Five Benefits to Cosleeping Past Infancy

Two of the three members of our family bed, sound asleep.

Cosleeping, also known as “sharing sleep” or having a “family bed,” is a parenting practice that still smacks of taboo in our Western culture. But recent scientific studies are building a much stronger argument for the benefits of sharing sleep with our children.1 Yet even with the scientific support and the changing cultural perception of cosleeping, the subject is typically constrained to parents of infants.

It is still socially taboo to admit that you share sleep with toddlers or older children, but research shows that the taboo is unfounded. Children who cosleep are generally more independent and secure, develop close and lasting bonds to their families, and report more happiness and general life satisfaction than children who sleep alone. There are many reasons that sharing sleep with your children is healthy and beneficial even after they’ve started walking, but below are five of the best reasons.

Five Reasons to Continue Cosleeping Past Infancy

  1. Cosleeping Can Further Both Trust and Independence

    One common argument against cosleeping is that it will create children who are more dependent on parents than children who sleep alone, or that cosleeping children will never learn to sleep alone. “But this is like saying that by putting a baby in diapers, she’ll be in diapers throughout her life, or that by using a stroller or carrying her, she’ll never learn to walk.”2

    As a matter of fact, the opposite is actually true: children who shared sleep with their parents are actually more independent than their solo sleeping peers. Recent research has shown:

    *Solitary sleepers have actually been found to be more dependent on their parents than co-sleepers.

    *Co-sleeping boys ages three and older were shown to have no greater difficulty separating from one or both parents than solitary sleeping boys. (In this study, girls were not observed for this trait.)

    *The majority of family bed graduates consider themselves more independent than their peers.3

    And why shouldn’t cosleepers be more independent?! They learned from infancy that they could trust their caregivers to quickly respond to their needs, no matter what time of day or night it was. “You are not encouraging dependency when you sleep with your baby. You are responding to a need and teaching your child about trust.”4 “Children, given time to learn to trust those around them, and thus learn that their own feelings and needs are legitimate, will develop a true, enduring sense of independence.”5

  2. Melissa of Simple Whimsy and her family snoozing peacefully.

  3. Parents Are the Ultimate Security Blankets

    The image of a child sucking his thumb or carrying around a treasured blanket or teddy is a very familiar one in our culture. Search the internet and you’ll find all kinds of advice columns and articles on how to transition children away from these practices. But research has revealed something very interesting: children who cosleep do not need replacement security figures. Children feel more secure as a result of being close to their caregivers.

    “When a child routinely goes to sleep in the presence of an adult, or with an adult holding her, it’s extremely rare to find thumb sucking or attachment to security objects.” In a study of children ages one to seven years old who all sucked their thumbs, 96% of them “had been left alone to fall asleep as infants. In stark contrast, there were no thumb suckers among a large group of children who had physical contact with an adult while falling asleep.” In a different study of children between three and five years old, researchers found “that solitary sleepers were far more likely to use a security object than co-sleepers. The researchers concluded that children use security objects as substitutes for nighttime human touch.”6

    Our culture emphasizes the desirability of teaching children to self-soothe, and parents are encouraged to introduce security objects to help in this process. But in the dark of the night, why not allow a child to experience the love and comfort of a parent? If we teach our children to rely on things for comfort, what effect will this have on them later in life during times of stress? Shouldn’t we be encouraging them to reach out to people?

  4. Cosleeping Can Have Positive Effects on Self-Esteem and Family Closeness

    As Dr. Sears says, welcoming children into the family bed sends incredible “I care” messages. It says “you are special to us, day and night.”7 A little one welcomed into the family bed receives “countless hours more tender snuggles, and more affection than if she were left alone to sleep. If she wakes up at night, all she has to do is see you or reach out and touch you to feel the world is safe and right.”8

    And parents who fall asleep and/or wake up next to their children know how sweet it can be in those sleepy twilight hours. With everyone relaxed and cuddled up, children feel peaceful and ready to share their thoughts and stories, things that you might never hear during the hustle and bustle of daily life. “[Y]ou can get to know a family bed child on a level you might not otherwise. In the words of Thomas Anders, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, and director of the school’s infant and family sleep laboratory: ‘Co-sleeping encourages family closeness.’” These sentiments have been reinforced by research: the “vast majority” of both family bed graduates and their parents report that they are incredibly close to their families.9

  5.  

