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What age is too old for nighttime diapers? Seriously. I need to know.

Categories: Guilt Inducers


My nine year old daughter wet the bed the other night because she forgot to put on a Pull-Up.  She has turned down sleepover invitations at unfamiliar houses because of the Pull-Up sitch. Her older brother had pee-OCD for years and peed every three minutes because he was deathly afraid of accidentally peeing his bed after (also at age nine) he chose to give up his own Pull-Ups.  Don’t even get me started on chromosomally-enhanced younger brother, he of the Down syndrome, who at 5.5 still laughs in the face of daytime dryness. Why should he use a potty when he has a perfectly good diaper (or underwear, or floor, or … )?

I have a family of pee-ers.

Done. When are they going to be done?

Their older sister was two and a half, nearly three, when she was completely dry. I thought at the time that was terribly late, probably because I had heard that I was toilet trained at a year and a half. (A year and a half??? I wonder whether they just tied me to the toilet all day.)

Yes, Miss Nine goes to the bathroom at bedtime. I am fairly sure she actually uses it, about as sure as I am that she brushes her teeth. I am fairly sure also that she’s not that keen on the Pull-Up thing.  I’ve decided not to make an issue of it, not wanting to damage her fragile psyche, but … I’m wondering too whether now is the time to make an issue of it.

There is a family history of bedwetting. (Not mine, because I was the kid tied to a toilet.)  I have to assume that genetics plays a big part in this.  So do Size 7 Pampers.  I know that sometimes anatomy doesn’t catch up with social mores, at least not the ones that involve urine and beds.

I have friends who have made an issue of it. Bedwetting alarms.  No drinks after 3 pm.  Homeopathics.  Hypnosis.  You name it, they tried it. No dice.  Slosh slosh.

But rubbing my kid’s nose in it isn’t going to help. Or making her wash her sheets (although at nine that’s not a bad idea). Or any of the other humiliating things that frustrated parents have done to their pee-challenged kids over the years.

I wonder if I just sat Miss Nine down and told her No more peeing while you are asleep! if that would actually do anything, make any change.  Is it that simple?  They say that no kid goes off to college in diapers.  Can I persuade her to stop sleeping so deeply (a quality I used to admire in her, this ability to sleep through the sound of a rhinoceros crashing through her wall), just by talking/begging/scaring the holy **** out of her?

I’m glad she’s skinny and those Pull-Ups still fit.  I think she’ll be wearing them awhile.

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24 comments so far...

  • A couple of thoughts. One, I have read that kids with this problem usually grow out of it as puberty sets in. I have no idea why, something about hormones I guess.

    Two, you might look into some products that are a bit more discreet for her, so that if she has a sleepover or whatever it’s not so scary or embarrassing. There are some products I’ve seen online that appear to be both effective and reasonably discreet.

    This is not terribly common, but it’s not terribly rare either. The child certainly doesn’t want this to happen, so I don’t think telling her anything will be helpful - other than perhaps that there may be hope with the onset of puberty.

    SKL  |  March 18th, 2009 at 9:03 pm

  • I was an older bed wetter too. As a very young child I had kidney surgery and a side effect was loss of sensation. My doctor explained that in combination I was also a deep sleeper and just slept through the urge. So for a decade my (saintly) father, before he went to bed, woke and walked me in the middle of the night to the bathroom then back to bed. As I got older the years of sleep training kicked in and I learned to wake myself at night, but it really did take years. Your child isn’t actively trying to wet bed and is most likely embarrassed by the situation. I’m sure you’ve talked to your daughter about her feelings on this so it seems like a wait for the next stage situation. At least they now make larger sizes.

    Eeek  |  March 18th, 2009 at 9:23 pm

  • I was a late bedwetter too and really embarrassed by it. My mother tried everything she could think but nothing worked. She tried rewards and it would work occasionally but then I’d lapse again. A combination of getting me to pee right before bed and trying to keep me from drinking too many liquids right before bed worked fairly consistent. I only stopped well after 10, so it was rubber sheets on the bed for a long time!

