The Family Bed: Is it OK to let the kids bunk in?

I spent the better part of my childhood afraid of one thing or another. I remember a number of occasions in which thoughts of the Boogie Man, monsters under the bed, strange noises and nightmares sent me running into my parents’ bedroom looking for solace. When logic and reason failed to dry my tears or quell my overactive imagination, my father was usually persuaded to trade places with me so that I could snuggle with Mom while he spent the night in my twin-sized bed with a thousand stuffed animals and dolls keeping watch over him.

Many parents say cuddling with a frightened child may be one thing, but regular co-sleeping is something else entirely. While it is a common practice in other cultures, here in the U.S. the “family bed” is highly controversial. The American Academy of Pediatrics claims that co-sleeping increases the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome while other medical professionals (including the doctor who delivered my youngest son) say it’s perfectly safe.

Actress and author Mayim Bialik, Ph.D (of the “Big Bang Theory”) is the mother of two boys and is proud of the fact that she has never owned a crib or a bassinet. She argues that co-sleeping with her children allows her more rest than a conventional arrangement would allow “for complete and utter confidence by the mother.” Being next to them means every movement and every breath pattern can be monitored. Others disagree, saying parents need their downtime away from the little ones, especially at night.

“Our decision to not co-sleep with our children has allowed us to nurture our relationship as husband and wife, while at the same time instilling in our children the importance of being independent,” says therapist Suzanne M. Brown. “Sleeping in our bed was not even an option.”

We asked glo readers to weigh in on the concept of the family bed and here is what they had to say:

Robin Tidwell: “I’m against it. It’s hard to sleep with feet in your face, or if you’re tense about injuring or squashing a baby, but mostly because a strong marriage equals a strong family – and parents need down time, aka alone time.”

Janine Rigg (expectant mother): “My husband and I plan to have a crib in our room for a few weeks at first, but I don’t think I could have the baby in the bed with us. Maybe when it’s older and has a bad dream ON OCCASION, but not every night.”

Dana Rigg: “It’s too dangerous! I have three, and while I admit to laying down from sheer exhaustion once or twice, I didn’t sleep. Husband is a very heavy sleeper. I was always too afraid of rolling over on the baby. I know two people who did, and the baby suffocated. It’s not a habit you want to get into because they don’t rest and you don’t. A child who will sleep perfectly still in their own bed can become a world class breakdancer while sleeping with you! Comfort for the occasional bad dream, yes. The benefit to the child outweighs your loss of sleep. But don’t make habits that later on will be hard for you and the child to break.”

Lorna Staite Chouinard: “I think cuddle time and comfort from nightmares is very different than falling asleep together and not learning how to self sooth and creating time for both child and adults in their own space. Health and safety issues aside, I’m a believer in everyone having their own space.”

Sleep Safety

Safe Kids Worldwide is a global organization dedicated to the prevention of injuries to children. They say that unintentional suffocation is the leading cause of injury related death in children under one year of age. Nearly threequarters of suffocation deaths among infants are from accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed. They recommend the following sleep safe tips: • Babies should always sleep in a safe crib, bassinet or pack-n-play. • Babies should be placed on their backs for sleep. • Forget the stuffed animals, bumper pads and cozy accessories. Babies only need a firm mattress covered with a tightly fitting crib sheet for a good night’s sleep. • Room sharing is safer than having your baby in bed with you. • Always return your baby to his or her own crib when it is time to go back to sleep, no matter how tired you might be. For more information, visit Safe Kids of Allen County at Lutheran Children’s Hospital: http://www.lutheranchildrenshosp.com/interior.php?t=126


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