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"Bedwetting: The Stigma of Wearing Diapers to Bed," an article you might find interesting.

Special thanks to Colin Ellison, who wrote and shared the article. 

    One of the most common medical problems that afflicts children and teenagers is nocturnal enuresis, the clinical term for bedwetting. In addition, there are many adults who have this problem their entire life. There are many causes of bedwetting, both physical and psychological.  As with other parenting issues, people have differences of opinion about how to handle this problem, and unfortunately in many cases parents have taken punitive actions to resolve the bedwetting. Sometimes this has taken a tragic turn as there have been cases of parents severely injuring or killing their children for having nighttime accidents.              

    There seems to be two general approaches to dealing with this problem — one is where the parents try to resolve the issue as soon as possible, which can result in the parents pressuring the child thereby putting undue stress on the youngster, and the other involves a more “laissez-faire” approach in which the parents are told to follow the child’s natural growth pattern and wait for him or her to outgrow it. In my opinion the “laissez-faire” approach has some merit to it, although there are also some drawbacks to this approach as well. For example, by adopting this method, the child or teen can miss out on many key social events such as going to camp and having sleepovers with other youngsters.    

     These are important functions for many youngsters for a number of reasons, the most important of which is bonding with their friends, as well as developing new relationships, so curing the bedwetting is certainly an asset in this regard. However, as pointed out below, there are cases where the bedwetting for different reasons is not susceptible to medical treatment. There are parents who have tried various treatment options to cure the bedwetting such as alarm systems, medications, surgical procedures, as well as other methods, and while in a large number of cases these approaches have successfully treated the bedwetting, there have been others who have not responded to these treatments and may have to contend with this condition for the rest of their life.Or in some cases individuals have evaluated the different remedies and have determined that these are not viable options — for example, some people experience unpleasant side effects from medicines, complications can result from surgical procedures, some people do not respond well to bedwetting alarms, etc.

    In situations like these, many parents opt to use some type of protective undergarments to manage the problem, which in my opinion is the prudent thing to do. There are a wide variety of undergarments available to manage bedwetting, but unfortunately there is a great deal of stigma associated with using these products. I think to a large extent this is instilled in youngsters at an early age during the potty training stages. During this time there are some parents who try to motivate their kids to transition out of diapers and into “big kid” pants by telling them something along these lines — “don’t you want to use the potty like a big boy (or girl as the case may be) — after all, only babies wear diapers.” Personally, I find this practice repugnant, and while I certainly can understand how parents can be frustrated during this stage, I think it can exacerbate the situation. I believe this attitude also carries over to problems like bedwetting, as some parents also call children and teenagers “babyish” for wetting the bed. The products many parents use to manage their child or teenager’s bedwetting are disposable undergarments like pull-ups, the most popular version being a brand called “Goodnites.”

   This product was introduced in 1994, because it was believed that this style of undergarment was less stigmatizing for an older child or adolescent to wear than a diaper. I believe this reasoning is flawed in a number of respects: in the first place, for all intents and purposes this product is basically a diaper, the only difference is that it pulls on like underwear instead of being applied with tape tabs. In the second place (and most importantly) many children and teens are heavy wetters and as a result some of them  have peed through these types of products, soaking their bedding and pj’s. I strongly believe that it’s more important for a youngster to wear a garment that keeps them dry and comfortable (as well as help them maintain good hygiene) than to use a product that’s more socially acceptable, but not as effective.

     What many parents may not realize is that there are other styles of undergarments out there to fit older children and teenagers with bedwetting problems. For example there are some companies (although not nearly enough in my opinion) who manufacture prefold cloth diapers fastened with diaper pins and covered with plastic pants (also called “rubber pants” by many people even though this is a misnomer) as well as “disposable briefs” (more commonly known as adult diapers) which are form fitting undergarments that look and fit just like baby diapers such as Pampers, Luvs, and Huggies — they have an “hourglass” shape, tape tabs for fastening the garments, elastic leg gathers to prevent leaks, a waterproof outer cover made of cloth or plastic, and many also have an elastic waistband, also designed to prevent leaks.

    I believe I have a unique perspective on this situation and come at it from a different vantage point, which has influenced my views on this matter to a significant extent — I’m one of the millions of adults who experience nighttime accidents, and therefore have to wear protection to bed. In my particular case I wear adult size prefold style cloth diapers fastened with diaper pins and covered with an adult size pair of pull-on style plastic pants (which although many people find old-fashioned are very effective at managing this form of incontinence. Also, there are some people who still use this style of diapering) In addition, I use adult size disposable diapers fastened with tape tabs. Finally, I also have the bed covered with a plastic sheet for additional protection.

       I’m writing this article for two reasons — one is to let young people realize that there is nothing to be ashamed of (even adults have this problem), and two, there is no reason to feel ashamed of wearing protection to manage the problem. Unfortunately, wearing a diaper past the age of 4 entails a great deal of stigma. This attitude is reinforced by commercials for products such as Huggies pullups whose motto is “I’m a big kid now” the implication being only babies wear diapers. In an effort  to alleviate the negative image diapers have with the majority of parents and medical professionals (and hopefully eliminate it entirely at some point), I’ve written an article under my pen name Colin Ellison which is published on wikiHow entitled How to Reduce the Stigma of Older Children, Teenagers, and Adults Wearing Diapers for Bedwetting. Here is a modified excerpt from the article:

     “Change the definition of diaper. Most definitions of diaper define it as being a garment worn by babies. If I were responsible for writing the definition of diaper found in dictionaries I’d write something like this: “An absorbent, waterproof, protective undergarment made of either reusable or disposable material which is drawn up between the legs and fastened at the waist by tape tabs, diaper pins, or other methods. It is designed to be used for several purposes: for managing episodes of incontinence experienced by babies and young children before they are potty trained; for providing protection for children, teenagers, and adults that suffer from incontinence due to various medical conditions; as well as providing protection for children, teenagers, and adults that wet the bed.”    

     I hope my thoughts in this area help those children and teenagers who may be having a difficult time coping with their bedweting and helps them realize that there’s no shame in wearing diapers to deal with the issue. I would let the child or teenager know that there are millions of adults all over the world who wet the bed also and that many of them sleep in diapers overnight too. Finally, as far as camp and sleepovers are concerned, there is a way a youngster can attend these events and maintain discretion. I would have the child or teenager pack a diaper or diapers. When everyone has gone to sleep they can diaper themselves and take off their wet diaper in the morning before everyone wakes up. For all those children, teenagers, and adults that have to endure bedwetting every night just remember you’re not alone – there are plenty of us in the same leaky boat!