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Q: My 7 year old son is a bed wetter. At what age should he grow out of this? Also is it possible his bladder may not be fully grown yet? I've tried goodnights and overnights but he just wets right through them, so instead I've been putting him in depends to sleep at night, my mother believes I should have him sleeping in underwear because supposedly depends pull the moisture away from his skin and she thinks that's the reason he's wetting the bed. Is there anything wrong with putting my son in depends at bedtime?
Ashley - Cedar Rapids


A: Dear Ashley, Many children still wet the bed at night at age 7. Approximately 1% of 18 year olds still have accidents at night. The problem often runs in families and is more common in boys than girls. Sometimes the bladder capacity is small and the child simply needs to grow. The more common explanation is that brain pathways need to develop so that your son will respond to the full urges his bladder is sending, even during the night. I explain it like this: your son probably does just fine during the day. At night, when he goes to sleep some of his brain pathways shut down, so even though his bladder is sending an "I'm full!" message, it reaches a locked door and can't get thru. This brain pathway will likely develop in the next couple of years. Most parents of children who wet the bed describe their children as very sound or deep sleepers. You will start to have some dry nights and then more dry nights until he outgrows the problem completely. Some children learn to ride a bike at age 4 years and some not until they are 8 years old. Everyone's brain grows and matures a little differently. At this point, you just want to let your son know that it's a pretty common problem and you aren't worried or mad about it. You also want to make clean-up as easy as possible so Depends or plastic sheets on the bed are just fine. Get him into the habit of voiding just before bedtime and try to limit fluids after dinner unless it is very hot out or he has a sports activity. If he has not outgrown the problem by age 8-10 years of age, and if he is upset about wearing Depends or avoids overnights with friends, you can talk with your doctor about whether your son is a candidate for a trial of medication or the Bed Wet Alarm. Medication doesn't "cure" the problem, but it helps some children stay dry until they outgrow it. The Bed Wet Alarm tries to train the brain to wake up when voiding starts. Both work better in older children, and neither one is 100% successful for everyone. Sincerely, Dr. Sarah Wickenkamp, MD


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