Of course babies wet their nappies (diapers) any time they feel like it. Becoming dry is a complex process. The bladder has to develop its ability to hold urine at night and coordination has to develop between the maturing nerves and muscles controlling the bladder. The ability to wake up when the bladder is full also has to develop. All this takes time. This happens quite quickly in some children but is slower in others. Boys tend to be slower than girls, so bedwetting is three times more common in boys than in girls.

  • By the age of 2 years, many children are dry during the day (if a toilet is nearby when they need it, and their clothing is easy to undo).
  • By the age of 3 years, 3 out of every 4 children are dry most nights.
  • By the age of 5 years, most children are dry at night. However, 1 out of every 5 children still wets the bed at least once a week.
  • By the age of 10 years, about 1 out of every 10 children wets the bed several nights a week.
  • By the age of 15 years, only 3 out of every 100 children are still wetting the bed several nights a week.

These facts and figures (from the Medical Journal of Australia 2005;182:190–195) show that most children gradually grow out of bedwetting, and it is certainly nothing to worry about in a child younger than 5 years. The medical term for bedwetting is enuresis, and this is usually defined as wetting the bed at least three nights a week in a child over 5 years of age.

Fascinating Facts

  • Babies pass urine in the womb
  • Newborn babies may urinate 18 times a day
  • In Victorian times, children who wet the bed were allowed only plain and boring food. It was thought that cakes and pastries made bedwetting more likely by causing irritating urine. (Of course, this is not the case.) However, increased sugar in the bladder can cause bladder irritability resulting in bedwetting.
  • In an average class of thirty 10-year olds, there will be two who wet the bed
  • Bedwetting affects 5-7 million children in the USA and 500,000 children in the UK (Neurourol Urodyn 2020;39:489–497; FP Essent 2020;488:21–24; healthyChildren.org).


First published on: embarrassingproblems.com
Reviewed and edited by: Diane Newman
Last updated: May 2021

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