Children Who Wet the Bed: Causes and How to Solve It

December 6, 2019
Having a small bladder, being under stress, or an inadequate upbringing are some of the reasons why children wet the bed.

Doctors and psychologists have called this problem nocturnal enuresis and it’s linked to children who wet the bed. It occurs when little ones don’t control their urination and urinate while they’re sleeping. There may be also cases of daytime bedwetting. How to solve this problem? Find out more in this article.

What’s enuresis?

Enuresis is an uncontrolled urination that affects children usually while they sleep, although it also occurs during the day. Bladder control is a natural process that develops as people grow.

Although this mechanism matures between 15 and 18 months of age, it depends on many factors. Thus, the child’s habits (that their parents teach them to go to the bathroom alone or that they’ve been slowly weaning them off diapers, for example) come into play.

The child may have difficulty recognizing when their bladder is full, even while awake, which is why they can urinate involuntarily at any time of day or night.

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A baby sleeping.

After that time, a child learns how to “pee” on their own, or is at least learning to do so. Parents resort to various techniques to wean their child off diapers, such as putting underwear on so they learn what it is to be wet.

At what age do children usually go to the bathroom alone?

If the child’s maturation and learning processes are successful, they’ll go to the bathroom like adults, communicating when they need to urinate. Once a child is four or five years old, they’ll be ready to control that physiological need, understand it, and won’t need assistance to evacuate. The problem arises when the child doesn’t learn after many attempts.

It may be necessary to take your child to the pediatrician if they wet the bed during the day and this continues when the child is six years or older. Your child should see a doctor if, after a completely dry period, bedwetting suddenly manifests.

Spanish PediatricsAssociation

Nocturnal enuresis manifests at approximately age five. It can be intermittent or continuous and, in some cases, it extends to adolescence. There are many different ways to treat this condition, from psychological to medical. The most important thing in these cases is for the parents to keep calm, not get angry, and not punish or scold their child.

The prevalence of enuresis is an aspect that’s difficult to estimate, since it varies from one investigation to another and depends on the diagnostic criteria used. However, approximately, we can say that this disorder affects 10-13% of six-year-olds and 6-8% of ten-year-olds.

L.M. Rodríguez Fernández and Salvador Gracia Manzano

The possible causes of nocturnal enuresis are:

  • Small bladder (if the child goes to the bathroom a lot during the day).
  • Inadequate potty training.
  • Stress, nervousness, anxiety (changes in the home, separation from the parents, problems in school, or fights with siblings).
  • Starting potty training too early or too late.

Issues that you should consider when your children wet the bed

1. It’s necessary to give them time

If the child is five years old and wets the bed during the night, don’t run to the doctor if it only happens once. If it happens repeatedly or every night, then medical advice may be needed.

2- Don’t blame, get mad at, or make fun of your child

Punishment will achieve nothing. The child is not responsible for the fact they wet the bed. It isn’t their responsibility. This may result in more stress, tension, nerves, and feelings of being disobedient.

A sad boy because he wet the bed.

3. Don’t return to using diapers

First of all, because the idea is for the child to grow and mature, not regress. Second, because if they continue to use diapers, they’ll become used to peeing during the night. Finally, it could shame the child and even lead to depression.

You should also read: Should You Wake Your Baby to Change Their Diaper?

4. Don’t make the mistake of refusing to let them drink water

Avoiding the consumption of water is pointless. The aim is not for the child to have less urges to urinate, but that they learn how to control urination while sleeping.

5. Don’t wake them up at the middle of the night

This way, the child will go to the bathroom if they need to. It also interrupts the child’s sleeping pattern.  It’s better for the child to learn to recognize their body’s message and wake up, even when they’re in the deepest state of sleep.

Finally, and as a way to reflect, it’s good to bear the child’s emotions in mind. They’re at an age where they can remember embarrassing situations. Teach your child to trust you and to express their feelings, including why they think they wet the bed.

This article may interest you: Childhood Incontinence and Bedwetting

Make them participate in the process or techniques to stop wetting their bed and help them overcome this situation.

  • Harari, M. (1999). Nocturnal enuresis. Australian Family Physician. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1754.2012.02506.x
  • McLain, L. G. (1979). Childhood enuresis. Current Problems in Pediatrics. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0045-9380(79)80012-2
  • Rodríguez Fernández, L.M., Gracia Manzano, S. Diagnóstico y tratamiento de la enuresis nocturna. Asociación Española de Pediatría. https://www.aeped.es/sites/default/files/documentos/10_3.pdf
  • Ramírez-Backhaus, M., Arlandis Guzmán, S., García Fadrique, G., Martínez Agulló, E., Martínez García, R. y Jiménez-Cruz, J. F. (2010). La enuresis nocturna. Un trastorno frecuente con una prevalencia difícil de estimar. Actas Urológicas Españolas, 34(5), 460-466. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acuro.2010.03.001