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Bed-wetting is common, and so are the myths about it. Understanding what's really going on may make it easier to support your child and cope with the effects of bed-wetting on the whole family. Here are four myths to banish.
Also find out five things doctors wish parents knew about bed-wetting.
My child is the only one still wetting the bed
About 5 million kids in the United States wet their bed, including 20 percent of 5-year-olds, 10 percent of 7-year-olds, and 5 percent of 10-year-olds, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Because bed-wetting can be embarrassing, people tend not to talk about it. That can lead to a feeling that it's a problem to be ashamed of and make your child feel isolated. (However, bed-wetting is a personal matter, so be sensitive about mentioning it in front of other people, including siblings.)
It's important to let your child know that lots of people wet the bed, and it's involuntary and nothing to be ashamed of. Even celebrities do it. Jennifer Lawrence, for example, has talked publicly about wetting the bed until she was in her teens.
My child is wetting the bed because he's lazy or misbehaving
Your child can't control wetting the bed. It happens when he's fast sleep. He doesn't choose to do it, so saying your child is lazy or misbehaving really isn't fair. Scolding or punishing your child for wetting the bed won’t help. You don't want to make him feel bad about something he can't control.
To stay dry all night, your child's body needs to be able to hold all the urine produced at night or wake him up to go to the bathroom. Either requires physical development that happens in its own time and can't be rushed any more than a first tooth can. (See our potty training timeline.)
Don't make your child change his sheets as a punishment. If he wants to help, it's fine to encourage him and thank him for his help. Getting involved may make him feel more in control of the situation.
Older relatives may give you advice about how to deal with bed-wetting. They mean well, but what was appropriate in the past isn't necessarily the best approach today.
Restricting fluids at night will stop bed-wetting
It seems to make sense that having your child drink less at night would stop bed-wetting, but it doesn't work that way. While you want to have her avoid drinking too much at night, especially right before bed, not drinking enough is counterproductive. Either extreme can aggravate bed-wetting.
For a variety of health reasons, it's important for your child to drink enough water. Dehydration puts her at greater risk for constipation and urinary tract infections, both of which can aggravate bed-wetting.
Keeping your child hydrated during the day, though, can help keep her from drinking a lot of liquids later in the day, which will put more stress on her bladder at night. Some parents have found this ratio works: roughly 40 percent of fluids in the morning, 40 percent in the afternoon, and 20 percent in the evening.
But don’t think of this as a magic bullet; just because your child is drinking less at night doesn’t mean she’ll magically stop bedwetting. She just may be less wet.
There's a miracle cure for bed-wetting out there
The best cure for bed-wetting is usually time. Each child is unique, and your child will most likely grow out of it when his body is physically capable of being dry at night.
Be wary of pricey books, systems, or products promising a cure. Your own research, knowledge, and intuition are more valuable than any miracle product.
If your child feels frustrated or you feel stressed, talk to your child's doctor. She will be able to suggest treatments if she thinks they are appropriate. And she can give you more information and tips on how to help your child through bed-wetting.