Alternative Solutions to Bedwetting: what really works?

Bedwetting is uncommon in children age 5 and over. The cause of bedwetting is almost always the child’s brain not yet linking the feeling of a full bladder with waking. When they overcome it, kids feel great and family life improves.

You now know bedwetting over age 5 needs treating, but how? We look at each of the most popular ideas for treating bedwetting and find out which work.

Contents

  1. Why so many myths about bedwetting?
  2. Alternative and complementary therapies
  3. Bedwetting alarm
  4. Ignoring the problem
  5. Lifting
  6. Medication (pills or tablets)
  7. Night toilet training
  8. Restricting drinking
  9. Treating medical problems
  10. Bedwetting treatments at a glance

Why so many myths about bedwetting?

If you mention bedwetting to friends or family, or ask a question online, you may get all sorts of advice. Many of these methods don’t really work, but why do some parents think they do?

About 3 in 20 children age 5 and over stop bedwetting each year without help. If parents of these children are using a method to try to help the child at this time, they’ll often think this method caused their child to stop bedwetting.

To understand what really works, doctors look at scientific trials. Trials rule out chance by:

  • including large numbers of children.
  • dividing children randomly into two groups: one given the treatment and one given no treatment, or a fake treatment called a placebo.

    By comparing the treatment group with the no-treatment group, it becomes clear if the method really works, and how well.

    Here’s what scientific trials say about the common ways parents try to help children stop wetting the bed.

    Alternative and complementary therapies

    What are they? Alternative or complementary therapies include acupuncture, visiting a chiropractor, cranial osteopathy, homeopathy, hypnotherapy, reflexology and more. They are also called natural remedies or natural therapies.

    Do these therapies work? It’s not clear. Some studies find some alternative therapies help bedwetting1, but improvements are small compared with some other methods.

    Alternative and complementary therapies usually do no harm, but there are always risks when a therapy manipulates the body, pierces skin or is consumed, like herbal pills. Keep in mind that in many countries, these therapies are not tested for safety and some therapists may not have full training.

    One thing we can learn from these therapies is that it helps to give your child and their bedwetting problem positive attention. Alternative therapists often recommend other things we know work, like making sure your child is drinking enough.

    If you’re keen to avoid medication for your child, one method has been shown to be much more effective than alternative therapies.

    Bedwetting alarm

    What is this? A bedwetting alarm (or enuresis alarm) uses a moisture sensor linked to an alarm to wake a child when they wet. Over time – weeks to months – children learn to wake before the alarm by noticing the feeling they’ve had just before the alarm has gone off: a full bladder.

    There are a few types of bedwetting alarm:

    Do bedwetting alarms work? Yes. Bedwetting alarms are the most effective way to help children stop wetting the bed. When used as directed with night toilet training, up to 9 in 10 children stop bed wetting. One study found children were 13 times more likely to stop wetting the bed with an alarm2.

    When choosing an alarm, keep in mind:

    • conductive plastic moisture sensors are best to avoid skin reactions.
    • moisture-sensing bed pads are slower to detect wetness. For this reason, they’re mostly used for children who can’t or won’t wear a moisture sensor.
    • vibrating alarms have not been studied. It’s not known if they work.

    Read about the DRI Sleeper Solution to find out how to use our bedwetting alarms.

    Ignoring the problem

    What is this? Some parents have been told to ignore bedwetting in children age 5 and over, and just use night diapers (nappies). The theory is, children of this age ‘grow out’ of bedwetting.

    Does ignoring bedwetting work? Not very well. From age 5, only 3 in 20 children ‘grow out’ of bedwetting each year3. It really means they’ve taught themselves to notice a full bladder and wake. It’s the same process as when using a bedwetting alarm, but much slower.

    Wearing diapers at night may make it harder for a child to learn not to wet the bed. Many diapers are now so absorbent that children don’t feel wet when they pee. The feeling of being wet helps the child’s brain link the earlier ‘full-bladder feeling’ with waking.

    Lifting

    What is it? Lifting means choosing times in the night to carry a child to the toilet without waking them.

    Does Lifting work? No. Studies have found Lifting doesn’t help children stop bedwetting4. That’s because children stop bedwetting by learning to wake at the right time. Taking a child to the toilet without waking them, like ignoring the problem and using nappies, may even slow down their learning.

    Medication (tablets or pills)

    What is this? Doctors may prescribe medicines for some children to help reduce bedwetting. Medications are usually prescribed only for short-term use or in special cases, like when a child has an overactive bladder.

    Does medication work? Medication can help short-term, but only helps long-term if used with a bedwetting alarm. If used without an alarm, most children start wetting the bed again when they stop taking the medicine5.

