I told myself to stay calm

Photo of a mother and child reading a book
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Katie, five children, her youngest son wets the bed

“My son was very shy. I noticed that he was very embarrassed about wetting the bed. Everything else in his life was ok. When he got older and went to school he always talked about ‘my illness.’”

My son was never actually “dry” in the usual sense. He maybe stayed dry on one or two nights a week at the most. When he was dry for one night, I praised him and gave him something special. When he wet the bed again, I had my doubts that he would ever be dry at night. I told myself to stay calm. I didn't want him to know I was so upset. It was a real burden.

There was no pattern. I couldn't say if it got worse or better during holidays or on weekends, in the summer or in the winter. It seemed to be very random.

Bedwetting is a taboo topic. Doctors and psychologists aren’t much help. I didn’t know who to ask and who could help me. There’s no information about this problem in magazines. It’s as though it just doesn't exist. You can't find out what causes it or what you can do about it. It’s such a pity.

Everything was okay physically

At first I took my son to the urologist. I wanted to know if everything was okay physically. I had no idea what was causing it. The urologist examined my son and said that there was no physical cause. After that I felt at a loss and didn't know what to do next. Then I went to a different urologist. But he also said there was no physical cause.

I started to think about why he might have this problem, and thought about my family. My husband's brother also wet the bed until he was grown up. I just happened to hear this by chance from my mother-in-law. A cousin of mine and my father's cousin also wet the bed. So I thought it might run in our family.

I tried out different things

Then I tried out different things to put an end to the bedwetting. I tried to wake my son. He sleeps very deeply. An hour after he went to bed I wanted to wake him. But it was already too late.

Then I tried to have him drink less. I gave him hardly anything to drink in the afternoon. That was really tough for him in the summer, and I feel really bad about it now. In the evening, I reduced the amount he drank so much that he hardly had anything to drink. I thought if he drank less fluid he would have to pee less. But somehow he peed even more.

We also went to a child psychologist. My son felt very shy and uncomfortable during those sessions. It was unpleasant for him. And it didn’t help either, so we stopped going there.

The doctor told me that children who wet the bed can wear special underwear with an alarm in it. I tried that out. The alarm was pretty loud. Everybody in the house heard it and everybody was wide awake. We all slept badly because the first drop of urine set off the alarm. Only my son carried on sleeping. He always slept deeply. It was even very hard to wake him up. He just didn't notice. And the next day he couldn't remember anything.

Nothing ever happened when he slept over at his friends

My son was very shy. I noticed that he was very embarrassed about wetting the bed. Everything else in his life was okay. When he got older and went to school he always talked about “my illness.”

During holidays he often slept over at his friends. Nothing ever happened then. But I couldn't sleep most of the time. I was thinking about what might happen if he wet the bed there at his friend's place. I was afraid of what effect it might have on his friendships. I don’t think he worried about that at all.

We don't talk about it anymore nowadays. We communicate by eye contact and gestures. Sometimes he comes into the kitchen in the morning, and waits until his brothers and sisters are gone. Then he says, “When you have time, would you wash my pillowcase and my sheets?” And I say, “Yeah, okay.” We don't make a big deal out of it.

It was hard, but after a while everything went smoothly

Sometimes it was hard. When I came home from work, I was sometimes very tired. From experience, I would always have spare bedding, especially in the winter when it’s hard to get things to dry. I didn't always wash his duvet and sheets on a hot cycle, but on a normal cycle right after they got wet. It used up a lot of electricity and water, which was expensive. I sometimes dried the mattress with a hairdryer and a steam cleaner. Using a steam cleaner is the best way to get rid of the smell. Things started running smoothly after a while.

In recent years it only takes a few drops on his bedclothes... and my son is already so disturbed by the smell. He always wanted everything to be washed. When he was small, the smell didn't bother him much. Now he won't put up with it at all. Everything has to be very clean.

I often asked myself what I was doing wrong. He was my fifth child, and all the other children were out of diapers at a younger age. I couldn’t understand why I had failed with him.

My pediatrician said that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. But I still told myself that I have to sort out the problem. I felt like I had to help him, and myself too. Especially when it came to coping with the laundry. That’s a problem for me as a mother. With all my children there’s always a lot of laundry.

Parents should never punish their children

Sometimes I felt very tired and just couldn't take it anymore, physically or emotionally. But then I looked at my other children and that helped. The fact that I love my children and they love me helped. That gave us all strength. We were and are always there for each other, and that helped us.

Talking to other mothers helped too. It made it easier for me. Sharing experiences with others who are affected might help other parents too.

Parents should never punish their children, not in any way. I think the best thing you can do is love and protect the child. Daily life can be tough sometimes. It’s stressful. You still have to try to be there even more for the child, so they know that they are loved and special.

My son’s father thought that the boy was to blame and that he should be punished. But I don’t think force and punishment help.

Acknowledgment

Our real-life stories summarize interviews with people who are affected by the medical condition. Our interview partners have given us permission to publish their stories. We would like to express our sincere thanks to them.

The real-life stories give an insight into how other people cope and live with a medical condition. Their opinions and comments are not recommendations by IQWiG.

Please note: The names of our interview partners have been changed to protect their identity. The photos are of models.

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Please note that we do not provide individual advice on matters of health. You can read about where to find help and support in Germany in our information “How can I find self-help groups and information centers?

Updated on April 5, 2018
Next planned update: 2021

Authors/Publishers:

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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