleep pattern to encourage bad sleep habits and create a sleep problem where there isn’t one.

My question – what is the best way to proceed? Should we continue to let her wear underwear (and have accidents in the middle of the night?) Or should we keep her in the pull-ups until she is dry through the night (although it isn’t what she wants?) A side note – she sees the pull-ups as free license to pee - when she wears one she doesn’t even try to hold her urine and usually pees immediately once she lies down in bed and we end up giving her a fresh pull-up as part of the bedtime routine. But when she wears underwear that doesn’t happen – but she just isn’t quite mature enough to make it through the night yet. Oh, and we do limit liquid intake after dinner so it isn’t like she is drinking a ton before bed – and she uses the toilet right before bed as well.

Thanks for your help!

From:: Kate, West Roxbury, MA

Hi Kate,

It sounds like the one strategy you haven't tried is waking her before you go to sleep and taking her to pee. (Tell her ahead of time you're going to do this, that it will help her to stay dry so she can continue to be a big girl, etc., ) Keep the room, hallway, bathroom as dim as possible so she doesn't fully wake up. This way, there's no changing sheets, pjs, etc., so she's less likely to come to a full awakening and more likely to fall right back to sleep. (You're using a rubber mattress protector, right?)

I agree, pull-ups are license to pee. I'm not a fan.

If there are nights when she still wants to come to your bed and you don't want to go down that path, then stay with her while she falls back asleep in her own bed. The best way to keep her independent as a sleeper is for you not to get into the bed with her, but to sit at her bedside or in a chair and rub her back for a few minutes and then go back to your room. The other alternative (and she may be too young) is to create a pallet in your room -- sleeping bag, pillow, -- where she is welcome to sleep in the middle of the night, as long as she doesn't wake you first. (The obvious caveats apply: she doesn't feel sick, isn't having a horrible nightmare.) Some kids find it a comfort just knowing they have this option and rarely use it.

PS. My blog was just listed by babysitting.net as one of the “30 Blogs with the Best Childcare Tips." Nice! Find it here, under "Taming the Toddler Tantrums."

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

3 comments so far...
  1. Have you tried a pull-up OVER the underwear, to emphasize that it's "just in case"?

    Posted by di October 11, 12 02:10 PM
  1. I love your column but disagree with your advice re: "pullups are a license to pee." That does NOT apply in all cases. I have a son who peed until he was 13 years old no matter what we tried - pullups, alarms, going pee at 11 pm when we went to bed. Confirmed with specialists that there was no medical issue. He was/is just a SOUND sleeper and pullups made his life "normal" and let him have sleepovers, camps, etc. without being made fun of. That is an insensitive comment for ALL kids. I changed sheets (even with pullups) until last year when my son turned 14. My younger son was 2 when he slept through the night w/out pullups. All kids are different.

    Posted by Summerrain October 11, 12 06:38 PM
  1. Summerrain, taking offense to general advice is highly unnecessary as I doubt that Barbara meant her advice it to be taken as law.

    Kate, my daughter is same aged with the same issue and I have noticed that when we do occasionally allow her to sleep with us she doesn't have accidents at all...when she's alone in her bed it's hit or miss. I have thought about going back to pull ups but wonder if it sends a signal to her that we no longer believe that she is a "big girl"....

    Posted by angie November 1, 12 09:35 PM
 
3 comments so far...
  1. Have you tried a pull-up OVER the underwear, to emphasize that it's "just in case"?

    Posted by di October 11, 12 02:10 PM
  1. I love your column but disagree with your advice re: "pullups are a license to pee." That does NOT apply in all cases. I have a son who peed until he was 13 years old no matter what we tried - pullups, alarms, going pee at 11 pm when we went to bed. Confirmed with specialists that there was no medical issue. He was/is just a SOUND sleeper and pullups made his life "normal" and let him have sleepovers, camps, etc. without being made fun of. That is an insensitive comment for ALL kids. I changed sheets (even with pullups) until last year when my son turned 14. My younger son was 2 when he slept through the night w/out pullups. All kids are different.

    Posted by Summerrain October 11, 12 06:38 PM
  1. Summerrain, taking offense to general advice is highly unnecessary as I doubt that Barbara meant her advice it to be taken as law.

    Kate, my daughter is same aged with the same issue and I have noticed that when we do occasionally allow her to sleep with us she doesn't have accidents at all...when she's alone in her bed it's hit or miss. I have thought about going back to pull ups but wonder if it sends a signal to her that we no longer believe that she is a "big girl"....

    Posted by angie November 1, 12 09:35 PM
add your comment
Required
Required (will not be published)

This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.

About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

Submit a question for Barbara's Mailbag


Ask Barbara a question

Barbara answers questions on a wide range of topics, including autism, breastfeeding, bullying, discipline, divorce, kindergarten, potty training, sleep, tantrums, and much, much more.

Send your questions to her at:
meltzbarbara (at) gmail.com.
Please include your name and hometown.

Child in Mind

Moms
All parenting discussions
Discussions

High needs/fussy baby

memes98 writes "My 10.5 month old DS has been fussy ever since he was born, but I am getting very frustrated because I thought he would be much better by now...has anyone else been through this?"

More community voices

Child in Mind

Corner Kicks

Dirty Old Boston

Mortal Matters

On Deck

TEDx Beacon Street

RSS feed


click here to subscribe to
Child Caring

archives