Nocturnal Enuresis – ever heard of that? Well, I hadn’t until yesterday – although I probably should have. In my role as London’s real nappy ambassador an email popped into my inbox from ERIC – the charity for childhood incontinence. By the end of the morning I had read a 473 report published in October 2010 on bed wetting by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) and had found out the enormous social and medical cost of this problem.

The NICE report advises how to treat sufferers – with drugs and alarms. Not one mention of cotton nappies did I find, or any indication that this problem is growing and perhaps we should try to understand why.

Then I looked at who had sat on the advisory board for this report. AHPMA’s name appeared close to the top of the list – as it would, as the list is in alphabetical order. For those of you with better things to think about AHPMA stands for Absorbent Hygiene Product Manufacturers Association ie the disposable nappy industry’s trade association.

So the people who are involved in this industry, that is estimated to be worth US $29 Billion by 2015, that could be causing the epidemic growth of this problem sit on a board, funded by me and other tax payers to analyse the problem and suggest treatments.

Now where I come from that’s called a conflict of interest. AHPMA is funded by experts at selling nappies and running a profitable industry, they are not objective health professionals.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud what the industry is doing to raise awareness of this problem, making products such as pyjama nappies for 7-14 year olds available at the supermarkets and its contribution towards taking away the stigma from children and teenagers who suffer from nocturnal enuresis. But I can’t help thinking that making bed-wetting a ‘norm’ brings them benefits; it helps them sell more products. All that money spent on websites that tell you how to potty and night train your child are clearly not purely altruistic – they are sophisticated marketing tools.

We need to get rid of this new myth – with some urgency – that has developed over the last 14 years, that children potty train themselves when they are ready and as parents we shouldn’t interfere. I’m not saying some children won’t. Some do; some children learn to read by themselves, but most need stimulation and intervention and the more expert the better.

I learnt how to potty train my second child from a friend. I turned to her for advice when I found out her child was out of nappies – both day and night – by 23 months, disposables I should add. She was a communications lecturer and the dad was a child psychologist. You probably can’t be more expert than that and what she told me worked! 

We have to recognise there are instances where the free market doesn’t work in the interests of consumers ie when companies make money out of our ignorance. It is possible your child will not develop night-time bladder control until 14, but highly unlikely. It’s more likely though, if that is what you are led to expect.

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