  6. Children Who Cosleep May Be Easier to Get Along With and Better Adjusted Than Their Solo Sleeping Peers

    Psychologists in years past theorized that children in family beds were maladjusted, insecure, needy, and that their parents were languishing in bad marriages. Recent research blows the old theories out of the water. Here is a sample of what we’ve learned:

    *Children who never slept in their parents’ beds were harder to control, less happy, had more tantrums, handled stress less well, and were more fearful than routinely co-sleeping children.

    *Co-sleepers showed a feeling of general satisfaction with life.

    *Children who didn’t co-sleep end up getting more professional help with emotional and behavioral problems than co-sleepers.

    *Boys who slept in the family bed had increased self-esteem and less guilt and anxiety. Girls had more comfort with physical contact and affection.

    *Children who had co-slept felt they weren’t as prone to peer pressure as others their age.10

    Psychologists have long agreed “that children who have responsive, sensitive, accessible parents are much more likely to be happier later in life. It should come as no surprise, then, that children whose parents are there for them day and night turn out so well.”11

  7. Everyone Sleeps Better

    As long as cosleeping works for you12 and your child, why change it? If you can get past learning to nurse while sleeping and wild toddler sleeping arrangements,13 continuing to share sleep with your little one may help your whole family sleep better into your child’s preschool years and beyond.

    And when I say that everyone sleeps better, I really mean it. Scientific studies have shown that a family who sleeps together actually enters the different stages of sleep together almost simultaneously. Dr. Jay Gordon shared a beautiful illustration about the science behind this concept in his book, Good Nights: The Happy Parent’s Guide to the Family Bed (and a Peaceful Night’s Sleep!)14:

    Science is finally beginning to discover what babies have known all along: Babies are designed to sleep with their parents. And parents are designed to sleep with their babies.
    At the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, anthropologist James McKenna, Ph.D., watches an intimate dance unfold. It’s a dance in which there’s no leader, no follower, and yet almost seamless choreography.
    A mother and father sleep with their baby between them in a large bed in the laboratory’s comfortable bedroom. It’s similar to the way they sleep at home, only with infrared video cameras monitoring their sleep stages, zooming in on every roll of an eyeball, every twitch of muscle, all night long.
    All is quiet and still, except for the rapidly moving, closed eyes of the baby, mother, and father. They’re all dreaming at the same time. Moments later they enter a stage of light sleep together: The mother stirs, awakens for just a moment, and drifts back to sleep, moving her head a little to the left, her arm to the right. The baby stirs, moves her head to the left, her arm to the right. Then the father follows with the same pattern. McKenna, director of the lab, smiles broadly and nods his head.
    “It’s incredible watching these sequences unfold,” says McKenna, acclaimed as the father of this type of sleep research and the world’s foremost authority on the biological basis of cosleeping. “The synchronization that happens when parents sleep beside their baby is remarkable.”
    Similar experiments in England find the same dance with family bedders. But place the baby in another room, and it’s like putting a wall between a pair of ballroom dancers. Everyone reverts to their own rhythms, their sleep cycles coinciding only by chance.15

Melissa of Simple Whimsy

Need More Reasons to Cosleep?

If you’re on the fence about continuing to share sleep with your little one past infancy, I’d highly suggest reading Dr. Gordon’s Good Nights. It is packed with both research and with testimonials from children who have “graduated” from the family bed. He also offers tips on dealing with criticism from friends and family who do not agree with the practice.

For more resources on cosleeping and nighttime parenting, check out Natural Parents Network’s “Ensure Safe Sleep” resource page. It has links to articles as well as additional book recommendations.

Did you share sleep with your child?

How long did your child stay in the family bed?

