The short answer is yes. With time, bedwetting will usually go away.1
Without the protection of nappies/diapers, one-year-olds would wet the bed. But by the age of 5, only 20% or so wet the bed. By age, 10 it is about 5%. And when they reach puberty, the rate falls as low as 1%.
According to the Continence Foundation of Australia, bedwetting is common, affecting one in 5 children. It is also more common in boys.2
While it might be reassuring to know that bedwetting is probably more common than you think, it’s still upsetting for the child and the family, especially as the child grows up and spends more nights away from home at sleepovers, camps or with babysitting grandparents.
The medical term for bedwetting is nocturnal (night-time) enuresis and there are two types:
- Primary nocturnal enuresis, which is used to describe children who never achieved dry nights since potty training, even though they generally have no accidents during the day3
- Secondary nocturnal enuresis is when a child enjoys consistent dry nights for six months or more, but suddenly starts bedwetting again. This type of bedwetting is often related to a stressful event (e.g. birth of a sibling, parent divorce or family crisis, starting a new school, etc.). Some medicines can also cause secondary bedwetting.
Perhaps the most important thing a parent can do is to be patient and supportive. It’s also important to recognise that bedwetting is rarely a behavioural problem or a result of laziness.1,3
Factors that contribute to bedwetting.
- Genetics – bedwetting tends to run in families.1-3 Half of all bedwetting children have a parent who also struggled. If both parents had nocturnal enuresis issues, that likelihood rises to 75%.1
- Bladder size – some children have a smaller bladder capacity, so they can’t make it through the night.1-3
- Deep sleep – if a child is deep sleeper, this can affect the way the bladder and brain communicate with each other (The brain works with the bladder to control when to release urine). Instead of waking up to use the toilet, the child’s pelvic floor muscles relax and empty while the child sleeps. This brain-bladder control will develop naturally over time.1
- Making too much urine at night – the body normally produces a hormone that slows down urine production at night. Some children don’t produce enough of this hormone.
- Constipation – excessive stool stored in the rectum can push on the bladder, limiting the bladder capacity and causing ‘leaks’.1
- Stress – as discussed in ‘secondary nocturnal enuresis’ above, major events in a child’s life can cause bedwetting. Unfortunately, the bedwetting causes even more stress, making the situation worse.
How to treat bedwetting
There are many treatments for bedwetting, some work better than others. Sometimes simple changes like the following help1:
- Reducing the amount of fluid your child drinks 1-2 hours before bed
- Creating a schedule for bathroom use (changing toilet habits)
- Bedwetting alarm devices
- Medicines (for example, to help control urine production at night)
The following strategies should not be used:
- Stopping food and fluid intake1
- Night waking1
- Pelvic muscle exercises
- Punishing the child for wetting the bed
- Shaming the child in front of friends or family
- Trying to fix bedwetting at a stressful time
Welcare makes an effective bedwetting alarm. More information here.