It’s been going on for months, maybe even years: One by one, your friends with kids your kid’s age breathe sighs of relief as their children transition out of their night diapers and pull-ups, sleep solidly through the night, and wake up dry. You find yourself increasingly embarrassed that your kid, who has learned to do so many things independently, still can’t make it through the night without wetting the bed. You don’t want to pressure him, but you’re feeling a certain amount of social pressure yourself.
What’s a parent to do? First of all, relax. Not all children develop complete control over their bladder at the same age, and nighttime dryness is generally the final stage of toilet training. Bedwetting in children under 5- or 6- or even 7-years old is not a cause for concern; many children are still establishing nighttime bladder control at that age. It may take your child a little while longer than some kids to sleep through the night without wetting the bed, but it’s a pretty good bet that, sometime in the near future, your kid will master it.
Children over the age of 5 or 6 (or 7) who wet the bed more than twice per month are contending with what is known as bedwetting, nighttime incontinence or nocturnal enuresis. Millions of families grapple with bedwetting; the issue is extremely common, so if you are dealing with it, you are hardly alone. And though the issue can, in rare instances, extend into the teen years, most of the time it can be resolved much sooner.
About 13 percent of children wet the bed at age 6, according to KidsHealth.org. About 9 percent of 7-year-old boys and 6 percent of 7-year-old girls in the United States still do, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health’s MedlinePlus Web site. Those numbers decline to 5 percent by age 10 and continue to taper off until adulthood, when bedwetting is far less common. (Only 1 to 2 percent of adults 18 and over still struggle with bedwetting.)
Bedwetting is often a natural part of a child’s development, and kids usually simply outgrow it. Generally speaking, it is not an indication of a deeper medical or emotional issue, or a sign that your toilet-training process has been inadequate. It’s also a bit mysterious: The medical community isn’t really sure what causes it in some children and not others, or exactly why it stops.
Parents with a child who wets the bed may feel helpless, but in fact there’s a great deal they can do to help their children, who likely feel more embarrassed, guilty and anxious about the whole thing than they do. (Sleepovers at a friend’s house, time at summer camp, or even overnight trips to visit family can be particularly upsetting to contend with.) Parents can help by providing their children the emotional support that they need to get them through what can be a difficult and sometimes stressfully extended period.
The bottom line? Even if you can’t do much about your child’s sopping sheets or soaked pajamas, you can still dry her eyes. You may also be able to help with bladder training, moisture alarms or medication to reduce bedwetting. This guide will help you learn more about those options.