All the parenting handbooks tell you that most children start to stay dry through the night at about age three. Ask any pediatrician and he’ll tell you that about that time, he suddenly starts hearing questions from worried parents about their children still wetting the bed at night. According to most pediatricians, though, it’s not unusual for children to wet the bed long past that age. If your child is still wetting the bed at five, should you be worried? How about at eight? What if it’s only once in a while? Here are some facts to help you decide if you should worry about your child’s bedwetting.
Fact: About 15% of children consistently wet the bed after the age of three.
Three sounds like the magic number, especially if your child is completely potty-trained during the day. All children develop at different rates, though, and it’s not unusual for a child to still occasionally wet the bed as late as age seven or eight. About 15% of six year olds wet the bed. About 5% of ten year olds still wet the bed.
Fact: Bedwetting tends to run in families.
Chances are that if you or your spouse was a bedwetter, at least one of your children will be later to develop night-time bladder control. In addition, if your child is an especially sound sleeper, they may have trouble waking to their body’s signals.
Fact: Bedwetting is more common in boys than in girls.
No one is quite sure why, though we do know that girls often reach physical milestones sooner than boys.
Fact: Even without treatment, even the most persistent bedwetting stops at puberty.
It’s very rare that a child continues to wet the bed past puberty, even with no special treatment or precautions.
Fact: Most bedwetters do NOT have emotional problems.
Or at least… bedwetting is not often caused by emotional problems. Making your child ashamed of his inability to stay dry at night could cause problems, though.
When SHOULD you worry about bedwetting?
If your child has been dry at night for some time – several months or longer – and begins wetting the bed regularly again, look for anything upsetting his routine. A move to a new home, a change of teacher at school, or something that has upset him may be triggering the bedwetting problems. Don’t, however, rule out the possibility of a physical cause. If your child suddenly starts wetting the bed again, your first step should be to check for a urinary tract infection – especially in a girl.
If the return to bedwetting is accompanied by a fever, complaints of belly pain or a change in toileting habits during the day, it’s a clear signal to call your doctor. Chances are very good that the cause is a urinary tract infection that can be taken care of with a course of antibiotics.
If your child is especially bothered by his bedwetting, offer him all the emotional support that you can to prevent it from becoming an emotional problem.
Tips for Helping a Child Stay Dry At Night
1. Don’t make a big deal about bedwetting. Change the sheets without comment, reassure your child that everyone outgrows it eventually, and tuck him back into bed.
2. Do limit drinks after dinner. There’s no need to make a big fuss about it. Just limit drinks in the two hours or so before bedtime.
3. Make sure that your child goes potty before bed. It’s an easy thing to forget in the rush of getting everyone tucked in, but simply making a trip to the bathroom part of the bedtime routine may be enough to eliminate bedwetting.
4. Wake your child to use the bathroom at YOUR bedtime. Most children won’t even totally wake up if you do, but by interrupting sleep to make a trip to the bathroom you can help establish a pattern of waking to use the toilet.
5. Make life easy on yourself. While putting your child in diapers for bed is ignominious, these days there’s a wide range of ‘nighttime undies’ that are far less embarrassing to wear. You’ll resent the whole process a lot less if you don’t have to wash bedding every single day.
6. It should go without saying but – don’t tease or make fun of the child to shame them out of it. By the same token, don’t allow your other children to make fun of him for his physical inability to control his bladder at night.
7. Most importantly, don’t stress over it. The more importance YOU place on your child’s bedwetting, the more likely it is that it will become a source of emotional turmoil for your child.
Copyright © Jared Winston, 2006. All Rights Reserved.