Should You Co-sleep With Your Kids?

Should you allow your kids to sleep in your bed with you?

Recent studies indicate that a near epidemic proportion of children are co-sleeping with parents today. Around 45% of moms let their 8- to 12-year-olds sleep with them from time to time, and 13% permit it every night.[i] (Interesting that it says nothing about Dads? I wonder how they feel about it?)

One of the reasons parent’s allow co-sleeping is because children today have higher levels of anxiety than previous generations – higher divorce rates, frequent transitions, over-scheduling, more academic pressure, and constant media connection (no time to be “off-line”).

So, because so many parents are allowing their kids to share their bed, should you?

Let’s consider some thoughts about co-sleeping:

Negatives of co-sleeping:

  1. Studies show children wake more when they co-sleep with their parents and they develop bad sleeping patterns that can take years to correct (or never).
  2. Parents lose sleep because their kids are waking all the time, stealing the blankets, or hogging bed-space.
  3. Co-sleeping is considered a risk factor for babies and is associated with higher incidences of SID (Sudden Infant Death). [ii]
  4. The negative effects of co-sleeping can be memory loss, fatigue, low energy, depression and obesity (due to the lack of sleep, I’m guessing).

Positives of co-sleeping:

  1. You get to cuddle and snuggle with your child. One busy Dad reports loving co-sleeping because it makes him feel some connection with his kids. He doesn’t see them otherwise. (The whole family sleeps in one big bed!)
  2. You are reassured that your baby is breathing or that your kids are safe.
  3. Breastfeeding is easier – you get to stay in your warm bed when the weather is cold.

One caveat to this view is that you need to be sure you are not enabling your child to remain trapped in fear of sleeping alone or of the dark.  Use this as an opportunity to help them break free of fear.

When one of my boys was three years old he suddenly became afraid to go to sleep on his own. He wanted me to lie next to him.  He shared a room with his brother and was not insecure – he was loved and received plenty of attention.  He cuddled his favourite blankie but still wanted me to stay.

I prayed for wisdom and felt impressed that he needed to learn to rely on Jesus to be with him always and that there was no need to be afraid. We prayed together. But it didn’t help.  I encouraged my son to think of Jesus (he had a picture of Jesus on the wall next to his bed). No help.

I realised the strong hold of this fear lay in my child’s will.  I asked him if he was willing to let me go.  At three years old he was honest enough to say he wasn’t.  We prayed for Jesus to make him willing.

I encouraged him, reassured him of my love, reminded him of Jesus care for him and told him I was going to leave the room. I told him I wanted him to learn to trust in Jesus because Mommy would not always be able to be there.  I wanted his little heart to reach out and choose to trust Jesus.

Sound harsh? Was I expecting too much from a 3 year old?

I walked out of the room and left him – one of the hardest things I’ve done. He cried a little and my heart was heavy. As I walked by his room a few minutes later he called out to me. As I bent over him he said, “I’m willing to let you go, Mom.”

My heart leapt and I thanked God for working for my little boy. I praised him for making the right choice – to trust in Jesus.  He went to sleep peacefully.

That was the last time we ever had bed time issues with him.

Credit: Sketch by Melissa Mundall

By now you’ve guessed that we didn’t do the co-sleeping thing. (And just for the record, I don’t look down on anyone who decides they do want to co-sleep J You are free to choose!)  Occasionally the kids joined us in bed for a short time, but as a general rule, everyone had their own bed and that’s where they slept.

Here’s why we chose not to co-sleep with our kids:

  1. Better sleep for the entire family – long term. Do you really want to spend the next 10 or so years (maybe more, maybe less if you’re lucky) not sleeping well or lying in your child’s bed for an hour every night until they fall asleep?
  1. Your bed is your bed. It’s a place where you as a couple connect, laugh, discuss, and make love. You need this time alone to stay connected. Your marriage is the primary relationship in a family, look after it.
  1. Putting your kids in their own bed teaches them proper independence and individuality. A child needs to learn that they are separate from Mom and Dad. They also need to learn to respect Mom and Dad’s space and privacy.

   “As a result (of co-sleeping), children today are less self-reliant. Many preteen children don’t yet know how to be alone at bedtime and they haven’t been forced to learn. Parents band aid the issue by allowing co-sleeping, assuming that kids will naturally grow out of it and many do not.” [iii]

  1. Speaking of privacy, having your kids in their own beds provides you a place for intimacy and allows love-making to be spontaneous. With a child in your bed you will either have to move the child or yourselves when the mood strikes.

Because we were clear in our own minds that co-sleeping was not happening in our house, it didn’t.

If you decide not to co-sleep then make sure you know why you are choosing not to.  If you decide you will not co-sleep then don’t allow your children to gradually start spending more time in your bed than their own.

But be flexible here.  There are times when you may need to lie with your child on their bed or in yours but as soon as their “crisis” is over, revert back to “your bed is yours, mine is mine”.

Oh, and don’t feel bad or guilty if you do decide not to co-sleep.

 

What do you think? Is co-sleeping for you? Let me know why you do or don’t co-sleep with your kids.

[i] https://www.todaysparent.com/family/kids-bad-sleep-habits-co-sleeping/

[ii] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/07/09/peds.2014-0401

[iii] ibid

About The Author

Jennifer Lovemore

Jennifer has diplomas in relationship counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), is a certified SYMBIS facilitator, and is certified in TPM (Transformation Prayer Minsitry). She lives in South Africa, has three grown children, and is married to her best friend – Richard.

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