  1. For a review of some of these studies, check out Cosleeping at The Natural Child Project, Co-Sleeping Safety at PhD in Parenting (with more links at the end of the article), and Safe Sleeping with Your Baby at Dr. Sears. For more information on the research results discussed in this post, please see the studies cited in the original sources.
  2. Gordon, Good Nights: The Happy Parent’s Guide to the Family Bed (and a Peaceful Night’s Sleep!) at 24
  3. Good Nights at 25-26
  4. Sears, Nighttime Parenting: How to Get Your Baby and Child to Sleep at 35
  5. Good Nights at 24. A note to parents who do not share sleep with their little ones: please do not interpret this post to mean that if you do not cosleep, you are not teaching trust or responding to needs. I recognize the fact that cosleeping simply does not work for many babies.
  6. Good Nights at 19-20 (emphasis added).
  7. Nighttime Parenting at 52
  8. Good Nights at 20-21
  9. Good Nights at 21-22
  10. Good Nights at 23
  11. Good Nights at 23
  12. When I say “you,” I mean you in both the singular and the plural, depending on your parenting situation.
  13. What parent hasn’t woken up to a foot in the back/face/stomach from a sleeping toddler?!
  14. Good Nights at 3-4 (citations omitted, emphasis added).
  15. Good Nights at 3-4

About The Author: Dionna

Code Name: Mama CodeNameMama My NPN Posts

Dionna is co-founder of Natural Parents Network. She blogs about natural parenting and life with a toddler-almost-preschooler at Code Name: Mama. She also co-founded NursingFreedom.org, a site dedicated to normalizing breastfeeding anytime, anywhere.

325 Responses to Five Benefits to Cosleeping Past Infancy

  1. Cokia  

    I am so glad I saw this. I get pressure from my western family to move my 3 year old into his own bed, but he doesn’t want to go and honestly I don’t know if I am ready to have him so far away from me at night either. My husband is Korean so his family raised him where it was not unusual to sleep together so it doesn’t bother him either. The only drawback for me is we have a queen size bed and since my son’s favorite position for the 3 of us is an H, I wish I had a king. lol

  2. Kari

    My five children take turns sleeping with me. My oldest son, now married with a child of their own, spent his last night sleeping with me when he was 16 after a bad break up. My oldest daughter is now 16 takes her turn with me when her sisters stay at Grandma’s house. We watch a movie and fall asleep. She had always been the independent one who didn’t want to cuddle when she was little. I am really cherishing this time with her. It is like a slumber party for the two of us. The younger boy now 13 is a very restless sleeper. When He sleeps in my bed, his sleep is so much better. My two younger daughters shared a double bed for six years. They wanted rooms of their own but found themselves sneaking into each others twin beds. I have now adjusted their space so that one room is for toys and books, while the other is for the two twin beds. They love to find their way to my room if the other one has fallen asleep. There are times when I say no, but most often not. I figure, they are only little and in my house for so long. I know this having one leave the nest already. I swear he was just five, how did my boy become a dad?

  3. Frances

    Hi there,
    I have a little girl who’s nearly one and we’ve ended up co-sleeping as she’s never been keen on sleeping in her cot. I bring her in with us when she wakes in the night. One of the major problems I find is that I can’t put her down awake. Often she’ll fall asleep after a feed (I’m still breast feeding) so I put her in the cot but she nearly always wakes again 30min – 1hr later. Then sometimes again before my husband and I go to bed. But by midnight we usually give up and bring her into the bed. Really I don’t mind having our little one in the bed with us but it would be nice to have an evening where we’re not up and down the stairs. It’s even harder when I’m on my own some nights and I don’t really fancy going to bed at 7.30! Any advice would be greatly appreciated! x

  4. Sherri

    @ Frances… First of all Co-sleeping is natural and needed for many babies/toddlers who have sleep issues. I understand your frustration. With 2 boys 4 and 7 we still end up with both in our bed by most mornings. I would never give it up, and will lament the day they no longer come to our bed. at this age it may benefit you to start her in Your bed rather than hers. She is probably waking in anticipation of coming to your bed. Maybe if she starts in your bed she will be more inclined to sleep longer from the start. At 1 year old her body has a sleep cycle of about 45 minutes going from deep to light sleep and then through the cycle again. It is common for them to wake after the 1st cycle especially if she is not where she wants to be. Your sleep will be less disturbed if you are not up to and down to go get her as well. You don’t need to go to sleep with her in your own bed, but if you are afraid she will roll out of bed, either put your mattress on the floor, or find bedrails for your bed. Our mattress has been on the floor for 7 years. We’re now discussing going ‘grown-up’ again. Our 1st son had issues. He started in a crib but would wake every 45 minutes day and night until we decided to co-sleep. The crib became our laundry basket, and we sold it at 8 months pregnant with #2. Good luck. Know that it will get easier.

