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Health & Parenting

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Bed-Wetting Myths Debunked

What to do and not to do if your child wets the bed.


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, bed-wetters may even be 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."

Consider that though 20% of 5-year-old children wet the bed, only about 5% of 10-year-olds and 1% of 15-year-olds -- like Terry -- wet the bed. And betwetting that continues into adulthood occurs rarely, according to the NKF.

While babies produce urine around the clock, toddlers start to go to the bathroom on a daytime and nighttime schedule once their bodies start to produce a substance called 'antidiuretic hormone' (ADH) that inhibits urine production. In addition, as kids mature they become more sensitive to the feeling (produced by stretching of the bladder walls) that they need to urinate.

Children who continue to wet the bed beyond the age of 6 may not be producing enough ADH hormone at appropriate times or may not yet be attuned to their bodies' signals, or both, says Greene.

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