    Night toilet training

    What is this? Night toilet training includes a range of ways to help your child know they can stop bedwetting, develop skills and build confidence. For example:

    • keeping a diary of when your child wets the bed
    • phasing out diapers (nappies)
    • regular routines around sleep, including relaxing and peeing before bed
    • reward programs, like star charts, leading to rewards for dry nights
    • having a good attitude around the bedwetting: staying calm and treating it as normal.

    Does night toilet training work? Using night toilet training with a bedwetting alarm gives the best chance of success. Night toilet training is also a great place to start if your child isn’t yet ready for an alarm.

    Download our free Night Toilet Training Guide

    Restricting drinking

    What is this? Some parents have been told if their child drinks less during the day they’ll wet the bed less often.

    Does restricting drinking work? No6. Children should drink enough liquid (ideally water) during the day to make their bladder stronger. Aim for 250 mL (8 fluid oz) six times a day. Use waking, coming home, and meals and snacks as reasons for a glass of water.

    Avoid drinks with sugar or caffeine (for example, chocolate milk, some juices, sodas, energy drinks, iced tea). Because these dry the body, they won’t help your child’s bladder get stronger.

    Treating medical problems related to bedwetting

    What is this? Rarely, medical problems are part of the reason a child wets the bed. They include:

    • diabetes
    • constipation
    • sleep apnea (or sleep apnoea): short periods of not breathing when asleep
    • bladder infection (UTI or urinary tract infection): they’ll probably be peeing a lot during the day if they have a bladder infection
    • low ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) levels: it’s the hormone that stops the body producing as much urine at night as in the day.

    Does treating medical problems work? Yes, in part. Take your child to a doctor if you think they might have any condition making their bedwetting worse. If the bedwetting keeps going after the condition has been treated, use a bedwetting alarm.

    Bedwetting treatments at a glance

    Proven Maybe  Doesn't work
    Alarm alongside: Alternative therapies "Lifting"
    Night toilet training Restricting drinking
    Treating any medical issue Ignoring it
    Medication, if suitable, short-term only


    References:

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    It’s been fantastic

    Hello, I have a dri sleeper bedwetting alarm I have been using with my seven year old son for ten weeks now. It’s been fantastic as except for the first two weeks we haven’t had a single wet bed.

    Well done - that is a terrific effort!
    We have seen a massive improvement

    Hi Karen,

    We have been following all of the advice in your email for the past five weeks and we have seen a massive improvement. After the second week he was dry for six nights in a row, the following week the alarm went off four times (only once during the night) and his underpants were only wet a small amount. The following week the alarm only went off once and again only his underpants were wet. We are currently in a stretch of six nights dry and hoping for this to continue.

    Thank you so much for your assistance, any advice is greatly appreciated.
    Kind regards

    Natalie

    That’s great news. Yes keep using the alarm until he has achieved 14 consecutive dry nights then he can stop using the alarm.
    this alarm has already worked after about 2 - 3 weeks usage!

    Hello Karen, I can confirm that this alarm has already worked after about 2 - 3 weeks usage! Can’t rate this highly enough and our 6 year old boy has basically gone from being wet every night (without fail) to now getting up on his own accord and going to the toilet in the night and being dry (pull up free!) in the morning! Even held wee in till the morning on a couple of occasions over last week! Incredibly effective product and will obviously be giving 5 stars on Amazon shortly (which says something as very rarely leave product reviews!)

    Kind Regards

    Richard
    Sent from my iPhone

    Congratulations Richard! Thanks for the feedback.
    Cured!!!! Thank you.

    Cured!!!! Thank you. I was dubious as to whether it would really work. It took a while to persuade our 5y/o to try it as she was VERY attached to the night nappies. The first 2 weeks were very hard. Up every night. But I could see some small progress in the second week as she began to wake up. Week 3 a lot better. Week 4 we started having dry nights. We’ve only had one bed wet since she was dry and that was at 9pm and we think due to a bad dream. Now she gets up to go to the toilet or waits till morning. So happy. It was well worth the perseverance and all the extra washing. No more nappies for us! She still won’t give up the alarm yet, but that’s no issue.

    Perserverance is the key. Well done Deb!
    He is the happiest and proudest kid on earth. I'm still pinching myself.

    My 7 year old son has NEVER been dry in his life. Every night he was SATURATED and leaked through pull ups through the bedding.

    It was his decision to order his alarm from your website as he was desperate to be dry and 'normal'. We ordered the DRI Sleeper excel.

    From the first night he was dry he has NEVER had an accident since. He raced around the house with joy, saying 'my brain has woken up, my brain has woken up!!!!'.

    It's now 6 weeks since his first dry night. He is the happiest and proudest kid on earth. I'm still pinching myself that it worked. In reflection I wish I'd gotten the wireless version but it still did a great job.

    Words can't express how this has changed our sons life and ours. We have given away all his pull ups and we are all well slept. I can't thank you enough.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us. This will be very encouraging for other parents.