  5. Julie Griffin

    I am 61 now and the mother of 4 adult children. I birthed all my children at home and so it was natural to co-sleep in the family bed too. When it was bed time we all laid down for stories and fell asleep together. There was usually a nursing baby. We all slept well and loved the whole experience. I never had to leave the bed to warm up a bottle and my kids never used pacifiers or blankees. At the time my family thought I was ruining my kids and that they would grow to be clingy and mal-adjusted but the opposite is true. They are very independent and well-adjusted adults. My oldest now has two children and they are practicing the family bed too. It is just the most natural way to parent.

  6. sam

    Our 5 year old sleeps happily and well in his own bed and has done since he was 6 months old, when I stopped breastfeeding. Our 3 year old was breastfed until he was 15months and has always been a difficult sleeper. We have tried “crying it out” and lots of other ways to try to encourage him to sleep in his own bed. This actually caused a lot of stress and marital problems………Now he sleeps in his own bed initially and about 1am or so he calls for mama and comes into our bed for the rest of the night. He is much happier and so are we and it is lovely to have him close to us. I am a very light sleeper so this arrangement cannot continue forever but until we feel he is ready to move back to his bed he can share ours! Thanks for the post.

  7. Momma Jorje  

    Wow, great srides being made in researching the family bed! The lack of having a lovey was kind of an assumption to me, but I never thought about the thumb sucking connection.

  8. Julia

    I believe all of the reasons you put above can be true for some families. Unfortunately it was not for mine as with my 18 month old we got progressively less and less sleep the longer we shared a family bed. He doesn’t like to sleep in general and it got to where he was waking every hour, literally, to nurse and tossing and turning the last 4 hours of the morning. We had his crib sidecar-ed but he refused to sleep in it past 1am and no amount of trying to keep him in there worked.
    I was totally against every kind of separate room, cry it out, whatnot, and tried to solve all our sleep problems other ways. He also had a lot of trouble going to sleep at night, and if weren’t for that AND the continual waking and tossing, I would have continued with the family bed. But tell me, a child who takes over 2 and half hours to go to sleep at night, who when you put him to sleep, the moment he drifts off he wakes himself up again like a game, over and over, tell me, is that worth it? Is it even helping anyone to allow it for the sake of the family bed? including my son?
    For us it wasn’t so we did a modified Dr. Gordon’s night weaning with putting him in his own room. We would generously spend at least an hour every night doing our best to put him to sleep, but if an hour passed and he still refused to sleep, waking himself up just as he drifted off, we left him in the room to cry. :’( There really was no other way that would work. I tried to do Dr. Gordon’s full method where you stay with them singing/comforting and whatnot and we were up 4 hours doing that with no results….. some kids are just very determined not to sleep. or to only sleep the way they want to.
    Anyways, we always go in to comfort him so long as he sleeps more than 2 hours (otherwise he starts waking himself up every 20min!) when he wakes and after 6am, he gets to come in to sleep with us. I love the mornings and having him with me. I don’t really get good sleep then, but the compromise has all of us sleeping better overall and I finally feel, with the extra energy, the desire to play with my son and love on him during the day. Before I would wake up so frustrated, exhausted and touched-out, I just didn’t have it in me to pay undivided attention to him.
    Oh and the final point is that my husband and I are enjoying much more sex again. And we are both happier from the pleasure and our relationship is being strengthened.
    So part of me really wishes the dream of the family bed had worked for me, but it didn’t or I just couldn’t take the down-sides of it anymore. And that is ok, if it’s not for you. Some kids just won’t sleep in the family bed :P

    • Dionna  

      Thanks for your response and your experience, Julia. I know you didn’t ask for input – so please skip this if you feel like you have the nighttime situation worked out in a way that makes your son, you, and your husband happy.

