At nearly 3 years of age, my toddler rarely stays dry overnight. I was concerned about this until I spoke to a friend about it. She informed me that her own child, now nearly 7 years old, still wets the bed almost every night– and that his pediatrician says it is completely normal. As it turns out, many parents are concerned about bedwetting in 5- to 6-year-old children, but it is actually a very normal occurrence.
How Common Is It?
According to Dr. William Sears, a renowned pediatrician and parenting guru, roughly 15 percent of 5-year-olds wet the bed. In any given kindergarten class, about eight children still have a bedwetting problem. In a first-grade class, three to four of the students do not stay dry every night. So, if your 5- to 6-year-old still wets the bed, he or she is in good company. Many of your child’s peers cope with the same problem, and, for many of them, it may persist until age 7, 8, or even later.
We parents tend to blame ourselves for almost every problem that our children experience. But, despite the criticism of your grandma and your mother-in-law, your child’s bedwetting does not reflect poorly on your parenting skills. In children, bedwetting is a physical problem, not a problem caused by laziness, apathy, abuse, emotional problems or anxiety. Bedwetting as a response to stress occurs almost exclusively in older children. Ignore the advice of anyone who insists that your child wets because of emotional disturbances.
Your child does not wet the bed because he or she is too lazy to get up to use the bathroom. According to Dr. Sears, bedwetting occurs because some children rest so deeply that their bladders do not communicate its fullness to the sleeping children’s brain. In older children, it simply indicates that the brain-bladder connection hasn’t reached a full state of maturity. Rarely, bedwetting in a 5- or 6-year-old may indicate a urinary tract infection or an unusually small bladder. Consult a pediatrician if you are concerned about this.
If your 5- to 6-year-old child wets the bed, you should reassure him or her that it is normal. Although your child may be embarrassed about the problem, it will probably help to inform him or her that several classmates are also probably dealing with bedwetting. Ask your child’s pediatrician for help evaluating the cause of the bedwetting and potential treatment options. A qualified practitioner can rule out an underlying treatable problem. The overnight use of bedwetting diapers can help to prevent wet sheets and slumber-party embarrassment. Almost all children who wet the bed at age 5 or 6 outgrow the problem within a few years.
“Bedwetting,” Ask Dr. Sears.