Nobody talks about it. Everybody keeps their lips very tightly sealed, convinced that theirs is the only child in their class who is still wetting the bed. But bedwetting is far more common than you might think – one in ten six-year olds (10%) and three out of every fourteen-year olds (3%) still haven’t quite got the hang of things 100% of the time. And if you think “‘well, I’ve got one ten year old still at it every second night, so at least all my younger children will have stopped by then,” then think again. It’s a genetic thing – my husband was one that 3%, so it looks as though I’m in for a few more years of wet beds with both of my children (thanks, dear!!!).
This article is not going to talk about the causes and treatments available for bedwetting. Your doctor will be able to give better advice than me.
A fair amount can go towards minimising the inevitable clean up job that can happen every night, every second night or twice a week. Overnighters (nappies) can contain most of the pee, but these have to be the right size. If they are too small, they can split. If they are too big, they can sag and allow leaks through. I (or, more precisely, my children) don’t use these except occasionally, because they are aren’t cheap and are not very environmentally friendly – they are a disposal nightmare.
Make sure you use a mattress protector. This is simply a plastic or rubberised plastic sheet that tucks neatly over the mattress. It goes right at the bottom, over the top of the mattress and under the sheets. Don’t try to cut corners by letting a child sleep on it – it feels stiff and cold and generally uncomfortable to sleep on. Put a towel over the top of the mattress protector and under the bottom sheet – this will absorb a lot of the pee and possibly reduce the amount of washing you will have to do.
Electric blankets are definitely not to be used on a bed used by a bedwetter, as this is a real safety hazard. Water and electricity don’t mix. From a slightly different perspective, don’t use bedding that can’t handle lots of regular washing- feather-filled eiderdowns or duvets with appliqués or sequins won’t last long. Save these as a semi-reward for when the child in question grows out of bedwetting.
The sheets will, of course, need to be changed every time the child wets the bed. So will the child’s pyjamas or nightie. However, it pays to check. If you’re lucky, the top sheet will be dry. If you’re unlucky, one or more blankets will be wet. Wash anything that has pee on it. A cold wash will do, but I recommend using a scented washing powder to get that lingering ammonia taint out of the bedding.
You will need to wash everything periodically, as the smell will get into everything. The summer/winter changeover where you either remove the blankets or put on a thicker bedspread is often a good chance to do a mammoth load of washing. You will also need to wash the mattress protector from time to time.
If the mattress protector has slipped, lug the mattress outside or to somewhere it can dry in the air.
Soft toys that have got wet can usually be machine washed. If not, wash them by hand.
Your child will also need washing – a quick shower every morning is enough. But skip the evening shower as well unless the child in question is really, really dirty. It sounds awful, but slightly greenish knees are not going to wreck the sheets – you’re probably going to have to wash those damn sheets the next morning anyway. However, contrary to the advice I have seen in one book, you do not need to shampoo their hair every day. Pee tends to stay more or less in one area and won’t get onto short hair and only very occasionally gets onto long hair.
Children should be taught to make their own beds (and, if possible, to strip them) as soon as possible. The results will not be picture perfect – it’s not easy making a bed from scratch every day. If you have one of those 3%, teenagers can and probably should do their own laundry anyway.