      For anyone else still reading, I do want to reiterate that I believe it is pretty darn rare that a child simply “needs to cry.” A child’s cry is their way of communicating something, whether that is exhaustion, illness, a need for connection, etc. As a parent, I believe that my need is to figure out why my child is crying and meet that need. Even if the child does just “need to cry” – to offload emotion – I feel that the child deserves to do so with a loving caregiver present (in the room, in arms, etc.).
      Julia, if you are still reading and would be interested in having a group of mamas help you brainstorm possible reasons – and solutions – that your son is crying, please let me know. I’ve asked some of the other NPN volunteers, and they’ve already started throwing out ideas that we’d gladly share.

  9. Mniki

    This is absolutely ridiculous for so many reasons! I absolutely disagree 100% with the “results” saying that coskeeping children are more independent than independent sleeping children, I have so many friends that have co slept and have numerous problems, from their child sleeping well to there being no routine etc etc, not to mention how it’s effecting the marriage/relationship! Now on the other hand most of my fiends that have kids have done it right, and put their child in their own bed, those children sleep very well in their beds, if they wake up, mom or dad is there at the bedside comforting them, this eliminates so many problems! Next up thumb sucking has nothing to do with co sleeping or not, again those friends that co sleep with their children, those kids are from 6 months to 5 years, suck their thumbs, or have pacifiers or blankets, stuffed animals…to say that wont happen if you co sleep is absolutely absurd! Not to mention my 10 month old daughter was sucking her thumb in. The womb which we have numerous ultrasounds showing this?? So what’s that explanation? The most ridiculous part was stating that co sleeping babies will be happier in life than independent sleeping children? That’s insane, I remember friends growing up that slept with their parents and were to scared to come to sleep overs, that was when we were 9+ years old, my children are my life and that is why we teach them to be independent so they CAN succeed in life, not rely on reaching out at night to touch mommy or daddy and feel better, this is what creates so many problems, love your children unconditionally but boundaries are a must, a strong marriage is a must in a successful family, co sleeping is a huge no no!!! And this article of “research” is absurd!

    • Dionna  

      I appreciate that you have a different point of view and different experiences. The fact is, this article and the book on which it is based were, indeed, based on scientific research. Of course not every family’s experience will mirror what research finds as the most common outcome. But personal anecdotes, being based on an extreme subset of a particular population, are not of statistical significance. Whereas studies on co-sleeping have examined populations across a wide variety of global communities, which include cultural, economic, racial, gender, etc. differences and show benefits based on statistical models which have evaluated evidence based studies.

      Also, if you happen to have any friends who cosleep, I cannot imagine that they would confide in you based on your post here. Many families cosleep full or part time, but they may not broadcast it for fear of someone casting judgment on their choices.

    • Louise

      Hello Minki. I only just saw your reply to the post and you happen to have covered a lot of my view points that I also made. The one that stands out the most is the point I made about the thumb sucking in the womb – I have yet to read a reply to this point that we have both made and I welcome an explanation from Dionna on this. I do get the feeling that the case has been made for co-sleeping in every conceivable way, to justify the actual practice of it, but it has been taken to an illogical level of thinking by using the thumb sucking as part of that case. Sometimes in life people will go to every length possible to justify what they are doing and cannot see the wood through the trees anymore. But its crucial to keep seeing it, as there lies the balance I feel. (As I said, in my post)

      • Dionna  

        Louise, again, the data shared in this article was gathered from studies of many different families. The specific sample in one study showed that none of the cosleeping children sucked their thumb. The research is not suggesting that NO cosleeping child will EVER suck his or her thumb. The research reported in this article (and the book it is based on) simply show that cosleeping children are less likely to need a “lovey” (a blanket or a thumb) than children who sleep alone.

        Isolated experiences are just that – isolated. They may or may not fall in line with the sample group used in a study.

        In a study of children ages one to seven years old who all sucked their thumbs, 96% of them “had been left alone to fall asleep as infants. In stark contrast, there were no thumb suckers among a large group of children who had physical contact with an adult while falling asleep.” In a different study of children between three and five years old, researchers found “that solitary sleepers were far more likely to use a security object than co-sleepers. The researchers concluded that children use security objects as substitutes for nighttime human touch.

