I work with lots of parents who can’t get their toddlers out of their bed and some much older kids of 8 or 9 who are still jumping into their parents bed during the night upsetting everyone’s sleep patterns! 😱
I also work with many frustrated parents who have allowed their babies into their beds for convenience and a ‘good nights sleep’ to find that they are still there at 3 or 4 years of age – causing arguments due to lack of sleep for the parents and lack of intimacy.
“Co-sleeping” or “sleep-sharing” are names for children who sleep in the family bed. Yet whatever you call it, it means regularly sharing a bed with your child instead of sleeping separately and the decision to establish a family bed is always a personal one that I think needs to be thought through and discussed with your partner.
There are a number of important points to consider:
Your child’s health and safety are the most important considerations. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against sleep-sharing for the health and safety of your child – due to SIDS and possible cot death.
Some parents love the cosiness and closeness of sleep-sharing. Others say having a squirmy child in bed with them makes it difficult to sleep and over time can prove challenging & damaging to the husband and wife’s intimate relationship.
Some babies sleep better next to their parents. Others seem happier sleeping on their own.
Time for bonding
For today’s busy families, snuggling into the family bed altogether can be a way to connect after a long day apart. Co-sleeping can particularly aid closeness between the father or other partner and the baby, who don’t have the physical connection that a nursing mother and her baby do or may simply have less time to spend together during the day.
Mums who co-sleep say it’s easier to breastfeed and bottle-feed with their baby right next to them. If you breastfeed your baby, once you get comfortable with nursing on your side with your baby curled next to you, you may find that you barely wake up when it’s time to feed. You may find it easier to help your infant latch on, then sink back into that well deserved sleep. So some mothers do it for convenience.
If you bottle-feed, you can have a prepared bottle in the refrigerator to give your child when they wake up, and then go back to sleep as soon as your baby is settled.
On the other hand some mothers say the proximity causes their baby to wake up more often to feed. Also some mothers find that co-sleeping can make it harder to wean their baby from waking up at night to nurse or take a bottle. Breastfeeding babies, in particular, smell their mothers’ milk, and many develop the habit of waking repeatedly at night to feed long after they have a physical need to do so.
Your relationship with each other
Some mums and dads discover that the family bed makes it harder for them to find time alone together to reconnect, or puts pressure on their sex life. Other parents say it makes them more resourceful and creative about finding private time.
If you share a bed with your child, you may need to plan for time alone with your partner instead of waiting for it to happen spontaneously. Depending on your point of view and how you’re feeling, planning for intimacy could be a problem.
It’s important to chat together with your partner about this issue as choosing to sleep-share should be a family decision. So before you start, make sure your partner is comfortable with the arrangement. You run the risk of damaging your relationship if you decide independently that this is what you’re going to do or pressure a reluctant partner to agree.
Talk the issue over together and consider the pros and cons. Consult friends who sleep-share and find out how it’s working for them.
Brainstorm with your partner about ways to make private time for yourselves. Let your partner discuss his reservations, if any, and listen to what he has to say. Talk openly about your own feelings.
If either of you still has doubts, one strategy is to agree to a trial period of two weeks or so and check in with each other when that period is over. As with all parenting decisions, it’s important to consider each other’s feelings and point of view before making a decision.
Check in with your baby
Many parents who have no intention of sharing their bed end up doing so when they find that it’s the only way they get can their newborn to sleep. For some babies, sleeping alone is hard to get used to after nine months in the womb. They crave closeness and comfort.
But not every baby enjoys a shared sleeping arrangement. If you have a family bed and your baby’s restless or fussy at night, you might try putting them in a Moses Basket or cot to see if they seem happier there.
Having your children jump into bed with you first thing in the morning for a cuddle is a magical moment but I think sharing the family bed longer term needs to be thought through,with your partner’s point of view taken into consideration.
It’s about finding the balance that suits your family and your baby.