If you have a 2-3 year old who wets the bed, you're likely to be fairly relaxed about it, viewing it as -natural' and a part of -growing up'. After all, nearly all children of this age wet the bed at some time. However, once a child progresses through primary age and beyond, and the behaviour becomes less common among their peers, attitudes can shift dramatically with both parent and child feeling increasingly anxious about the issue.
BabyLove recently commissioned a survey of more than 200 parents of children aged 2 to 15 years, to gauge their experiences, views and behaviours towards bed wetting. In addition to finding that the child's age heavily dictates a mother's attitude towards bed wetting, the survey also found more than 8 out of 10 mums engage in a routine to help with their child's nocturnal behaviour.
8 out of 10 mums engage in a routine to help with their child's nocturnal behaviour. (BabyLove Survey)
'Something as simple as reading to a child before tucking them in, or going to the toilet before hopping under the sheets, can make all the difference to how a child sleeps," said Leanne Hall, Clinical Psychologist and spokesperson for BabyLove.
'Establishing a bed time routine helps our body prepare for sleep by stimulating the release of melatonin (the sleep hormone). It also teaches children to take responsibility for their own behaviour, by providing predictability and accountability. This is empowering and can help reduce anxiety around bed time."
Majority of mothers have sought out information about bed wetting. (BabyLove Survey)
The survey of 225 parents was undertaken this year, and revealed that mothers want ready access to bed wetting information – especially mums of older children, who deemed this as -extremely important'. This is to the fact that these mums report embarrassment and shame around their child's bed wetting, hence are looking for accurate information to help reduce their own anxiety. Searching nappy and baby websites was a popular source of information, with just over one third of mums jumping online. Mothers of older children tended to rely on professional practitioners for advice, and family and friends were also another important source of information for all mums.
The survey found that for mothers of younger children, the behaviour is considered normal and part of their developmental growth. This is helped by the fact that bed wetting is quite common in this age group, so it's possible that these mums tend to feel less isolated. For mothers of middle aged children (4-7 years), some viewed it as an inconvenience, but an occurrence their child will grow out of. For mothers of older bed wetters (8-15 years), their sentiment is more negative with feelings of embarrassment and shame, as well as stress and concern. An attitude also reflected by their child.
'It is important to find ways to reassure children and reduce feelings of embarrassment, anxiety and fear around bed wetting. We hope that by developing comfortable, easy to wear products that enable children to sleep more peacefully, we can at least reduce some of the stress and worry they may have about waking up at night," says BabyLove's Debra Smith.
Younger bed wetters have been doing so for less than 3 months, whereas older children for more than 5 years. (BabyLove Survey)
Psychologist Leanne Hall says the best way to address the behaviour is to reassure your child that it's not their fault, and to remain calm, which can be difficult when your sleep is interrupted! 'There is a high level of self-consciousness among children on this matter and the best way to address it is to be open and honest with the way you communicate with your child about their behaviour. Let them know they are not alone, and reassure them that the behaviour will eventually go away," says Leanne Hall.
BabyLove's Tips on removing anxiety around bed wetting – Clinical Psychologist, Leanne Hall
Establish a calm routine before bed, including going to the toilet right before bedtime
Limit liquids an hour before bedtime
Make sure there is a soft light so that your child can find their way to the bathroom during the night (especially for younger children) Use an overnight pant that is highly absorbent as this will reduce your child's stress and fear of wetting the bed.
Reward dry nights, and don't make a fuss of night time accidents.
Unlike regular nappies, BabyLove's SleepyNights are specifically developed for night time use. Like a pair of underwear, they feature a stretchy waistband, and have a highly absorbent core and leakage protection around the legs and waist, which also make them more comfortable. Available in three sizes, from toddler through to mid-teens, they are aimed to support children throughout their physical development and allay their fears of waking up wet from a night time accident.
Question: What age does wetting the bed become unnatural?
Leanne Hall: It's common for young children to wet the bed until around the age of 5. Having said that, the occasional night time accident can occur until 6-7 years.
Question: How can parents address bed-wetting situations in primary school aged children?
Leanne Hall: Be open - and honest. Reduce shame and blame. Bed wetting can be due to a maturational lag (immature bladder) which is no one's fault. It's not about laziness. Try and normalise the behaviour to reduce anxiety, reassure that the behaviour WILL stop. It can be useful for the child to help wash sheets/make the bed etc. (NOT as punishment, but to empower them and help they feel that they have some control over the situation). Another way to empower children of this age is for them to use absorbent pants at bed time such as SleepyNights - overnight pants are especially useful during sleepovers.
Question: What surprised you most regarding the BabyLove survey on bed-wetting behaviours?
Leanne Hall: That 8 out 10 mums already use a bed time routine to help with their child's bedwetting - this is encouraging, and important especially as children get older.
Question: What can parents do to decrease the likelihood of their children wetting the bed?
Leanne Hall: Bed time routine, reduce fluid intake at night, especially bladder irritants like caffeine, chocolate, juice. The use of overnight nappy pants should also be encouraged as a way for children to develop confidence.Be encouraging and positive, and avoid punishment.
Question: Can you provide an example of a bed-time routine?
Leanne Hall: Ideally this should start at least an hour before bed time. Perhaps shower/bath, into PJ's. Reduce stimulation (promote quiet time), encourage child to read a book, or watch some quiet TV, soften the lights. No food/drink. 20-30 mins before bed, brush teeth, toilet then younger children should be encouraged to get into bed, have an adult read a story (older children can read a book for 20 mins).
The more 'signals" for the body that it is bed time - the more likely melatonin production will be stimulated (natural sleep hormone).
Question: Where can parents go, for more information regarding bed-wetting?
Leanne Hall: http://bedwettinginstitute.com.au/
Question: Do you have a recommendation for a soft-light?
Leanne Hall: Wall light, that plugs into the electricity socket - or an electric oil diffuser (can also use with a few drops of lavender to promote relaxation). Ideally something soft, or with a dimmer.
Question: What types of rewards do you recommend for dry-nights?
Leanne Hall: Star charts can work well for younger children, and accumulating stars to reach a reward (new toy, play a board game with the family).
Interview by Brooke Hunter