Should I Let My Child Sleep in My Bed?

Your child is your most precious treasure and is afraid to sleep alone. You’re the protector. You signed up for this role when you decided to be a parent, right?

If you stand firm and refuse to allow the child into your bed, your baby is upset and scared and you feel overwhelming guilt. On the other hand, if you give in, you’re creating dependence for your child on this sleeping arrangement, which may create other long-term problems.

To be clear, there isn’t a right or wrong answer to this. But it’s risky to make a decision on this issue without considering the pros and cons.

Some self-disclosure: I’m married with two little girls, and we dealt with some sleep issues with my oldest daughter. It wasn’t easy. Although my wife and I never allowed her into our bed, I spent months sleeping on a mattress in my daughter’s bedroom. There were a few times when we strongly considered giving in and bringing her into our bed.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of letting your little munchkin sleep with you?

Benefits of a child sleeping in your bed

In many parts of the world, children sleeping with parents is the norm. Most mammals sleep with their children, so why do people assume it’s wrong or bad? You can argue that the safety and security experienced by the child combined with the increased bonding between the child and parents outweighs any negatives. And certainly in the short-term, you may increase your sleep time because you’re not being awakened in the middle of the night by a child at your bedside wanting comfort.

Potential Issues with a child sleeping in your bed

First, you’re creating dependence on this arrangement, so it’ll be much more difficult to transition your child sleeping alone after you allow co-sleeping. And the more people sleeping in one bed, the greater the risk of more nighttime awakenings going forward: the more people there are in a bed, the more movement and noise. Also, sleep routines are important for sleep hygiene, and it’s very difficult to establish a health routine when the child is sleeping in your bed.

Finally, it should go without saying that if you and your partner/spouse aren’t on the same page on this issue, this has the potential to create some significant relationship issues: the marital bed becomes the family bed. So most importantly, you should discuss this issue with your and work toward a mutual understanding.

What are the alternatives to letting the child sleep with me?

There’s a lot of quality information available on co-sleeping. I suggest you google it and look for books with a lot of quality reviews. Read the descriptions and determine if the approach seems like a good fit for you.

In terms of establishing a game plan, there are a number of options. Ideally, the plan you implement has a balance between emotional support for your child and helping move the child toward independence. Easier said than done.

Based on all the research we did and the very helpful professional with whom we worked (yes, we got help!), we found the following principles the most helpful:

  • Develop a relaxing and consistent bed-time routine for the child: at roughly the same times every night, have the child take a bath, then, in the dimly lit bedroom, read to the child or listen to some relaxing music. There shouldn’t be any electronics used by the child for the last hour before bed.
  • You should not be present when the child falls asleep. The reason for this is that it’s ideal to train the child to become acclimated the same environment when the child goes to sleep and wakes in the middle of the night, which is normal and inevitable. The child must learn that a parent will not be there during night awakenings. If you’re present when the child falls asleep, the child will expect you to be there at night upon waking up.
  • Therefore, put the child in bed when tired, but not yet sleeping.
  • Tell the child you will be just outside the bedroom door to make sure he/she feels safe, and you should actually sit outside the door out of sight (maybe with a book or a phone for entertainment!).
  • Comfort the child when the child is upset or scared. Initially, you must do this often, and gradually decrease your intervention.
  • As the child becomes more comfortable, you can gradually decrease the time spent outside the bedroom door.
  • Use a system that rewards the child for positive and independent behavior.
  • Be patient. Be consistent. Rinse and repeat.

This is a very simplified version of what we did. And as mentioned before, there was a period of time during which I actually put a small mattress in my daughter’s bedroom and slept there. My reasoning was that this would make the transition to sleeping alone in her room easier than if I had brought her into our bed. These were the essential steps we used. It was a long and difficult process: two steps forward, one step backwards, etc.

The key is that you must be patient and consistent. This transition will not happen overnight. If you have a few good nights in a row, then give in to the child coming to your bed, you’re sending the message that you will give in in the future.

Again, there’s no right answer to this. But if your goal is to avoid having your child sleep in your bed, hope this info helps.

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