Bedwetting is More Common Than You Think
When you're trying to help a child cope with bedwetting, it may feel like you're the only person in the world dealing with the issue. The good news is that you're not – by a long shot. And while it may seem like bedwetting is not often discussed, there are probably several moms on your street handling the same problems day in and day out.
Ann*, a mother in Kansas whose stepdaughter wet the bed, says she was comforted when she learned about another parent going through the same thing. During a casual conversation with her friend, also her pediatrician, Ann learned that the pediatrician's son, about the same age as Ann's stepdaughter, also wet the bed. "It was a relief to discover that here was another parent who had a wealth of knowledge about kids and health who was in the exact same spot as I was," says Ann. "Just knowing I wasn't alone helped."
If you haven't been fortunate enough to find someone with whom to share your experiences, consider some of the following statistics and a timeline of normal urinary development that shows just how common bedwetting really is, no matter the child's age.
By the Numbers
To begin with, bedwetting is considered to be totally normal until about the age of 4 or 5. All babies start out in this world unable to control their bladders. According to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC), babies' bladders fill to a set point, then automatically contract and empty. As they grow older, however, the nervous system begins to develop, allowing the brain to send messages to the bladder to keep it from automatically emptying.
According to a study in the journal Pediatrics, by the time kids are 2, only one in 10 actually have dry beds at night. And in 2 to 4-year-olds, it's normal for anxiety in a child's life to lead to periods of incontinence before the child achieves total bladder control, according to the NKUDIC.
Past the age of 6, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) estimates that more than five million children experience bedwetting. And by the time they are in preschool, half will still wet their beds, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics.
Kathy*, a mother in Utah, was surprised to find out how many students in her son's preschool class were still wearing absorbent products at night. One day while several moms were helping out in the class, the kids were asked what they wanted to give their moms for Mother's Day, and her son replied, "Dry GoodNites® [Underpants]!" Later, several of the moms expressed to Kathy that their kids were in absorbent products as well.
"I was shocked that so many preschoolers were still in GoodNites® [Underpants], and it made me feel much better about my own son's wetting at night," says Kathy. "I then talked to my pediatrician, and she said it was totally common for preschoolers to be in disposable underpants at night, and we wouldn't worry about it at all until my son was over 7." And that's exactly the recommendation of the NKF: They suggest seeing a doctor if bedwetting continues by the age of 6 or 7.
As children get older the rates of bedwetting decrease, but even in middle school, kids are still wetting the bed. Would you be surprised to know that one or more of the kids in your child's sixth grade class are still experiencing bedwetting?
By the time the teen years roll around, however, the numbers have dropped dramatically – but still about 1 to 2 percent of 15-year-olds are dealing with wet beds, according to the NKF.
And it seems that parents across the world are dealing with bedwetting just as much as those in the United States. Studies around the globe show just how much we all have in common. In Turkey, for example, a study found that nearly 14 percent of children between the ages of 7 and 11 wet the bed, one of the highest documented rates. And studies in New Zealand, Belgium, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates have all found rates similar to the United States.
Talking With Your Child
It's certainly comforting for parents to understand what's normal and what's not as well as the frequency of bedwetting in our society – and it can also be helpful to your child. So consider sharing some of this information with him in a fun way. GoodNites.com offers a site geared for kids that offers bedwetting facts and an online community to help kids communicate about their experiences.
Becky*, mom of an 11-year-old in Minnesota who wets the bed, says she has talked with her son about the fact that other kids wet the bed. "I have spoken with my son about children his age that have bedwetting problems, and it is comforting to him," she says.
So remember even if your child surpasses the mark at which nighttime continence normally develops, he is only one of many. In fact, according to the numbers, he'll likely grow out of it soon.