Bedsharing with your children – experts say “no harm, no benefit”

CNN today had an interesting article on bedsharing with your toddler. Basically, the experts say while it’s not advisable for infants under 12 months old to bedshare, or co-sleep, there is no harm for kids older than 1 year. What’s important is that parents and kids are getting safe and sufficient sleep:

“If a family is going to bed-share, both parents must agree to it,”  explains Brett Kuhn, associate professor of pediatrics and psychology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.  “Make sure it’s planned and intentional and that you do it from the beginning of the night to the end of the night.  You’re not going to play musical beds when the child fusses.”

Bringing a child into your bed to stop repeated episodes of crying may not only interrupt parental sleep but  interfere in the child’s ability to soothe himself to sleep.

I agree it’s important that kids need to know how to fall asleep on their own – without you there.  But I disagree with the “whole night” requirement above.

Every family is different, and what works for some, doesn’t work for others.

What’s worked in our family is the kids spend the night in their own bed – but if they get scared, or have a bad dream, or are not feeling well, or it’s loudly thunderstorming, I want them to know they can come to us and be comforted.

And we set a time limit – they can come and snuggle with us for 5 minutes, then they have to go back to bed. When time’s up, we escort them to their bed, tuck them in, and tell them “Stay in bed and we’ll check on you in 10 minutes”.  Usually when we check on them (after 10 minutes has passed) they are asleep; sometimes they are still awake – they want to see if we kept our promise.  Then we tuck them in again, and tell them we’ll check on them again in 10 minutes.  Just knowing that we’ll be back helps them relax enough to fall asleep.

Sufficient sleep is necessary for a happy family – for both parents and kids.  The number 1 cause of grumpiness in our family is lack of sleep.  Finding a workable setup is a trial and error thing for each family.  Flexibility and patience are important.  (Oh, and did you know? According to Winnie the Pooh – grumpiness is contagious! So true.  Such a smart bear.)

As long as it works for you and everyone is getting a good nights sleep, it’s nice to know, according to the experts, it’s perfectly fine to bedshare or not to bedshare.

Photo by Vestergaard Frandsen. Called “Family Sleeping Under Net: Products of disease control textile company Vestergaard Frandsen being used in resource-poor areas of Kenya. March 2009”.  Because they don’t really CARE what experts say about bedsharing; in their case, it keeps them alive.


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