It’s 10:30 pm, and you hear your little one calling you from the room. When you get there and reach out to your child, you feel it…wet bedding. It’s happened a few times before and you’re frustrated and exhausted by the thought of having to change bedding in the middle of the night. You’re also not sure if this is a serious problem now. Once is an accident, right? But several times - what does this mean?
Nighttime bedwetting, also known as nocturnal enuresis, can be a normal part of a child’s development. Even up to the age of 7, it is generally not a concern as the child may still be developing nighttime bladder control (around 10% of 7-year-olds wet at night).
It is twice as common in boys as in girls, and there are two types of nocturnal enuresis:
When determining what course of action, if any, to take, it’s essential to reflect on your own expectations for your child. Are other children your child’s age night dry, so you expect the same for yours? Are you just tired of the nappies? Was your child potty trained very early? Has your child ever been fully night dry? Or, has your child previously had a period of night dryness and is now suddenly wetting the bed at night?
If your child is displaying primary nocturnal enuresis, has never been night dry and was potty trained very early (before showing any signs of being ready to use the toilet), the night wetting could be a sign that mentally and physically she was not prepared for dryness. Take a few steps back and be patient with your little one. Just as we can’t rush crawling or walking or talking, we can’t rush bladder control. We can provide a supportive environment for our children, though.
Traditional solutions to enuresis tend to skew towards policing fluid intake. This entails decreasing fluid intake as it gets closer to bedtime and then also setting the alarm and waking the child to take them to the toilet in the middle of the night.
Controlling fluids in this way can have varying success, but very often has no impact on the problem. The use of medication can be useful in some cases but must be used with caution and only after considering the underlying causes of the wetting.
If your child has had a period of dryness and the wetting is recent (secondary nocturnal enuresis), or if you believe that your child should be night dry by now, here are some factors to consider:
While it’s understandable that bedwetting can leave you feeling disappointed, frustrated and even angry; your reaction in the moment can have an impact on your little one’s view of themself.
Slow down your response. Take a breath and mentally calm yourself before doing or saying anything. Taking that moment can help you to avoid shaming or embarrassing your child.
It’s important to note that while shaming can take obvious forms of shouting at; criticising; using harsh words to describe your child, or forcing the child to wash the bedding/clothing as a punishment; sometimes our judgements can be as subtle as a sigh.
If the wetting is not confined to nights only and is present during the day and your little one attends school, have an open discussion with teachers/principals on how best to support your child.
If it is causing significant distress for your child and is impacting negatively on your child’s daily functioning such as his social functioning, seek support from your health care provider.
If the latter point does not apply, try to have patience with your child and remember that this is just a phase that will be outgrown soon.
Have you tried the Nubabi Free Trial?
Get unlimited access to Your Parenting Toolkit for 2 weeks for free!
Track, Boost, Explore and Capture your child's growth and development.
Available on both mobile and web.