Childhood bed-wetting is more common than you might think. It’s estimated that 1 in 6 five-year-olds wets the bed regularly (at least twice a week). And, according to the charity ERIC (Education & Resource for Improving Childhood Continence), 14% of seven-year-olds, 9% of nine-year olds and 1-2% of teenagers wet the bed.
Also known as ‘nocturnal enuresis’ (pronounced 'en-you-ree-sis'), bed-wetting is normally just a developmental stage. It appears to be a little more common in boys and may also run in families.
Bed-wetting can occur because the child fails to wake up when signals are sent to empty the bladder. Sometimes an overactive bladder (an urge to pass urine frequently, often in small amounts) is to blame or a child has a small bladder so more urine is produced than the bladder can cope with.
For other children, a lack of certain hormones that slow down the production of urine at night-time is the cause of the bed-wetting. Other reasons might include: type 1 diabetes, constipation, a UTI (urinary tract infection) or emotional stress (bullying, parents separating, moving house/school, etc).
Bed-wetting is only considered to be a problem after the age of six. Before then, a child is not really expected to stay dry at night. However, the stress and embarrassment surrounding bed-wetting can make it seem worse than it really is. Some parents feel pressure to overcome ‘the problem' when, in fact, it's more effective to be patient and supportive and let your child become dry in their own time.
Night-time and the lead-up to bed can be a difficult time for you and your child if they wet the bed. Creating a happy and calm routine takes away some of the worry and makes bedtime an enjoyable time. A fun bath, a bedtime story in a cosy bedroom, and a chat and a cuddle before sleep are all good ways to help you both relax.
Remember that you're not alone. Many families are going through what you're going through, and connecting with people in the same situation can be a huge help. Check out the ERIC website (See the 'Answers from the web' section). It’s a fantastic website which is packed with information and advice for younger children, teens and parents. This may help both you and your child understand what may be happening, as well as reassuring them you that there are lots of other families in the same position.