    • Vatsala

      Interesting comments. There are many cultures where no co-sleeping is seen with just as much disdain as co-sleeping is in some households. Also marital relationship must hinge on better values and shouldn’t depend on putting one’s child away because it is inconvenient. Sometimes it is very sad to read that while people enjoy the process of bringing a child into this world, but look for the first given opportunity to separate an infant/baby, especially when they need most warmth and reassurance.

  10. Wendy

    Oh gosh.. I wasn’t going to co-sleep. But my little boy decided different. He nurses in bed all the time, also at night. Lately, getting him back into his own cot (right besides our bed) has been impossible. He’d be asleep, I’d lift him a little, put him in there and all hell would break loose.. he didn’t want to be taken away from mommy’s warm body. So, we budged. We bought a crib with one open side and attached it to the bed. He’s happy. I still need to adjust a little. But he sleeps even when I put him on “his” part of the bed. Just going to take this a day at a time. No idea how this will develop. But hey, whatever works, works, right?

  11. Kim

    I love co-sleeping with our almost four-year old but my husband thinks it’s time to transition him out of our bed and into his own. He believes if he spends to much longer in our bed he’ll become more dependent on us and he thinks it’ll be weird to have a seven or eight-year old (or older) still sleeping with his parents. Our son does suck his thumb for soothing and uses my hair as a ‘security blanket’, another reason it’s harder for me to feel good about transitioning.

    Any advice on how to come to an agreement with my husband? Thanks!

  12. Louise

    Lovely article. I see benefits in co sleeping, like any other form of natural parenting. I don’t agree with generalisations though. I always strived for balance since my daughter was born. In chidbirth I feel we achieved the best start for her, she and I worked together: a beautiful unhindered home water birth. She was a thumb sucker in the womb – I watched it on the scan! Surely a child in the womb of a mother who is having a fabulous pregnancy is not insecure?! (as the article suggests this shows insecurity) Inside of me was a healthy baby, I was healthy and I felt the happy energy of her too. She has continued to suck her thumb, she is now 5. I see it as her own comfort thing, the same way that I have my comfort things and not a reflection on my parenting. What I find striking about this article too, is that my daughter has always been incredibly independant, never suffered from tantrums, always been happy to go to bed – in 5 years she has never protested, not even once! She has always slept through, without a problem. That shows great security to me. She loves to soothe herself and does so in a peaceful manner. I shared a sleeping space with her until she was 7 months old, next to me in her moses basket. So she had the best of both worlds. I was right there, but still, she had her own enclosed space, not too dissimilar from the womb. At 7 months my maternal instinct told me it was time for her to break out into her own space. I tuned into certain signs, they were all subtle. She was very accepting of it and it was positive. She is not a child prone to stress, is very happy and confident and very affectionate. I feel balance is key to parenting – Striking the right ratio between your needs as a parent and those of your child. I have always massaged my daughter since she was a baby, she loves it and asks for it, still now and I hope this continues. We do it regularly together. This is our special love-bonding time, where nakedness and all things pure between mother and daughter are upheld. We also shower together. She has also always been allowed to come into my bed on weekend mornings and cuddle up with me while we have a lie-in. As well as this, we cuddle regularly and tell each other how much we love each other – a lot. My natural approach as a parent has included the absolute unconditional approach – whereby I have never hit or smacked her and always been gentle and respectful of her needs as a person. I feel she shows me the same in return. I think showing your child that you need your own space to sleep should not be seen as a failiure or a damaging message. It teaches your child from early on that you have natural and healthy boundaries and that you care about yourself too. They can learn from this. As long as you show your child in many other ways that you love them, no matter what, that they can always come to you and that you have close and intimate moments of affection with them throughout the day, then they will feel all the love they need. I don’t feel there is a right or a wrong to parenting approaches – but I think its important to remember this: that one size does not fit all. If you have a child like mine who knows her own mind, is happy and confident and very secure, then perhaps you may be overdoing your call of duty a bit if you insist on co-sleeping. In this case perhaps they only need you ro reset the boundary and show them a different way, without this hindering their confidence in you or themselves. If, on the other hand, you have a very clingy child who finds any kind of distance difficult, then yes, I agree that they may need co-sleeping a little longer before they have learnt to be secure on their own – in which case I do believe its important to stay tuned to the right moment for this to happen – i truely believe the right moment does come, just at varying times. All children come with an inherent wisdom, capacity and experience, from where a lot of it comes, we will never know for sure. But as a mother I find the most precious gift I can bestow upon my child is to tune into their capacities, those they have from birth and those they build and grow along the way. To nurture their confidence and give them the opportunity to learn how to thrive on their own. Because thats what this life is all about after all. If they can learn that, they will be much happier people in the future, however disfunctional the world may be around them. Also, learning that mum/dad need their sleep, is a key lesson for them too – one day they will need to learn how important this is for their own health. So its a very good example to set them. I love the fact that there are so many varying approaches to parenting. What I feel is a little unrealistic is when parents try to fit perfectly into one picture or style. I think in this case they perhaps miss the subtleties of the relationship they have with their child and the individual nature of their character development, individual needs of their child and very importantly, the needs they have for themselves as a parent. In the end – love is the answer and the key to it all. The lock may just be a different shape from someone elses. Happy parenting everyone! Noone said it was easy – but it sure is by far the best, most enriching and most enlightening of all things that I ever discovered. Louise in Amsterdam x

