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We have a 5 year old daughter, L. Her development is normal, she is a bright, happy girl with perfect daytime continence. She has no problem using the toilet entirely unattended.

However, we have a problem. When we first stopped putting L in nappies (diapers) at night (at approx. 2y 9m), she would wet the bed in the early hours of the morning (4-5am), and then find it impossible to get back to sleep after bedding and clothing had been changed. This did not make for fun days, so we started taking her for a 'dream wee' every night, at our bedtime (around 10pm).

This fixed the early-morning-bed-wetting problem, but of course like so many short-term fixes, it created a longer-term issue: we have now been doing this every night for over two years, and we don't know how to stop without major incident.

The problems are:

  • The older L gets, the physically harder it is to lift her, carry her to the toilet, and carry her back to bed
  • She's getting to the age where sleepovers at close friends might be desired, and while we've been happy asking family that she stays with to lift her, we wouldn't want to ask her friends' parents
  • We don't want to be doing this indefinitely!

Having read other similar questions 1 2 3 I can sort of see that the answer is going to be "stop doing it and suck up the handful of nights where she wets the bed, she'll soon get the idea". And that's fine if that's all there is, we have waterproof undersheets that do the job - BUT is there any more 'graceful' approach possible, that doesn't involve her wetting the bed at all?

ps: L is now so habituated to weeing at this time of night that she basically doesn't wake up at all during the process. When we talk to her about it, she denies any knowledge of it happening at all...

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    I would try one night without taking her to "dream wee". Good chance her body already adjusted itself and she will be dry in the morning. :) – Shadow Oct 2 '17 at 13:56
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    @XtremeBaumer, please don't post advice which has no backing or evidence--I just googling something to add as a source to your comment, and found nothing. – Marisa Oct 2 '17 at 16:02
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    @XtremeBaumer I had a blue room growing up and at times wet the bed. Therefore a blue room increases the chance of wetting the bed... or not. – wizzwizz4 Oct 3 '17 at 7:09
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    We fixed this with no sugary drinks (really nothing but water) after 7pm. – Joe Oct 3 '17 at 16:35
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    @Typhon My objection was to something approaching an answer being posted as a comment, and being as far fetched as it was. I'm not claiming it's a rule, just psuedo-science that, if it's going to be cited as a potential answer, should have citations to back it up. I should have flagged it, and will do so now. – Marisa Oct 4 '17 at 17:40
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L is now so habituated to weeing at this time of night that she basically doesn't wake up at all during the process. When we talk to her about it, she denies any knowledge of it happening at all...

So first step, stop carrying her. Wake her, as gently as you can, and make her walk herself to the bathroom. I would pick a weekend to start this process, as it's likely to disrupt her sleep before she becomes accustomed. Walk with her, keep her company, but do not pick her up.

Then, once she's used to waking up to go pee, experiment with seeing if she will get herself up with your help, but then walk herself to the bathroom and take care of business. Then you can move to the natural next step of not waking her yourself, and see if she can learn to do it on her own.

You could also try to manage her need to pee by witholding drinks after a certain time in the evening, and insisting on a 'right before bedtime' pee session.

Good luck!

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    Brilliant! Eventually she will get used to waking up at this time of night, so sleepovers at friends houses will be less embarrassing. – Contango Oct 2 '17 at 16:29
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    Exactly. I would caution you however to not move onto the next step until the current step is firmly cemented. Moving too quickly will cause her to regress and backpedal. – Marisa Oct 2 '17 at 17:02
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    I am around 40 years old, and I still follow the instructions in your last paragraph. Works great even for adults, and a great habit to get into. – user9611 Oct 3 '17 at 15:11
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    It seems like a terrible idea to just accept / encourage interrupted sleep instead of trying to deal with the underlying cause (your last paragraph). – NotThatGuy Oct 3 '17 at 15:33
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    @NotThatGuy I would agree, except that there are valid reasons why, despite having taken precautions, one would need to develop the ability to self wake and visit the facilities. To me it's no different than potty training--children have to be taught to recognize when they need to go. – Marisa Oct 3 '17 at 16:24
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We recently crossed this bridge with our 5 year old. My wife and I miscommunicated who was taking her for a pee, neither of us did and there was no accident. After figuring out what happened the next day, we just rolled with it. After a few months with zero accidents, last week we took the pee pad off of her bed.

