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Bedwetting 101: Everything You Need to Know About Enuresis

7 MIN READ

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If you’re new to the bedwetting battle, everything can feel a bit overwhelming at first. There’s a lot of information out there to filter through. As your ally, the Ninjamas squad has your back. That’s why we’ve gathered the fundamentals to help you and your kid tackle your bedwetting challenges head-on. Let’s start with a big fact to help settle your nerves right off the bat — according to the National Sleep Foundation, up to 20 percent of 5-year-old children, 10 percent of 7-year-olds and 5 percent of 10-year-old children wet the bed. All in all, that’s about 10 percent of all children in the U.S.! So first things first, relax. Your kid’s bedwetting problem is incredibly common. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have questions. You want to know why bedwetting happens, and how can it be stopped? Keep reading to get the info you need and more.

The Basics of Bedwetting
Why Does Bedwetting Happen?
How Common Is Bedwetting?
Bedwetting Diagnosis and Treatment
Things You Can Do at Home to Help Manage Bedwetting
The Bottom Line on Bedwetting

The Basics of Bedwetting

Bedwetting (also known as “sleep enuresis” and “nocturnal incontinence”) is a common enemy of a good night’s sleep and normal laundry routines. Bedwetting results in your child waking up to wet clothes and a damp bed and can be the result of a number of different developmental or emotional factors.
There are two main types of bedwetting:
  • Primary enuresis is bedwetting in children who have never had nighttime control over their bladders before. It is the more common of the two types, with 75 percent of children who are affected by bedwetting falling under this category.
  • Secondary enuresis is when bedwetting pops up after a prolonged period where your child had been accident-free. For example, your child may start to wet the bed after a long period in which they were successfully toilet trained because something has triggered their stress, like a change in schools or a new sleep environment.

Once you understand which type of bedwetting your child is going through, you can start learning about the things you can do to help.

Why Does Bedwetting Happen?

Three parts of your child’s body tend to play the biggest role in the bedwetting experience: A) your child’s kidneys, B) their bladder and C) their brain.
First, it’s the kidneys’ job to generate the right amount of urine for your child’s bladder. When the bladder is full, the kidneys send a signal to the brain, which is responsible for opening and closing the muscle (called the sphincter) that acts as the gate between the bladder and the urethra. If everything works properly at night, the brain will either keep the sphincter shut until your child wakes up and goes to the toilet in the morning or, if the urge to pee is too great, the brain will tell them to wake up so they can answer nature’s call. If your child’s kidneys produce too much urine during the night, or if the link between the bladder and the brain isn’t fully developed yet, or if their bladder is not able to hold as much pee as the kidney produces, bedwetting accidents and soggy sheets are likely to happen.
Keep in mind, these physical aspects aren’t the only possible causes of bedwetting. Family history, stress, constipation and hormonal imbalances can also contribute to your child wetting the bed after the age of 5.

How Common Is Bedwetting?

About 10 percent of all children in the U.S. between the ages of 5 and 10 are affected by bedwetting, meaning that more than 5 million children and their parents are fighting the good fight right alongside you.
Boys are more than twice as likely to wet the bed than girls – and the reason behind this discrepancy is that girls physically mature faster than boys on average. Whether you have a boy or girl, the good news is that by age 15 all but 1 percent of kids outgrow bedwetting. This is due to three simple facts:
  1. The bladder grows to hold more volume with age.
  2. Most children learn how to control their sphincter and pelvic floor muscles (responsible for keeping or releasing urine from the bladder) by this age.
  3. As children grow, their brain also matures, which is important for bladder control.

If you’re struggling with your child’s bedwetting, be patient. Most children will overcome enuresis and achieve dry nights before you know it.

Bedwetting Diagnosis and Treatment

A great way to start tackling your child’s bedwetting is to have a heart-to-heart about what might be causing their accidents. From there, it’s equally important to talk to your kid’s healthcare provider about your bedwetting concerns so you can identify any emotional, development or medical causes. Starting with your child’s doctor is smart because they will have a better understanding of your child’s medical history. Your child’s doctor can also provide a physical exam and tests to help rule out medical conditions such as a urinary tract infection (UTI) or more serious, but less common causes like diabetes. When all of that’s done, your child’s provider can give you information, advice or a treatment plan to help you and your child overcome your challenges. If your kid’s bedwetting ( nocturnal enuresis) isn’t caused by a medical condition, treatment may not be necessary – however, if your kiddo’s self-esteem is affected or if it stops them from leading a normal social life (for example, by having to skip sleepovers or summer camps because of the bedwetting), your child’s healthcare provider may recommend a treatment that offers a short-term solution. Beyond your doctor, it’s important to take the time to reflect on potential stressors in your child’s life. Are they dealing with big changes? For instance, moving to a different home, welcoming a new brother or sister, being exposed to parental conflict? Your kid may start bedwetting as a stress response to experiencing some other trauma or life change. In these circumstances, it’s important to try to resolve the situation or reduce the stress felt around the issue to help get your kid back on track. Read our article on how to stop bedwetting for more detailed information on bedwetting solutions.

Things You Can Do at Home to Help Manage Bedwetting

Bedwetting is a phase, but it doesn’t have to be one that you and your family take lying down (or waking up in the middle of the night, every night). There are several ways you and your kid can knock out nocturnal incontinence together:
  • Make sure your kid goes to the toilet frequently, between four and seven times per day, including right before bedtime.
  • Use a bladder diary to track your child’s bathroom visits and make a chart that shows wet and dry nights.
  • Use waterproof bed covers so cleaning up is easier and to reduce the stress around any bedwetting accidents.
  • Use positive reinforcement to help your child develop control over their bladder at night by rewarding them for keeping their bed dry — keep in mind, the rewards you use don’t have to be big or expensive. Encouraging words, a sticker (if your child is younger) or a huge hug can all work well as positive reinforcement.
  • Work with your child to help them imagine waking up dry. This vision of a dry morning can help build confidence.
  • Enlist the help of Ninjamas Nighttime Underwear to provide your kid with the overnight protection they need to wake up dry, confident and well-rested. Ninjamas come in sizes S/M and L/XL and are armed with Pampers LockAway Channels and OdorMask Technology. Ninjamas are stealthy – with a discreet fit and designs that look just like underwear. Your child will feel confident wearing them under their PJs, even at sleepovers and summer camp!

The Bottom Line on Bedwetting

Bedwetting is natural and normal, and no matter how old your child is, it’s not their fault for urinating in the bed. There are many physical or psychological reasons at play, and just like so many other aspects of development, every kid develops at their own pace. The good news? Sooner or later, your child will grow out of the bedwetting phase. In the meantime, trust the advice of your child’s healthcare provider and use positive reinforcement, changes in nighttime routine and tools to keep nighttime less stressful like mattress covers, bedwetting alarms and bedwetting underwear like Ninjamas. Do all that, and you and your child will be well on your way to dry nights and NINJAWESOME mornings.

How We Wrote This Article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Mayo Clinic. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.