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Bed-wetting in children: what is normal?

Of course babies wet their nappies any time they feel like it. Becoming dry is a complex process. The urine-producing system has to develop its ability to produce less urine at night and coordination has to develop between the maturing nerves and muscles controlling the bladder. The ability to wake up when the bladder is full also has to develop. All this takes time. This happens quite quickly in some children, but is slower in others. Boys tend to be slower than girls, so bed-wetting is three times more common in boys than in girls.

  • By the age of 2 years, most children are dry during the day (if a toilet is nearby when they need it, and their clothing is easy to undo).
  • By the age of 3 years, 3 out of every 4 children are dry most nights.
  • By the age of 5 years, most children are dry at night. However, 1 out of every 5 children still wets the bed at least once a week.
  • By the age of 10 years, about 1 out of every 10 children wets the bed several nights a week.
  • By the age of 15 years, only 3 out of every 100 children are still wetting the bed several nights a week.
These facts and figures (from the Medical Journal of Australia 2005;182:190–5) show that most children gradually grow out of bed-wetting, and it is certainly nothing to worry about in a child younger than 5 years. The medical term for bed-wetting is enuresis, and this is usually defined as wetting the bed at least three nights a week in a child over 5 years of age.
 
Dr Phil Hammond looks at the frustrations of bed-wetting, with a little help from ‘Henry’, in his informative and entertaining guide on bed-wetting (click on video below).

 

Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Thursday, May 17th 2012

 


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Comments on this article

Posted by Optional on 06/09/2017 at 08:18

I am wetting the bed every other night and I do not know what to do, I do not want to tell my parents because I am scared that they will tell me off for not telling them I don't know what to do because it keeps on happening and I am scared.

Posted by Peter on 25/07/2009 at 11:44

I get the impression that my child who is 7 years old, intentionally wets her bed. Last night I put her to bed and made her go to the toilet. She sat on the pot and did not pass any urine. Yet within 5 minutes of putting her to bed she had wet her bed.

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Fascinating facts

Babies pass urine in the womb

Newborn babies may urinate 18 times a day

In Victorian times, children who wet the bed were allowed only plain and boring food. It was thought that cakes and pastries made bed-wetting more likely by causing irritating urine. (Of course, this is not the case.)

In an average class of thirty 10-year olds, there will be two who wet the bed

Bed-wetting affects 5-7 million children in the USA and 500,000 children in the UK

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