Is Bedwetting Common for Children?

Child with urine spot on the bed

As a parent, you probably remember potty training your toddler. At times, it may have been challenging and you might have questioned if your child would ever get out of diapers. Nevertheless, your child ultimately triumphed and was finally potty trained! Or so you thought… Out of the blue you start to notice that your child is wetting his or her bed – not just once but frequently. You may notice your child is ashamed and withdrawing from school and, perhaps, even from you.

Bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis, can be an embarrassing problem for the child and the parent, but it is very common among young children. In the United States, over 5 million children wet the bed some or most nights, and about 15% of children continue to wet the bed beyond the age of 5. By age 10, 95% of children are dry at night.

Children stop wetting the bed at different ages. It is important for parents to understand that their child will most probably outgrow this phase. However, if bedwetting persists, keep an open mind and with love and support help your child tackle the issue.

Here are a few facts and strategies for addressing bedwetting:

  • Usually between ages 3 and 5, a child no longer needs a diaper during the night. However, some children’s bladders are smaller, which causes them to urinate more frequently.
  • While your child is sleeping, the brain may not receive the message from the bladder that it is full, which can cause your child to not wake up to use the bathroom.
  • Bedwetting is common among family members. Children with a parent or parents who were bedwetters are more likely to wet the bed themselves.
  • Some medical conditions, such as a urinary tract infection or constipation, may cause your child to bed wet. Rule out any medical issues by visiting your child’s pediatrician.
  • Accidents happen. When they do, be supportive and help your child clean up. You can also use absorbent pads under the sheets to help protect the mattress from getting wet.
  • Limit fluids in the evening and encourage your child to stick to a regular bedtime routine that includes a trip to the toilet shortly before going to sleep.
  • Consider having your child use a bedwetting alarm that is designed to help them wake up to use the bathroom. You may need to remind them multiple times to wear the alarm.
  • Remember, it is not your child’s fault for wetting the bed. Try to be understanding and patient. Getting angry or punishing your child for wetting the bed will only add pressure and potentially make the problem worse.
  • If the problem becomes worse, consider seeking help from your child’s pediatrician and/or a child psychologist.

References

Bennett, H. J., & American Academy of Pediatrics. (2015). Waking up dry: A guide to help children overcome bedwetting (2nd ed.). Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.

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