    UC  |  March 18th, 2009 at 11:03 pm

  • This is a common problem. My niece wet the bed until she was 12…puberty, I guess. My brother and sil tried EVERYTHING…the doctors just said that some kids are like this. Make your kids feel okay about it….teach them to be discreet about the pullups and let them do anything they want. We have plenty of sleepovers with other kids who have the same problem. I (Mom) know that the other kid is wearing pull ups, by my kids don’t have a clue.

    Karla E  |  March 19th, 2009 at 10:08 pm

  • My cousin had this issue. He ended up having a bladder problem that his doctors at first dismissed it as something normal that kids grow out of. It was sort of like those ‘gotta go’ commercials. By the time he realized he had to go, it was far too late to even make it 10 feet away. He ended up getting some type of medicine that helped him be more aware of the urge to go.

    My daughter was trained by 14 months even over night (and I didn’t tie her to the toilet haha). When they are small, I’m talking like 6 months old, set them on a little toddler potty after naps, after they eat, and before bedtime. That’s typically when they have to go anyways and they never get to that ‘why use the toilet when I have a diaper’ stage. I’m not saying it would work for all kids, but I do think at least 75% of them could learn before they turn a year to be daytrained. It saves you a ton of cash on diapers. Kids are way smarter than we give them credit for even as babies.

    Marcia  |  March 20th, 2009 at 5:47 am

  • I have a very good friend who wet the bed almost nightly until he was 19. YES. 19. Back then there were no pull-ups in XL boy’s sizes, and those Good Nites things hadn’t been invented yet. He had a plastic cover on his mattress. Every morning he woke up wet, put his sheets in the washing machine, put them in the dryer when he got home from school, and remade his bed before he slept in it. For years.

    You know what made him stop, he says? College. He COULDN’T wet the bed in college, he had a room mate and that would be social death and beyond awkward to boot. He knew that, and it just suddenly stopped. He would very occasionally have an accident freshman year. After that, none.

    Would his life have been better if he’d had better night-time bladder control? Sure, but it didn’t ruin his life. He even went to sleep overs (packed extra PJ’s bottoms and a pad in his sleeping bag, stealthily changed, nobody was the wiser).

    Meg  |  March 20th, 2009 at 7:16 am

  • Wow, now I feel not so alone. My son is going to be 5 in May (late May) and we’ve been having issues with the potty training thing. We have tried everything too. We talked to his Pediatrician who said (and I quote - “You don’t train them, they train you”) so great, but really this child should be in undies by now, but he’s regressed back to pull ups and being soaked. Have you asked the Pediatrician for advice? Maybe see a pee expert (not sure of the Dr name sorry).

    Good luck, and I think the name brand is Good Nights for bed issues at night for girls and boys.

    Gia Saulnier  |  March 20th, 2009 at 9:48 am

  • My next to oldest wet the bed until she was in her teens (I remember 14 yrs.) Took her to the Doctors when she was younger and they found nothing really wrong but she was a heavy sleeper. She finally stopped when she became interested in boys. (ha-ha) Before that had to keep a plastic cover on her bed and wash her bedding every day. so glad not to have to do that anymore. She is in her 30’s now and has had bed wetting problems with a few of her children. So If i had fun with just one of my children being a bed wetter- she has alot more fun. (okay- not really fun)
    I have no memory of any of my siblings being a bed wetter- their father & their fathers family I have no idea.
    Sooner or later they outgrow it- they always used to say they won’t walk down the isle and get married still wetting the bed. Smile.

    eileen  |  March 21st, 2009 at 8:49 am

  • My son also wet the bed well past the age of ten. Every doctor I took him to said he’ll out grow it, he did.

    Making sure your child knows this will go away, baring any medical problems, is the most important thing. He was embarrassed and hated it. His younger sister was fully potty trained at 3 1/2. (No I did not strap her to a toilet, it just was something she did on her own).
    Gradually, on it’s own, it disappeared. By the time he turned thirteen it was only a very rare thing. Usually due to stress at school. He was then and still is today at 24, crap at written tests.

    I have eight children, I don’t think any of them were potty trained much before the age of three and I was a full time stay at home mother well into the late seventies.

