Parenting in a Nutshell: Family bed — bonding or bad idea?
Sharing your bed with your young children is known as having a “family bed.” European families have been using the family bed for centuries without serious downside; but in the United States, the practice brings up questions. Is it a bonding opportunity or a bad idea?
Points to consider:
• Some pediatricians feel that a young child may be more secure sleeping next to Mommy and Daddy, seeking their warmth and comfort. If the child should waken during the night, a parent's reassuring hand to hold or arm to be wrapped in may ease him back to sleep.
• If the family isn't getting enough daytime together, waking up in the same bed — or sharing nighttime “pillow talk” — can mean time to bond, laugh and get to know each other better.
• If the child is still being breastfed, sleeping in the same bed as mommy may be a blessing for both. Mom can get more rest if she doesn't have to get out of bed for middle-of-the-night feedings or other nocturnal baby needs. Often, baby mimics the mother's sleeping patterns when the two share a bed.
• Some pediatricians share a small concern that children who sleep with their parents may have some difficulty in learning how to soothe themselves to sleep when they move to their own beds.
• Not every child has the temperament or need to sleep with his parents. If this describes your child, take it as happy sign that your child has a wonderfully independent spirit.
• Parents lose their privacy and intimacy when their young child is in their bed. Parents may also worry about rolling over on their child (Note: do not put a newborn in bed with you). Also, there is a matter of loss of sleep: A restless child can wiggle the night away, flaying arms and legs during sleep.
Ways to compromise
• Place the infant's crib next to your bed versus in another room, so the infant can be checked on, fed, etc., during the night.
• Allow your child to fall asleep in your bed and then move him to his bed as you are ready to fall asleep. This technique is good to use as you transition your child to his room when the time comes.
• Make the family bed a special-occasion night — for family sleepovers, when you are staying in a hotel or other fun occasions.