We're clearing up some of the biggest misconceptions about this common childhood problem.
Everything in this slideshow
Myth: A child who wets the bed is just too lazy to go to the bathroom.
Truth: What most people don't realize is it's normal for a child who isn't trained to stay dry at night to have accidents up to age 7, says Dr. Ari Brown, pediatrician and author of Toddler 411. "Your child isn't lazy because he isn't dry at night yet -- he just has a small bladder, cannot hold it all night long yet, and is not aware enough to his body urges to wake up when he is sleeping."
Myth: Punishment helps a child stop wetting the bed at night.
Truth: A child who wets the bed at night doesn't have any control over what he's doing, says Dr. Harvey Karp, pediatrician and creator of the book and DVD The Happiest Toddler on the Block. "It's like reprimanding someone for sneezing! Punishing a child for wetting the bed will just damage his self-esteem and make him feel like he's disappointed you."
Myth: Bedwetting is caused by stress.
Truth: Bedwetting is not caused by stress, says Dr. Alanna Levine, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "The most common reasons for bedwetting include delay of bladder maturation, a small bladder, genetics (parents who were bedwetters are more likely to have children who wet the bed), and deep sleepers who don't awaken to the bladder feeling full."
Myth: Boys wet the bed more than girls.
Truth: Research shows that boys do tend to wet the bed more than girls. "Boys usually toilet-train later than girls, so they may also be later to stay dry at night. But girls are certainly not immune to this issue," Dr. Ari Brown says.
Myth: Most bedwetters have a true medical problem.
Truth: In general, children under 6 years of age who have been wet at night before are not a cause for concern, Dr. Harvey Karp says. "If a child has been dry at night for six months or more, then starts wetting herself again, that is something you want to discuss with your doctor," he says. Some medical reasons for sudden bedwetting include urinary tract infections, diabetes, a bladder abnormality, and pinworms.
Myth: Prescribed drugs will end the bedwetting.
Truth: "Medication should be an absolute last resort," Dr. Alanna Levine says. "The best cure for bedwetting is for parents to be patient and wait for the child to outgrow it." Of course, if you think your child is wetting the bed for medical reasons, speak to his doctor immediately.
Myth: The best tactic is to just wait it out.
Truth: This is actually true! "If the child is under 6 and still wetting the bed, the best plan for parents is to just give the child some time," Dr. Harvey Karp says. "Put her in a diaper for the night, and usually when the child is tired of or uncomfortable in the diaper, that will motivate her to stay dry on her own."
Myth: All children wet at night for the same reason.
Truth: If you take away a child's safety net (diapers) before she is ready to fly, then that would likely to be true, Dr. Ari Brown says. But if your child is dry in the morning for four weeks in a row, she should be dry going forward. If she suddenly wets the bed again, you should consult with your pediatrician.
Myth: A bedwetter simply drinks too much before bedtime.
Truth: While it is true that drinking within the two hours of going to bed can contribute to nighttime bedwetting, it's often not the cause of bedwetting. "I do recommend that children who wet the bed limit evening beverages, however, often times this alone will not alleviate the problem," Dr. Alanna Levine says.
Myth: Bedwetting is brought on by poor potty training.
Truth: Bedwetting is not caused by poor potty training and should not be seen as failure for the parents or the child, Dr. Alanna Levine says. "It is not in the child's control, so it has nothing to do with potty training. I advocate positive reinforcement for dry nights but never punishment for accidents. It is, however, helpful to have the child participate in the morning clean-up so that he takes responsibility for achieving nighttime dryness."