So "stop doing it and suck up the handful of nights where she wets the bed, she'll soon get the idea" is kind of a faulty idea as there may be no nights of wetting the bed.

The only warning I can offer on this is that our daughter is now waking up annoyingly early to go pee and we are in an ongoing battle to get her to either go back to bed or at very least not wake up the whole house.

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    +1 for basing the answer on actual experience. My four-year-old doesn't pee in bed, ever, though we're still working on getting him to routinely sleep through the night. I agree the Original Poster is likely overthinking it. – Wildcard Oct 3 '17 at 2:08
  • +1 This is basically what happened with us, too. One night we didn't include the usual "go potty" routine before bed, and months later, still no accident. Sometimes, our kids do manage to surprise us. – phyrfox Oct 3 '17 at 11:48
  • I feel like this is 'high risk high reward' (in the sense that it is minimal effort for us), so +1 for the idea but @Marisa gets the accept – Lawrence Oct 5 '17 at 19:45
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You are dream weeing at 10 pm.

Every day, move it 1 minute earlier. 9:59 pm tomorrow, 9:58 pm the next day, etc.

If it takes longer for her to dream wee, pause at that time until it happens reliably. Then start moving again.

As the dream wee moves closer to her bed time (a month or two away), start restricting liquids close to bed time. Move it back at a similar pace (in quanity and time).

Ask her sit on the toilet at, or before bed time.

When she has restricted fluids before bed time, had a wee at bed time, and she doesn't wee when you dream wee her, stop dream weeing her.

The speed of retreat of the dream wee (1 minute/day) can be increased, but the more you increase it the higher the likelihood she wees herself after a failed dream wee, and you asked for a "doesn't involve her wetting the bed herself".

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    This is a pleasing answer for a programmer or mathematician, but it heavily conveys that you're not a parent, are you? If you're a parent and you can reliably schedule a daily activity with your five-year-old within a single minute of accuracy, you should write a "how to get organized" book. :D Sounds 100% theoretical, such a perfect plan it should never be bruised by contact with reality. – Wildcard Oct 3 '17 at 2:05
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    @wildcard The kid is asleep; there is no "with kid", there is "to kid". And accuracy is not important; gradual and consistently moving the center of the distribution is. Set an alarm on your phone. Move it a minute per day, or 10 per week, or whatever reasonable rate. When it goes off, go and sleep wee the kid. Two months later the sleep wee will be an hour earlier. Or do it 5 min/day and in a fortnight it will be an hour earlier with a slightly higher risk of accident. – Yakk Oct 3 '17 at 3:33
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    Good to know. In that case it would be good to convey in the answer a little piece of insight into how your experience informs your conclusions, even if the connection is distant. ("With" vs. "To" is a point well taken.) – Wildcard Oct 3 '17 at 3:36
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    At 1 minute per day, with the bed time of a 5 year old, you're not looking at "a month or two" before you hit bed time. More likely 6-8 months. – Erik Oct 4 '17 at 11:59
  • @Erik Depends on the parents. I have a 5 year old son, and he goes to bed at the same time as his older brother. It's not a concrete time, usually between 8:30 - 9:00, and it's not uncommon (2-3/week?) for closer to 9:30. So "after a couple months" would be right on for us. Fortunately, we do not have this problem with him. – Aaron Oct 4 '17 at 13:38
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I don't know if this helps or is relevant, but I sometimes drink because I cycle -- some days I arrive home, and most of my skin is coated with salt, as well as wet (from sweating). IMO I retain or don't retain water, and pee more or less, depending on how much salt I have (I add salt to my drink). Adults are warned to beware of salt: they can have too much; but, if your daughter drinks, maybe she'd retain it better and excrete it less quickly if she had salt too. The body tries to maintain a constant water-to-salt ratio (less salt results in less water, see also "hypovolemia" and "exercise drink").