    Said son is now in the Navy, stationed in Japan. Others are carpenters, programmers, It support, industrial electricians, software engineers. I don’t think the “potty” issue had anything to do with their futures.

    Just hang in there, if your child is healthy, bed wetting is not that bad of a thing.

    marell  |  March 22nd, 2009 at 8:53 am

  • From the comments here it looks like this is just a hormonal thing that will need to be outgrown. Which is nice, because you can tell your daughter that it’s not her or anything that she’s doing wrong, it’s her body. Some bodies are on a different schedule. And you can work with her to figure out how y’all can best ride it out.

    One Step Ahead has these pads that go over the bedding and will hold a lot of liquid. A few of those in rotation will save you the chore of stripping the whole bed. And they can be a lot more comfortable than a rubber sheet which tends to be kind of slippery and sweaty.

    If you or a friend sews you could come up with some sort of night-time panty that is less embarrassing than a pull-up which is clearly created for someone much younger. I’m afraid my frugal, greenie bias is showing here. But really, if you’re in this for another few years it could be worth the investment to find something reusable. And a search on the internet may turn up someone who has already done the work and will sell you some. If Pampers has seen the need and created an older pull-up then you know some crafty individual will come up with a home version. The trick is finding them. If you’d like some help searching the internets, drop me an email.

    I’m sorry this is getting long but I have one more idea. If your daughter has weaker abdominal muscles, it could be that she isn’t feeling a strong enough urge to wake up. I learned those things are related with my own daughter. I don’t think it’s the only thing going on here but it could be a contributing factor. Some daytime clues may be if your daughter was late to train and tends now to go on a set schedule. Or if she has a hard time sitting still for long periods. Activities like dance, yoga, gymnastics or karate might help. Or even just buying a mini trampoline.

    Good luck!

    Jennifer  |  March 23rd, 2009 at 8:39 am

  • I am not sure if bedwetting is more common now or just more accepted. I wet the bed until I was in early grade school and remember weaing diapers at night, no pull ups back then. Also they were thick crinkly pampers that were very obvious unlike today’s thin diapers/ pull ups. So I think for kids to deal with today. I remember being very conscientious about my night time diapers. If we were out late, like 4th of July fireworks I would have to be changed into my diapers and I felt like everyone knew I was wearing diapers. You can just imagine how terrifed I was with having a babysitter.

    Tadd  |  July 27th, 2009 at 8:18 am

  • I hope I don’t come across as overly critical but I really can’t understand why parents are so obsessed with something as normal as Bed Wetting. It doesn’t really matter if a wetting child is 6 months old or 16 years old, for them… it’s NORMAL. I don’t think any of us would dream of putting their 6 month old child to bed without diapering them first. They need the diaper because they can’t control their bladders yet. Well guess what… it’s NO different for a 16 year old who still wets! Any trauma, fear or insecurity they experience comes from us… the grownups… telling our children that there is something wrong with them because they haven’t stopped wetting yet. Doctors have tracked enuresis in children and adults for decades and we all should know that the majority of kids will gain control of their bladders on their schedule NOT our (their parents) schedule! Unfortunately, for reasons to numerous to list, 2 or 3% never will. For that reason alone we (parents) need to refrain from erroneously building our children expectations that if they just try harder or take this or that pill the wetting will stop because it might not. I come from a large family (7 brothers and sisters) of wetters. I finally stopped sleep wetting just before I started the 6th grade but I couldn’t stop wearing a night diaper until my older sister was dry at night also and that was when I started high school. Mother was adamant about not showing any favoritism or special privileges. There was a system in our house, sort of a “diaper assembly line”, where the older kids (myself and my older and younger sisters, I was the only boy and second oldest) would diaper the younger ones and babies before bedtime and mother would supervise my older sister and I to be sure we pinned and tucked our diapers into our rubber or plastic pants properly. Mother wouldn’t tolerate a wet bed or wet pants and as far as she was concerned, diapers were just another form of underwear or pajamas. Now that my three are all grown and my youngest has just had her first the one thing that I’m proud that I passed along to my children was cloth diapering. They have carried on the tradition although we’ll have to wait and see if the sleep wetting was passed along too.