    • Dionna  

      I agree that balance is very important in parenting. Again, the research cited here is talking about outcomes for the majority. Obviously there will be children who fall on either side of the “norm” (as defined in these studies).

  13. Louise

    p.s
    I forgot to mention very importantly – I breastfed a little beyond a year. I feel this alone gives tremendous security and a powerful connectedness to your child, that stands the test of time. Again, its all about balance and this has been a key ingredient in achieving balance in our picture as mother and child.

  14. Teresa

    Dionna, thank you for very interesting article. I am grandmother and I agree with you in 100%

  15. debby

    We have been happily married for 40 + yrs. and had a family bed with all five of our children. Can’t remember at what age they went to their own rooms but they were always welcome. Sunday nights when they were teens we continued with a pullout mattress for older ones to sleep on as we all told “true” stories. Ones heard abt. a well known person or more requested were family stories. All were very outgoing and well loved by friends, peers, etc. and were leaders in their groups. Four sons, one died in 2003 but was greatly loved by his friends, etc. One has PHD, one works hard at his job which he loves and youngest is preparing to go to Grad school next yr. Our only daughter is now a mother and continues the family bed in her little family. All very secure and loving adults and we are a very close family even though there are miles between some of us. Old mother but many happy memories of those precious times together. Agree with this article!!!

  16. mamaof2

    Our kids much prefer to sleep with us. At 5 and 1 it can sometimes get crowded but we wouldnt have it any other way. They are only little once!

  17. Molly

    For us cosleeping beyond infancy is painful! I have back problems and for some reason once baby is around 18 months I wake up in terrible pain if baby is in our bed all night. And all of our girls have slept poorly when in their own bed next to ours at one age or another so the longest they’ve made it in our room is 2 though. The big two do share a room down the hall though and the little one is slowly joining them as she’s ready. :)

    We’ve never had any luck with the sex in other rooms but that could be because since our oldest was 14 months old we’ve always had one that kept us up until at least midnight and another that woke up by 8 at the latest so there was always someone else IN the other room! We somehow managed to conceive two children in the three years after our oldest was born anyway. *lol*

  18. Louise

    Thanks Dionna. I have some questions. How many children were involved in this study?

    And my biggest question: What is so wrong with thumb sucking or a comfy??? And if it is to replace human touch at night, whats wrong with that too? Our society dictates that we should have someone in our bed to be happy. Wheras, happiness comes from within and from being comfortable with ourselves. Isn’t it a worry for attachment parents that their kids will never manage to sleep in an empty bed one day when they become women/men? We all need to cross that bridge sometime. Sleeping alone is not a terrible thing. Better to sleep alone than to be sharing a bed with the wrong person…

    • Dionna  

      Louise – I do not have the book with me (I had checked it out from the library to read), but I encourage you to read it – and the studies behind it – yourself, if you are so inclined.
      As far as society dictating that we need someone in bed to be happy, I have found the opposite – society encourages us to force our children into early independence. Cosleeping is generally frowned upon. But I would argue that it could be seen as something very primal, because a family sharing a bed or a room has been the norm throughout human history. (I’m trying to find something to back me up via Dr. Google, but all I’ve got this early in the morning is this: http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-not-and-should-not-sleep-alone/)

