A few weeks ago, Good Morning America featured a mommy-blogger who advocated co-sleeping with her six year old son. In our home, I completely disagree with the notion of co-sleeping.
The bottom line is if you are co-sleeping with your child on a nightly basis, you may be doing your child a disservice. While your child may love the comfort of you snuggling with them, they also become completely dependent on you being there. Instead of learning how to independently fall asleep, fall back asleep if awakened, and soothe themselves, they learn that you will be there to take care of everything. They learn that they don’t need to take the initiative to help themselves. This is a slippery slope, a dangerous lesson, irrespective of the age of your child.
In our home, we enjoy a nightly routine of storytime, prayers, tons of hugs, kisses and I love yous before we tuck the kids in bed. In the morning, the kids each jump in our bed as they wake up and we cuddle then as well. But…as a routine, everyone actually sleeps in their own beds.
Additionally, what about the sacred and precious time you are missing with your spouse/partner? I say this not from a selfish place, but instead, from a place genuinely committed to strengthening the family unit, not weaken it. While you may not need or want to sleep next to and connect with your spouse/partner, don’t fail to account for your spouse/partner’s needs. Sleeping next to your spouse/partner is incredibly intimate and is something sacred to your union and important for your family.
One of the greatest gifts of marriage is being able to share time with your spouse in the privacy of your own home, being able to sleep next to and cuddle with your spouse. Many times I wake up in the middle of the night, only to notice that my husband and I are holding hands, showing our connection even in our sleep. It’s a subconscious action that I believe strengthens our marriage, without us even trying to do so. Still, it comes from a primary conscious decision to sleep in the same bed, without our children. That decision for our marriage is actually a decision for our family, fueled by our understanding that when our marriage is strong, our children thrive.
As with all things, there are always exceptions. For example, there are children who depend on their parents for life-sustaining medications or treatments at night. I am not speaking to those situations, as those children may require 24 hour care. God bless those children and their parents/caretakers. This article is certainly not speaking to those circumstances.
At our home, there are of course nights that our children aren’t feeling well, have terrible nightmares, or have a potty accident and need mommy and daddy. When they do, we are right there for them. We have a desire and love and responsibility to take care of them and tend to their needs. But, with all things, let’s use balance and parent within reason. Triage their immediate crisis, comfort them, and let them know their support system is strong and reliable…then tuck them back into bed and try to go back to yours. Children thrive on routine and once they understand that your bed is off-limits and you cannot sleep in theirs, they will work and thrive within that framework.
Worst of all, I fear that some parents co-sleep with their children because it comforts the parent. It’s far too easy to blame your kids, convince yourself that they need you to sleep with them. At times, it’s also easy to just fall asleep in their beds rather than face a conversation with your spouse that you’ve been trying to avoid. Your children are stronger and more capable than you think…they need to learn to be independent and thrive on their own, just as you did as a child and as we continue to learn as adults. You will only be steps away down the hallway, there for support if need be, but they’ve got to learn how to sleep on their own. You need to give them the gift of that small bit of independence. It will eventually contribute to their success outside of the home.
Another practical note: Co-Sleeping does not promote good, quality rest. It’s also very dangerous for babies to bed-share and is not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. While sleeping with your toddlers or your children may seem comfy, cozy, and peaceful early in the evening, a few hours into the night, both parent and child will most likely awaken and toss and turn the remainder of the evening, wake earlier, and not experience uninterrupted sleep, which can be detrimental to long-term health.
Just as our children need us to wipe their tears, they need us to encourage them to get back on their feet and keep going. They need us to reassure them that they can do things on their own and we will be there to celebrate their achievements, not make them for them.
Our children are gifts given to us for a brief period of time. We need to prepare them for what lies beyond the peaceful, loving confines of our homes. There are plenty of opportunities throughout the day to hug them, shower them with kisses and encouragement, and share in their lives. Nighttime, however, is the right time for our own bedrooms, beds, and sleep habits.
Bottom line: Co-Sleeping = No-Sleeping
Please understand, I don’t begrudge anyone who disagrees with me, but this is just what works best for our family. To each their own and God bless everyone out their raising little ones…stick with what works for you. I look forward to the conversation…