    Stephen  |  August 22nd, 2009 at 12:38 pm

  • I am 14 years old, and have wet the bed since the age of 6. I hope i will grow out of it but in the mean time nothing to be done about it. same with your daughter id say…

    Elisabeth Johnson  |  September 12th, 2009 at 1:02 pm

  • She will eventually grow out of it. Until then there is nothing you can do about it but wait and be patient with her.

    Shawna Miller  |  September 12th, 2009 at 1:10 pm

  • My sister brother and I were all bedwetters growing up until about the 6th grade. Back then there were no pullups other than cloth. Mom used cloth diapers and plastic pants on us. We were all taken to the doctors and tested and nothing could be found. So each evening at bedtime we were diapered. I see now that mom had little choice with the 3 of us wetting. Her and dad were kind loving parents and we were never shamed or punished for our bedwetting.
    Today my youngest, age 5, wears pullups to bed. Be patient it does stop.

    Been there  |  November 26th, 2009 at 5:56 am

  • I have a whole long history of wetting my bed and still it happens somtimes but not evry night like it used to ..I am 18 now.

    Kegel exercises has really hepled my problem I think.

    special undies that keep my bed dry realy help even tho I don’t like them
    some frends know I use them now and really under stand.

    i cannot WAIT for the time my bed is unprotected…….and I can sleep like everyone else.

    SaDiEx  |  December 27th, 2009 at 10:57 am

  • Hugs, Sadie. Thanks so much for sharing. I never thought of having her do Kegels — that’s a great idea! I’m hoping too that this gets better for you soon.

    Karen Murphy  |  December 27th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

  • Don’t worry about it. A diaper is a lot kinder than waking up cold, wet and miserable (and a lot more practical than washing soiled sheets).

    Either the kids grow out of it or (like me) they don’t. Diapers won’t make any difference to that. Diapers don’t make the kids regress emotionally, physically or mentally. They just make life easier and a lot more comfortable (particularly for the kid who wets the bed).

    I *started* wetting (again) when I was 15. My mom, a wonderfully practical and loving woman, got me diapers. She told me that it didn’t make me a baby, it was all just for my own comfort.

    I still wet the bed (at age 32). I still wear diapers. I went to sleepovers and to college. I married a great guy. I was always discreet — I don’t think my college roommates even knew — but never embarrassed.

    Carol  |  February 9th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

  • my daughter is 16 and a bedwetter and has worn a cloth diaper and rubber pants to bed every night for the last year and a half.she got rashes from pull ups and disposables.i sew baby diapers together to make one diaper out of them and pin them on her with diaper pins.she wears adult size rubber pants with prints and pastel colors.they work for slunber parties she covers them up fairly well.she is being confirmed in may and has to wear a white dress and veil with tights and shoes,i am going to put one of her diapers and rubber pants on her when i dress her that she will wear under her tights.

    amanda  |  April 30th, 2010 at 7:28 am

  • Dear Ms. Murphy - I hope I am not the bearer of bad news, but wetting the bed, may not be a stage, but a way of life. It was in my case. I can recall vividly, being discovered in wet diapers and plastic panties, being changed by my “babysitter” many times, at age 5, 10, 15, 20, at college, and beyond, and blushing throughout the whole lengthy process. Yes, it is humiliating, to have ones ankles lifted for an application of cold baby wipes to a wet behind, and to be pinned into fresh diapers, at my age, (being called a “little stinker”), etc. But then, you learn to accept the inevitable. It does inhibit a social life, to an extent, because of the unnecessary social stigma attached to wetting your pants, and being diapered for it. There is always hope that one would meet understanding people, who will not judge, what afterall, is no biggie. I hope that your family of “pee-ers” finds those understanding people, (and disposables or a diaper service at discount rates too). Let’s face the truth - we will all return to diapers anyway, when we are old and infirm, so let’s embrace this fact now, and let go of the angst. There is nothing wrong with diapers, whether on your own infants, or, on our own wet bottoms. Have I voided in the diaper deliberately?, Yes, I blush to confess that I have. (To confirm your suspicions). But like you said, if you already have it on, and it is there to serve a purpose, then you might as well just do it, and face the consequences later. I have, and I have not looked back. The challenge I face now, is to find an incontinent woman, who would one day consent to be my wife. That is not an easy task, believe me. I would love to change her diapers, if she would let me. And I would not be judgmental, but rather entirely supportive, if our future children followed in their parent’s footsteps, and wet their beds as well. I hope to raise a healthy normal family, in any case, Lord willing. Wish me luck, won’t you? And good luck yourself! Be gentle with them, and their diaper needs. In a few years, they will be changing your diapers, and your bond renews full circle. All my best. Mark in Chicago, (a/k/a “Stinker-Pot”).