      As far as your statement that “happiness comes from within and from being comfortable with ourselves.” Yes, I want my child to be happy and self-confident – and, anecdotally – my 5yo is, and he’s still more comfortable sharing sleep. I’m going to fall back on the research cited in this article – the studies show that children who have shared sleep are more independent, happier, more satisfied. And again, look at families throughout human history – if sharing sleep had some crippling effect on adults, then would humans have succeeded? It seems that the human race has kept on chugging along, despite the fact that our history has been largely based on families who share sleep. So I’m fairly confident in our own decision to let our kids share our bed.

      Regarding lovies, I don’t know if there is anything inherently wrong with them. I know that they are used by children to feel secure, and parents often fret about how to “wean” their child off of lovies. I don’t want this to sound snarky, but turn your question about happiness back around – why should kids be taught to turn to a thing for comfort instead of reaching out for human touch? How will that impact them later? Honestly, I think that parents in either situation – whether they have children who use a lovey or not or cosleep or not – can be a positive force in helping them learn to self-soothe.

      As an aside, I recently moderated two chats with Dr. Laura of AhaParenting.com, and a reader asked about a lovey (pacifier??) in one of them. I cannot remember which chat it was, nor how Dr. Laura phrased her answer, but if you’re interested you can listen to both conversations. Here are the links:
      http://naturalparentsnetwork.com/beyond-discipline-chat-with-dr-laura/
      http://codenamemama.com/2012/12/05/regulating-your-emotions/

      Thanks for the respectful conversation!

  19. marie

    Yes, every family is different. And maybe co-sleeping works for some people but I don’t agree with this current trend in parenting that requires parents’ lives to revolve around their children 24/7. I’m a parent but I’m also a wife and my husband and I need to continue to exist as a couple, not just as parents.

    I’ll be blunt: my partner and I like to have sex. A lot. And we don’t want to have to plan it and find another room in the house to have it. I want to be able to reach across the bed in the middle of the night and do it. And vice versa.
    That wouldn’t happen with a kid in the bed.
    And it’s not just about sex. It’s about having a space in the house that is just ours. Once the kids are in bed, it’s OUR time. I want to be able to read a book, talk privately, say bad words, have couple time, watch a movie. In our bed. I love my kids but I also love the silence and privacy that comes from them being in their rooms and asleep.

    It’s ok for children to sleep on their own and have their own room. And yeah, we all remember waking up in the middle of the night and wishing our parents were there and wanting to sleep in their bed but come on! It’s not some kind of ‘trauma’ that will scar a child for life, nor will it affect a child’s self-esteem!

    • Ness

      It might inherently impact them later in life if the parents consistently recognize the children’s needs as somehow less important than their needs. Perhaps this is not the case in your situation, but as I mentioned before, when people whose needs came in second as children finally come into adulthood they may say to themselves “Great! Now I’m an adult and it’s all about me. I’ll parent as far as it’s convenient for me but as soon as it become incovenient…we’re not doing that.” You’re kids are human beings on the same level as you are whose needs are as valid as you and your partners’. The same way you make sacrifices and changes in your life for your partner is the same way you should do so for your kids. It’s modelling this caring and consideration that teaches them the same kind of behaviour and gives them the security to be truly independent later in life and without having to pretend to be independent because they were not given a choice.

      Not wanting to have to work around the kids is understandable but, to me, demonstrates a certain kind of immaturity. We all have immaturities and imperfections as people and as parents, but we should work on them, not embrace them.

  20. Jennifer

    When I was a preteen/teen I read a lot of victorian era fiction. In several books a girl would have to go live with resentful not-so-close relatives and even though they weren’t excited about her, didn’t want her at first (she, of course, charmed them) she was bedded down with some trusted adult, a grandma or aunt or some such, because it was cruel and irresponsible to force a child to sleep alone. I don’t know if this really was as common a view as fictional books of the era made it seem, or what the authors felt Should be the norm. Has anyone researched it? Did children never sleep alone back then, and if so, why did it change?

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