Many children wet their bed involuntarily. This is very common in children under 5 years and is not a cause for concern.
In a study conducted in Chandigarh, India for children between 3 - 10 years, 18% of parents reported this problem in their children1.
Nighttime wetting may occur because the child's bladder is still growing and is too small to hold the urine or the urine produced is high. It is not because the child is lazy. Sometimes the child maybe sleeping soundly and may not realize the need to pass urine.
Sometimes a child who has not had the problem or stopped having the problem, may start to do so if they are under stress either due to excessive workload, or a loss of a dear relative or maybe even bullying.
Sometimes children may wet even in the daytime. If this happens once in a while, it may just be an accident. But if this occurs regularly, this maybe due to conditions like diabetes.
Night time wetting
If your child is under 5, night time wetting is a common condition. You can help your child by cutting down any liquids he drinks just before bedtime. Try to get him to consume them earlier. Scolding the child or punishing him will not help at all as it is not due to lack of effort from the child.
Children will outgrow night time wetting and it is usually gone by the age of 5 through 7. If frequent night time wetting continues beyond the age of 7, then ask a doctor for advice. If the problem is occurring due to a smaller bladder, you can try a bladder training method. Keep track of when the child urinates for a day or two. You will get an idea of how often they go. Then extend that interval by 15 minutes for the next couple of weeks. Slowly increase this. This technique will help the bladder condition itself to stretch and hold more. However, this process could take many months.
There are also moisture alarms on the market, that can be placed in the bed or in the child's underwear. As soon as the first few drops of urine come out, the alarm goes off. Usually the alarm's sound makes the child stop the wetting and wakes them up so they can go to the bathroom.
Medicines are also available and can be prescribed by your doctor.
If your child, starts wetting suddenly (never having done it before or having gained control), then you should comfort your child and slowly get him to open up in a conversation. One conversation may not be enough, but as you talk, you will be able to discover an underlying trigger that caused the stress.
Day time wetting
If your child is wetting regularly in the daytime, then take her to a doctor immediately, irrespective of age.
If you child is wetting once in a while in the daytime, it maybe because he is distracted. In these cases, a reminder to empty his bladder may be all that he needs.
1. Bhavneet Bharti, Prahbhjot Malhi and Sapna Kashyap, "Patterns and Problems of Sleep in School Going Children", Indian Pediatrics 2006; 43:35-38