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Enuresis (Bed Wetting)

What is enuresis?
Nocturnal enuresis is the medical term for bed-wetting.    All over the world, kids wet the bed.  Bed-wetting is actually quite common.  Even so, it can be very embarrassing for kids.  They may feel very alone, like they can’t talk to other people about it.  They may avoid certain social situations, like overnight camp and slumber parties.  Other people may call them a “baby,” or blame them for being wet, even though they cannot help it.  Bed-wetting can cause real problems like loss of self-esteem and other psychological distress for the child and the family.

How common is bed-wetting?
It’s very common.  Every night five to seven million children in the United States wet their beds.  More boys than girls do.  About 15 percent of five-year-olds are wet at night.  By age 12 about three percent of kids still wet the bed (mostly boys). 

What causes bed-wetting?

There are two types of nocturnal enuresis, with different kinds of causes: 

How do I know whether to get help with my child’s bed-wetting?

Bed-wetting is normal for kids under age six. If your child is still wetting the bed at age six or seven, you should talk to your child’s doctor.  When deciding whether to treat the bed-wetting, ask yourself whether it is causing problems for your child.  If so, it’s probably a good idea to treat it.  Keep in mind that 15 percent of kids who wet the bed will become dry each year, without any treatment.

What can be done about wetting the bed?

Remember:  Don’t punish your child for wetting the bed.  It will not help!  Your child cannot help it.  There are many different treatments, and things you can do.  Your child’s doctor can help you decide which would be best for your child.  Here are some tips and treatments:

What if I want to do some further reading?

Dry All Night: The Picture Book Technique That Stops Bed-wetting, by Alison Mack.  

This book begins with great information for parents, and the rest of the book is for children.  The book uses facts, guided imagery, and the power of suggestion to help your child to learn to wake up and go to the bathroom at night when their bladder is full. 

Here is a list of more bedwetting resources, including books for kids and adults.

What are some other bed-wetting and related resources?

Written and compiled by Kyla Boyse, R.N.  Reviewed by Barbara Felt, M.D.

Updated September, 2008

U-M Health System Related Sites:
Department of Psychiatry
U-M Pediatrics

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