Mummy, I need a wee

If we could have a pound for every time we’ve heard that…  At the sound of those words being uttered, most of us rush for the potty or scoop our little ones up and rush off to the loo without a moment’s thought.  But have you ever stopped to think of what effect that might be having on your child’s bladder?

I remember having to take lots of long car journeys to visit my grandparents in the North of Scotland. Before every journey I would be marched off to the loo and made to produce something regardless of whether or not there was anything in my bladder.  When I protested at this, I was told, “if you try hard enough something will come”. Does this sound familiar? How many people also remember being told not to ‘hold on’ for fear this might ‘damage’ you in some way?

Getting your child into the habit of ‘going just in case’ , not letting them hold on, or trying to force them to do a wee, is a sure fire way to set them up for a lifetime of frequency or urgency. The reality is that training your child to hold on to their urine is a good thing. It helps to increase their control over their bladder and actually begins to work their pelvic floor muscles from an early age.

If you are about to embark on a long car journey, try to leave enough time for plenty of stops, should the need arise, rather than making them go just in case. When your child tells you they need the loo for the first time, distract them for as long as you can with a game or a song. When the bladder begins to fill, it reaches a certain point when it starts to send messages to your brain telling you that you might need to go soon. At this point, distraction is possible, and these messages can settle down. When the bladder has filled some more, they will start up again. With a stable or un-irritated bladder, this can happen quite a few times, enabling you to hold on for an hour or so or even longer. With children, this skill has to be learned, just like any other skill, so try to gradually increase the time you let them hold on for. In the early days you may have some accidents but gradually the bladder will develop more and more control and those frequent stops to the service station will become a thing of the past.

When children are being potty trained or trying to go through the night without wetting themselves, many mothers try to limit their child’s fluid intake to see if this will help. Ensuring your child drinks plenty during the day and tries to hold onto their urine will help the bladder to stretch so it can hold on for longer. This will then help your child to remain dry for longer at night.  Restricting fluids in the couple of hours before bed is fine as long as they have had plenty to drink during the day. If children drink acidic fizzy drinks, undiluted fruit juice, or even worse cola with its high levels of caffeine, then their bladder can become irritated. This will then make them wee more and may cause them to wet themselves.

So, next time your child tells you they need a wee, don’t drop everything and make a bee-line for the loo, carry on cooking that pan of pasta, or reading those last few pages of your book and rest in the knowledge you are helping your child to improve their bladder control.

By Alison Bourne MA (Cantab) BSc MCSP ACPWH

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