My child wants to sleep in our bed. Is this all right?

A young child often needs his parents during the night. As an infant, he may wake up crying for them, and as a toddler he may call out for them or get out of bed to find them. Some parents meet their child’s nighttime needs by going to his room and comforting him there. But other parents find it easier at times to let their child sleep in bed with them. These parents believe that they and their child sleep better when they’re all together.

                               The thought of a child sleeping with his parents shocks some people who’ve been conditioned by “experts” to believe the experience is harmful. Many parents who let their child sleep with them at night are reluctant to discuss the issue because they think their situation is unique. Actually, many parents have their children sleep in bed with them at some point, and they find the experience easy, enjoyable, and beneficial.

                               Children end up in their parents’ beds for a variety of reasons. Parents might bring a wakeful infant to bed so they can tend to him without having to get up during the night. Or they might want him near so they can be sure he’s safe, and so he can feel emotionally secure. Parents of a toddler may find their child climbing into bed with them on his own during the night. While some toddlers sleep easily in their rooms, others are too frightened or lonely to stay by themselves and try desperately to sleep with their parents. A child who’s determined to be with them will climb out of his crib or bed and go to their room. One child told his parents, “I think of scary things in my bed, but when I get into your bed they go away”. If they won’t let him into their bed, he might try to sleep on the floor next to their bed or in the hall-way outside their door.

                               Parents who do choose to let their child sleep with them still may express concerns. They wonder if they’re being too responsive to their infant or toddler, or if he will become too dependent on them. It’s true that he may develop a habit of sleeping in his parents’ bed, but he won’t be harmed by this. Rather, he’ll benefit from the reassurance and sense of security he receives from such closeness.

                               When parents start letting their child sleep with them, they may wonder if they will ever again have a bed to themselves. Parents of a nine-month-old can feel overwhelmed by the thought that their child may be in bed with them for a few years, although actually, children’s sleeping patterns and needs are hard to predict and parents’ expectations change as children develop. The amount of time a child will spend in his parents’ bed varies between families and within families over time. Some parents have their infant with them for the first six months to a year. Others let their child fall asleep in their bed and then move him to his own room each night; he may spend the whole night there or wake up and come back to his parents’ room. Some children spend part of every night with their parents, while others come to their parents’ bed only occasionally.

                               Ultimately, the parents’ goal is to have their child sleep on his own, and as he becomes less dependent on their reassurance, he’ll be ready to spend nights in his own bed. At that point, his parents can help him get used to sleeping in his room by offering a night light, music, or back rub.

                               Parents wonder how their sexual relations will be affected by the presence of a child in bed. Since sexual relations should always be private from children, parents should not become intimate when their child is in bed with them. They can either be together in another room in the house or carry their sleeping child back to his own room. To assure privacy, they should close and lock the bedroom door when they’re having sexual relations. And if the child does surprise them during an intimate moment, they should try not to overreact to the intrusion. The chances are good that the sleepy child has not observed his parents very closely. Although they might feel that the child who sleeps with them interferes with sexual spontaneity, they should remember that a child who wakes up crying in his own room also interrupts his parents’ intimacy.

                               Aside from effects on sexual relations, there’s another aspect to having a child in bed that parents are sometimes concerned about—the quality of sleep. While many parents are happy to avoid getting up with their children at night, others find that having a child in bed is not very restful. An infant makes many sounds as he sleeps, and a toddler may toss and turn, waking his parents. Some pediatricians recommend that parents buy themselves a queen or king size bed so they can accommodate their child. Another possibility is for parents to place a mattress or crib in their room so the child can sleep nearby.

                               Most parents who let their child sleep in bed with them are pleased with the result. Parents who are away from their child all day enjoy the chance to be close to him at night, to give a middle-of-the-night hug and say, “I love you”, and to wake up next to him in the morning. They often report that he doesn’t have nightmares and has fewer problems falling asleep when he’s in bed with them. And families tend to get more sleep when parents don’t have to wake up and go to a child in another room.

                               If you’re concerned about having your child in your bed, remember that there are different ways to meet his needs. If you’re comfortable going to your child’s room, that’s a good choice for you. And if you prefer bringing your child back to your own room, that also is fine. Whichever way you choose to respond, the important thing is to give him the security that comes with attention and care.

Picture Credit : Google