Ask The Expert Health Q&A: Bed Wetting

For over 15 years Alicia Eaton has been helping children, and their parents, achieve their dream of a dry night. The Harley Street psychotherapist has helped countless families overcome the problem of persistent bedwetting and is now hoping to help even more with her completely natural seven-day ‘brain-training’ solution. S4K finds out more…

Q) More than 750,000 children over the age of five in the UK accidentally wet their beds so it’s really not that unusual. Twenty per cent of five-year-olds and over aren’t dry at night, but at what point should parents feel that they should speak to their GP or expert to ask for some help?

It is an un-talked about subject, I find people don’t like to admit that they have a bedwetting child. Under the age of five or six I wouldn’t class accidents as a bedwetting problem, at that young age it means they just haven’t achieved becoming completely dry yet and is perfectly normal. At the age of seven the numbers come down to about seven per cent and by the age of 10 it’s five per cent. Of course, these statistics are based on official information recorded from GP’s and enuresis clinics so the real figures could be much higher. Many parents just wait to see if their child ‘grows out of it’. After working with families for over 15 years though I do get a sense that it is becoming more common. We are seeing more and more children starting school at the age of five who are not completely dry during the day, so naturally this will translate into the night time too.

Q) What are some of the main reasons for bedwetting and are they emotional or physical?

It is more common in boys. There are a number of reasons for this but it can just come down to anatomy. Some boys find it harder to concentrate and can have a lack of self-awareness. With some children the penny just drops a bit quicker. Physical reasons can be due to the size of the bladder or a lack of hormones, however unfortunately doctors will confirm that there is no test you can do to confirm this. The hormone vasopressin will concentrate the bodily fluids at night time. At a best guess this is what their body is lacking and that’s why it’s happening. On the emotional side, we have what’s called primary enuresis which means your child has never managed to become fully dry so it’s a habit and nothing more complicated than that. The majority of children I see with primary enuresis are happy, contented and doing well at school and in time will stop. Secondary enuresis is when your child has been dry for a long period of time, and then say at the age of seven starts having episodes again. That is much more likely to be for an emotional reason such as pressure at school, a house move or parents separating, in which case it’s much wiser to look into that situation first and see if that can be resolved before addressing the problem as a bedwetting one.

Q) It can be very upsetting for children and frustrating for parents. It’s completely understandable that if your child wakes you in the middle of the night you aren’t going to be in the best mood, but what’s the best way to cope?

I would always suggest taking a step back and talking about it at another time when everyone is calm to come up with a plan of action. Shouting or embarrassing them when you are all tired is just not going to improve the situation and it’s very difficult to tackle anything properly in the middle of the night. Be as prepared as possible with a waterproof undersheet and have a change of pyjamas and bedsheets close to hand to make it as easy as possible. Get your child involved and let them take responsibility for helping you. Make sure that they can get to the bathroom safety as many children don’t like to admit they are afraid of making their way to the bathroom in the dark. Have a nightlight in the hallway, but not in the bedroom. I’ve often heard the excuse used that children are sleeping too deeply to wake up to go to the bathroom, but that deep sleep is crucial to their health and if they are sleeping that deeply their body wouldn’t need to go to the toilet. If they insist on a nightlight in their room use a motion sensor one that only comes on if they get up.

 Q) The night nappies dilemma. If you do are you not dealing with the problem as there is no consequence? But if you don’t you and your child have more sleepless nights. Do you say do or don’t?

I do think the range of night time pants for older ages does slightly normalise the problem. Yes, they are very convenient to use, but they’re not always helpful. In my opinion, conversely the super absorbent quality of modern day nappies actually prevents our children becoming dry earlier than they used to be. I know my own mother says that I was dry and out of nappies at eighteen months old which would seem ridiculous nowadays. We definitely expect our children to be in nappies for longer and of course modern day lifestyles are busier and more parents are both working, so we have less time for training. And who wants to cope with accidents at night time when you have to get up early? Naturally we want to use products that make our lives easier however I do wonder if your child doesn’t experience that wetness, is the message getting up to the brain? Your mind and body have to wire up, it’s a bit like trying to learn to play the piano while wearing sheepskin gloves. It’s not an easy habit to train your child out of, which is why we have so many families seeking out help.

Q) If the problem is severe as your child grows older, there is help available from specialist enuresis clinics and one option offered can be medication. What are your thoughts on that and do you think it should be a last resort?

I do sometimes worry that when we go down the route of seeing a GP it can medicalise the problem for the child and make them think that someone or something, like medication, is going to fix the problem for them and that dents their self-belief. Again, the parents may have tried everything and are looking for an outside influence to help, but what I always tell them is that there isn’t anyone or anything that can do this for you. Your child is in control and they need to know how to fix it for themselves. I can provide the tools and guidance, but ultimately it is up to all of you – and that’s good news. It’s empowering for the child to know and believe they have the power to do it!

 Q) Any final top tips for parents and carers who have a child going through this?

Stay positive. It’s difficult for the child, but it’s also difficult being the parent of a bedwetting child. Start to talk about it, to your child, with your partner and with other parents. One mum I’ve been working with recently told me she decided to open up about it to other parents at the school gate and was astonished to find five other mums nodding in agreement who said they were all going through the same thing!

Stop Bedwetting in Seven Days by Alicia Eaton is out now priced £12.99. Published by Practical Inspiration Publishing. Find out more at

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