Bedwetting (also known as nocturnal enuresis) is the unintentional passing of urine whilst asleep. It can happen on a regular basis or occasionally.
It is a widespread and distressing condition that can have a deep impact on a child or young person’s behaviour, emotional wellbeing and social life. It is also very stressful for parents or carers. (NICE 2010).
Bedwetting can be difficult and frustrating for you and your child but there are ways of dealing with it. Your child is not the only one who “wets the bed”.
16% - five year olds
14% - seven year olds
9% - nine year olds
1-2% - teenagers
Boys are more likely to wet the bed than girls up to the age of 12. However in 12-16 year olds there are proportionally more girls who wet the bed. So, in a class of 30 children (aged between 7 and 9 years) there’s likely to be at least one other child who also wets the bed, but you probably won’t know who they are.
In most children there is no specific cause. Bedwetting is not your child's fault. It occurs because the volume of urine produced at night is more than your child's bladder can hold. The sensation of a full bladder does not seem to be strong enough to wake up your child at night. As your child develops and grows, the amount of urine produced at night gets less, and they become aware that they need to wake in the night if their bladder is full. So the problem goes away eventually in most children.
For support and more information:
Your GP can refer your child to Bromley’s enuresis clinic, where your child will be offered an appointment with a children’s continence nurse to be assessed so a treatment programme can be implemented. The clinic accepts referrals for children over the age of 5 years; however if your child is under 5 years and has complex difficulties, which includes wetting, please discuss with your GP whether a referral to a paediatrician or another service is indicated.
ERIC, The Children's Bowel & Bladder Charity, has for over 30 years been dedicated to improving the lives of all children and teenagers in the UK facing continence challenges and their website has lots of information eric.org.uk. They have downloadable guides, including information about potty training for very young preschool age children.
There are a variety of reasons why children wet the bed and here are a few helpful hints and tips:
- Aiming to be dry is a learning process. Children do not wet the bed if they could avoid it so never punish a child for a wet bed.
- Encourage drinks regularly throughout the day and encourage regular toileting to pass urine.
- Avoid fizzy drinks and drinks that contain caffeine such as tea, coffee and chocolate at bedtime as these can irritate the bladder.
- Ensure your child goes to the toilet at bedtime before going to sleep.
- Give plenty of vegetable and cereals to avoid constipation. Exercise is also helpful.
- Encourage your child to have a thorough wash in the mornings, if he/she has had a wet bed.
- Rinse wet bedding and clothes in cold water before washing.
Achieving dry nights can take time, so be prepared and be patient. There are no magic cures; however, a positive attitude and encouragement will help your child overcome enuresis.
See your GP if:
- You've tried things you can do at home and your child keeps wetting the bed
- Your child has started wetting the bed again after being dry for more than 6 months