Bedwetting Myths Debunked (cont.)
WebMD talked to leading pediatricians to debunk some of the more common myths and address parental concerns about bed-wetting. Here's what we uncovered:
There's something wrong with my 3-year-old!
"Bed-wetting is very common in younger kids, in fact, it is so common that it is even considered normal before age 5," Greene says. "Nighttime dryness is the last part of toilet learning that kids achieve," he adds. At ages 6 and below, bed-wetting only needs to be addressed if the child is feeling really bad about himself as a result, he says.
"As adults, when the bladder gets full, it sends a signal to brain to wake up or you start dreaming about water or going to bathroom and then you wake up, but for kids the signal isn't quite strong enough to get them awake," Greene says.
That's why "it is normal for kids to wet the bed," agrees Charles I. Shubin, director of the children's health center at Mercy FamilyCare in Baltimore, Md. "By age 6, one out of six or seven will do it."
He adds that bed-wetting is "a developmental issue and therefore the treatment is time, so for kids age 6 or under, they will most likely grow out of it."
Parents need to realize that "to some extent this is a social problem and in a more primitive setting, it would not matter," Shubin tells WebMD.
In other words, "if a 3-year-old is not bothered by wearing a pull-up at night, then don't bother him about it," says Oschner Clinic Foundation pediatrician Michael Wasserman, MD, of New Orleans. But "if it's a 6-year-old and he or she is afraid that a buddy will make fun of him because of bed-wetting, then it becomes an issue."
Don't Blame the Victim
"It makes matters worse when parents yell and scream at their children for what they do in their deep sleep," Shubin says.
And some parents still believe that bed-wetting is the child's fault. In fact, the NKF estimates that 35% of bed-wetters are punished by their parents for wetting the bed and that's the worst possible response.
Stanford's Greene agrees: "Many parents feel like it's their fault or their kids fault or that their kid is lazy and children often feel very guilty and ashamed and what this leads to is punishment and that only makes bed-wetting worse.
"For kids that are under 5 or 6, it's normal, they are not doing something wrong and it won't last forever," Greene says. "Kids need reassurance and encouragement, not punishment."
Such reassurance can be based on the fact that bed-wetting tends to run in families, Wasserman points out.
"Calm down and reassure your child and do things to help his or her self esteem," he says. "If it's true, you may even say 'daddy used to do this,'" he suggests.
He or she will grow out of it. This is usually true, Greene says.