First things first - as with so many things when it comes to our children, there's really no 'should' on the matter of wearing nappies in bed.
What our mums said
For example, Lisa F told us: "My son was 3 years old. No idea what happened. We tried potty training and he wouldn't.
"He just woke one morning and his nappy was on the floor dry and he was sat on the toilet... since that morning he has not worn anything and that was 2 years ago no accidents."
On the other hand, Claire R, a mum-of-3, has had different experiences: "My middle child is 6 on Wednesday...we've had 2 weeks' pull-up free nights with 3 accidents.
"My eldest was 2.5 and dry at night and my youngest boy was 2 years 3 months...they will do it when they are ready."
And with this comment, Claire has has kind of hit the nail on the head.
Reasons your child might still need nappies at night
Not all children get out of nappies at the same age - and there can be varying reasons for this, including:
- biology: low levels of the hormone vasopressin can lead to bedwetting at night
- not drinking enough water during the day (which means their body hasn't learnt to hold lots of liquid)
- an overactive bladder
When it might become an issue
All children are different - and some of us prefer to let nature take its course. But bedwetting at night can sometimes begin to cause problems at home, especially as your little ones get older. (We know this isn't the case for everyone - for some families, it's not an issue at all and is just another thing to get on with).
You might find yourself having to change sheets at night which can be, quite frankly, exhausting and frustrating.
Perhaps there's disagreement with your partner over how to handle the issue or, on a more practical level, you're worried about what will happen when it comes to sleepovers, or your little one simply not fitting into nappies anymore.
Plus there will probably come a time as they get older where they simply refuse to keep one on.
With all this in mind you might want to take some action. We spoke to the real experts on this topic - ERIC (Education and Resources for Improving Child Continence) and they gave us some great advice.
What you can do
There are a few solutions you can try to help stop your little one bedwetting at night.
The obvious one is to make sure they wee before you put them to bed, but there are others things to do to, like:
- Don't use a nappy: it might be that your child is weeing at night because they have protection. Try without nappies or pull-ups for a week or longer if you can handle it - and see how they get on.
- Check their poo habits: children should pass soft poos at least around 4 times a week. If they're not, they could be constipated. This can result in the bowel pressing against the bladder meaning it can't stretch, which can lead to bedwetting issues. Eric has some great advice on this.
- Make sure they drink lots of water-based drinks: drinking plenty in the day helps to train the bladder to learn how to empty and fill. Children should have 6 to 8 glasses of water-based drinks a day (avoid tea, coffee or fizzy drinks).
- Try and work out what happens in the day: if they're dashing to the loo or seem to go more than their friends there could be an issue with their bladder which will need to be treated before the bedwetting can stop.
- Don't 'lift' unless they're awake: Taking your child to the toilet does nothing to train them if they're asleep.To 'lift' correctly, they need to be fully awake so they recognise the feeling of having a full bladder and learn to either wake up or hold on.
- Use rewards - carefully: Don't reward based on whether or not your child manages to keep dry at night as they can't control that. Instead, reward them for things like drinking the right amount, going to the loo before bed and helping change the sheets.
When to get professional help
Treatments to help with bedwetting are available for children from 5 - you can find out more about these in the Nice guidelines - depending on what's causing it.
Whether or not you seek them out depends largely on how it's affecting your family: for some, bedwetting after age 5 isn't an issue and doesn't alter their home life dramatically. In this case, you might prefer to wait and see what happens.
But, if for the reasons we've mentioned above, it's beginning to cause a strain then it might be worth asking for help. Take a look at ERIC's guide to nighttime wetting for more helpful info.
If you'd prefer to speak to someone - call ERIC's helpline on 0845 370 8008 (Monday to Thursday 10am until 2pm).