    Mark from Chicago  |  May 22nd, 2010 at 8:19 am

  • Dear Ms. Murphy - I hope I am not the bearer of bad news, but this may not be a stage. For some, this is it. I hope everybody in your family can accept it, as it seems generational, and that you can find affordable disposables, or a discounted diaper service in your community. Be kind, don’t humiliate. When your children are grown, and you yourself are a senior, they will be the ones changing your own diapers, and they will remember how you treated them. Nature turns the tables on us, as our roles reciprocate with time
    I can distinctly recall how my own parents treated me about my bedwetting - badly. It took me years, to forgive them. And be not the least concerned if some of the incontinence experienced, is strictly voluntary. If you are already sitting in a wet diaper, does it hurt all that much to wet them just a little bit more? I know for a fact that I have done just that, (to confirm your suspicions). Believe me, this is not a biggie. Life offers greater things to be genuinely anxious about, and wetting the bed is way down there on that long list.
    Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this life style change, is in the dating department, but even there, compassion must be the ruling emotion. To accept someone with this particular inovation in their lives, is to accept the whole person without reservation. And that is precisely how it should be, if the golden rule means anything at all.
    So - I hope I brought some uniques perspective and some real encouragement to your situation. The more people who read this, the better a world this will be. Let it be.
    Markie (Chicago) - In diapers since 1961!

    Markie  |  May 24th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

  • Two other thought that I never saw come up were. Some kids are afriad to get up in the middle of the night becuase it scary to them. So its just easier to pee in the bed then to face the possibel terrors that might lurk in the dark hall way…even with night lights kids get scared.
    Second thought is laziness. I know thats not a nice thing to say but lets face it, this generation is so technical that being lazy seems natural. Case and point, my eight year old has been caught peeing in his night time diaper while watching his last show before bed. Their was no exuse he was ten feet from the bathroom. His respones was he didn’t want to miss his show and he was wearing a diaper. Well he got in trouble for that and we started making him go to the bathroom before bed. But some how he kept over felling his diaper. He is barely fitting into his diapers and they are the largest that make, so if he continues to keep going we will have to buy adutl diaper for him. We have even started to wake him in the middle of the night so he can go to the bathroom. He told us he wakes up sometimes and need to go but is too afraid to go by we got him a flash light and told him this is the last year of diapers. your a big boy and we know that it not his bladder its a mixture of laziness and fear. His four year old brother wears night time diapers but hardly ever wet them and if he wakes up and had to go…he goes to the bathroom. Make goals helps them suceed but don’t be mean just tell them they can do it and your willing to help. But first find out the real source of the problem…fear, laziness, or real underline health issue.

    trista313  |  October 12th, 2010 at 11:10 am

  • i feel if the diapers work,then there is no age daughter is 18 and in diapers and rubber pants at night for her bedwetting,disposables didnt work for every night its an adult cloth diaper and adult rubber pants for her

    april  |  February 5th, 2011 at 9:03 pm

  • When I was growing up one of my friends had a sister who was 6 or 7 years old and was a bedwetter. The girl wore night time cloth diapers and plastic pants, the bedwetting was handeled matter of factly and it was not unusual for me to see the girl in her night diapers. No one thought anything of it. It was also not unusual to see larger size diapers and plastic pants hanging on clotheslines. By that you could tell there was a bedwetter in the house. During my babysitting years I sat for two families that had bedwetters and night time cloth diapers and plastic pants were worn to bed. It was just a normal thing.

    Sheila  |  December 29th, 2011 at 6:51 am