I’ve realised I can’t “train” my four-year-old not to wet the bed

Posted in Preschool.

My little guy is back in night nappies. He turns five in June. But I am more than okay with this.

You see, I’ve made a discovery which has made me realise he doesn’t need nighttime toilet ‘training’ – at all. And tired parents who are also washing sheets most mornings because of a bedwetting disruption in the night, also need to know this.

The stats on bedwetting

Waking in the morning to a little one standing next to your bed wearing soggy PJs because the night nappy has leaked or you took a punt on him wearing undies and staying dry, is a rite of parenting passage.

While daytime toilet training tends to happen around the age of three, we can’t expect our little ones to be dry at night until around school age, and even then some children are still wetting the bed at seven or eight years and beyond. One in five kids are considered bedwetters. 

It’s not their fault – or yours

The thing I needed to realise, is that bedwetting is a developmental problem, not a behavioural one. I haven’t failed to nighttime toilet train my little guy, I just need to wait for his body to develop nighttime bladder control. 

There are three reasons why little ones wet the bed and these are:

  • His full bladder doesn’t ‘wake’ him up to send a message to his brain that he needs to go to the loo
  • His bladder becomes overactive at night and can’t store all that urine
  • He hasn’t developed the low anti-diuretic hormone that tells his kidneys to make less urine at night

Just relax, dry nights will happen – one day

All this means is that bedwetting is not behavioural. I can’t teach my little guy bladder control by waking him up in the night to pee, or denying him drinks before bed. Nor is he being lazy. His brain simply doesn’t get the message to wake him up to go to the toilet just yet. 

The other thing to bear in mind is that genetics also plays a part. Three out of four kids who have parents who wet the bed in childhood will also struggle with bedwetting.

As I was a bed wetter, I wouldn’t be surprised if my little guy also follows in my soggy footsteps. If he does, I’ll tell him I did the same at his age so he doesn’t feel alone or ashamed (according to one specialist, 90% of bedwetters do).

It’s OK, nighttime bladder control will come. His body is still developing the hormone it needs for bladder control, just like it had to develop certain muscles so he could learn how to walk. It’s developmental. Until then, night nappies and plastic-backed mattress protectors are both our friends.

If you are concerned about your child’s bedwetting speak to your GP who may diagnose any underlying problem or prescribe medication that can help. 


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