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    Interesting to hear about ideas coming from a completely different angle. – Jonathan Hartley Oct 3 '17 at 12:40
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    Trying to extract the message from your road biking experience text and projecting it into the realm of parenting I reckon you are basically advocating the increase of salt intake to stop bed wetting? - That would truly be about the worst thing you can do. Of course it's all about a salt balance, but in the end the body will have to get rid of that excess salt, straining the heart and kidneys along the way. I'm too a newbie to downvote, but encourage other users to do so. – AliceD Oct 4 '17 at 8:07
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    @AliceD I agree, I'd downvote it too if I could, out of caution. Maybe not increase overall salt intake (that would just change the set-point). Maybe change the timing of the salt-intake (to have some of it with the last snack/drink before bed): because IMO if the body is already in equilibrium then additional plain water will tend to be excreted. – ChrisW Oct 4 '17 at 8:15
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    If (when I cycle) I "increase salt intake" that's not with the intention of having "excess" salt, but only to replace what was lost. My experience is relevant only in that I have been conscious about salt intake with hydration (and thus believe it may be relevant). It's relevant to note that, they say, the kidney will excrete excess salt. I'm not trying to propose excess salt, I'm trying to propose a balance. – ChrisW Oct 4 '17 at 8:43
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    @Typhon If ChrisW is not aware factually that sodium does indeed influence hydration, then sure, until Chris is made aware then it could just be an opinion; I will grant you that. Perhaps I should have said "I would remove IMO. It is a fact." Still, now that Chris has been informed that there is a known relationship, it is no longer merely an opinion and therefore it would still be a good time to remove IMO now. That is, you and I are discussing something for which our discussion of it itself renders the point moot. You are factually correct though, yes. – Aaron Oct 4 '17 at 18:49
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The not remembering part may or may not mean that she isn't actually conscious while doing it. Sleep clears out your short term memory, and just as you usually don't remember the last minutes before sleeping (and both of my kids will argue vehemently that they never fell asleep, as they don't remember doing it), it's common to not remember middle-of-the-night awakenings if you are able to go to sleep right after, particularly as a child.

My four year old has, ever since he was potty trained (at about the same age as yours), gotten up in the middle of the night on his own to go - 1am, 2am, 3am, whatever. His room is about 3-4 meters from the bathroom. We just leave the bathroom light on (it's LED so pretty efficient); he's able to find his way there, go, and come back to bed. Sometimes it involves a stop at our bed, sometimes not (we're generally permissive of the kids coming into our bed if they wake up in the middle of the night).

It may be worth leaving the light on and just seeing if she's able to do it herself. This works particularly well if you have either a very bright nightlight or a dim bathroom light - so not enough to be really bright and wake her up, but enough that when she's up out of bed it attracts her to it (kids are sort of like moths in that way, in my experience; they'll go to the light when sleepy). As long as the bathroom is set up how she expects it (if she still needs a kiddie seat, with that on the toilet seat, and with the lid in the position she expects it) she may well just go on her own.

And if this doesn't work (and you notice that she is, indeed, wetting the bed frequently), you can nudge her to go. We've noticed that our kids usually stir a bit when they need to go, sort of like they're having a bad or active dream; if we ask them "do you need to go potty", they will sometimes get up and go potty, and if they don't they'll say "no" and continue sleeping.

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A good approach here is: train. She most likely is already aware that she has a problem, since the rest of her friends would have stopped wetting their beds at this age. Hence, make her understand that she has to make an effort to improve the situation. Be careful here so she does not feel responsible about it. It is not her fault, she just had bad luck regarding this habit. Then, show her how to proceed in order to improve: by training her body.

During the day, every time she feels the need to pee, she has to make the effort to wait some time instead of going to the toilet instantly. At the beginning, this waiting time can be around 15 minutes, and then try to increase gradually each week.

After some weeks she herself will notice that she does not wake anymore during the night, and she does not wet the bed that often, up until the point that she won't wet it anymore.

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