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Primitive Reflexes: Bedwetting – Why Your Child Wets the Bed or Wears Pull-ups after Age 5
This post contains helpful information if your child experiences bedwetting after age 5. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
As parents, we are all too familiar with the potty training process and how grueling it can be sometimes. Those frustrating trial runs with underwear versus diapers, frequent runs to the bathroom, and accidents that seem to happen at the most inopportune moments, not to mention one of the worst parts of the potty training experience, bedwetting. Although this part of the developmental process can be challenging, for most kids, potty training and bedwetting are usually under control between the ages of three and five. However, this is not always the case for all children.
Many parents struggle with potty training, but there are more and more parents that also have kids who still we the bed at night or even during the middle of the day who are over the age of five no matter what they try. Kids are often embarrassed and sometimes refuse to have sleepovers or spend the night at grandma’s house because they were concerned about wetting the bed. It may even continue to happen when the child becomes a teenager.
If your child or student struggles with this problem at home, I’m sure you’ve already done your research and have tried many different strategies to help your child stop wetting the bed. The Internet is full of suggestions like reducing fluid intake before bed, have them go to the bathroom before bedtime, use a reward system or set potty training goals, avoid pull-ups or diapers, or even try a bedwetting alarm. If some of these strategies have worked, which I hope they do, great! You have nothing to worry about. However, if the strategies haven’t worked no matter what you try and you are still searching for answers, there may be another issue causing the problem.
Intro to Primitive Reflexes
Primitive reflexes control a baby’s movement in the first year of life and are critical for a child’s development of motor, sensory and brain development skills. These reflexes develop while the baby is still in the mother’s womb. When the baby is born, and as your child grows, these reflexes should “disappear” as your child strengthens their neck and shoulder muscles with tummy time, begins to crawl, walk, scoot across the floor, and reaches all of their developmental milestones. These reflexes are no longer needed as the child develops. However, if a child has had some type of traumatic birth experience or has missed some key developmental milestones, you may find that these reflexes are still present in your child that should have gone away.
If these primitive reflexes remain present in your child or student, this is when you may find signs or symptoms of poor muscle tone, visual and spatial issues, hyperactivity, poor academic performance, and many other developmental delays that manifest itself at home and in the classroom. Among these signs and symptoms is none other than bedwetting. For more in-depth information on Primitive reflexes, click here.
Spinal Galant Reflex
So now that we know our child’s bedwetting could be attributed to a primitive reflex that did not “disappear” as they grew older, which one is it? Bedwetting is usually a sign that your child has retained the Spinal Galant Reflex. This reflex is typically found when touching the lower back of your child’s spine. Without going into all the nitty gritty details behind the Spinal Galant Reflex, it is the reflex that hinders bladder and bowel movement control. It can be triggered by light pressure on the lower back that causes uncontrollable spinal movement, which could mean that even your child’s bed sheets could activate urination, causing bedwetting long after your child is already potty trained.
If your child still has the Spinal Galant Reflex present, it could be the answer to why your child continues to wet the bed at night. Now it is a matter of getting them the right help to integrate the reflex so they can maintain their bladder control. Some of the recommendations listed above on the Internet will most likely not work if your child struggles with some of these primitive reflexes and you may also see academic delays to go along with it.
For more information about the Spinal Galant Reflex and other reflexes, read Sally Goddard Blythe’s book, The Well Balanced Child.
How to test your child for the Spinal Galant Reflex
If you are fairly certain your child has a larger problem with bedwetting and other developmental delays, there are a couple of easy tests you can do with your child to see if they have retained the Spinal Galant Reflex. Please keep in mind that there are other reflexes that may be present in your child, which you will want to test your child for if you notice other delays. However, in this article, the following test is only for the Spinal Galant Reflex.
Here is how to begin.
Have your child or student get down on their hands and knees. Make sure their arms and back are completely straight. Their back should be flat like a table top.
Take a marker or sharpie and gently trace it down the left side of your child’s spine (from the top of the neck, down to their lower back). Repeat exercise on the right side of the child’s spine.
Notice the reaction of the child. Was it ticklish? Was there any pain? Did they dip their back when you traced the marker down their spine? Were the signs worse when you reached their lower back? If they display any types of discomfort, ticklish parts or dipping of their back the closer you got to the lower back, it is a sign of a retained primitive reflex.
If your child had any of the reactions listed above, ask them questions like “How ticklish was it?” “On a scale from 1 to 10, how badly did it hurt?”
These types of questions will help you understand how mild or severe your child’s symptoms may be and how much intervention they may need to correct the retained primitive reflex.
How to prevent bedwetting
If you have tested your child or student for the Spinal Galant Reflex and are sure they have retained it, then you may continue to see bed wetting as part of their daily routine. Your child may need additional help to integrate the reflex that should have gone to sleep when they were a baby so your child can control their bladder automatically at night without giving it a second thought.
To help you with these exercises, the Retained Primitive Reflexes 101 e-Course provides videos, instructions and pictures to assist with integrating the reflex. The e-Course is only offered two times a year so join now to save your spot!
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs