Practicing attachment parenting generally leads to a great deal of research. In addition to simply wanting to be well educated about my parenting choices, I’ve found myself researching parenting topics regularly for many reasons. Family and friends tend to come to me for advice and information because they know I’ll find the most accurate availible. This led me to further research in college, focusing most of my electives in psychology and education. You’d be surprised how much a thorough knowledge of such topics helps in political advocacy, as well.
A family bed is one where the parents welcome their children to sleep in the parental bed. Outside of the United States, this is a common practice. Often, children don’t even have their own beds as the family shares sleeping accommodations. Sometimes, all the males will sleep in one bed, all the females and babies in another. Sometimes, the children will all sleep in the same bed as Mom, and Dad will sleep in his own bed.
The details vary, but the basic premise is the same. A family is a unit, not a group of individuals. Children are part of a family, not just being cared for by their parents. It’s a much more fluid and connected concept than mainstream America promotes.
They may not talk about it often but most American families actually have family beds to some degree. Some families do insist that children sleep in their own beds every night, no matter what. Most parents at least allow their children to join them when they have nightmares. Many allow them to whenever they like. Some parents even encourage their children to join them at night.
There are some simple and obvious benefits to a family bed. If a hug from Mom or Dad promotes feelings of trust, certainly spending the night being held by them will increase that bond. Most adults prefer sleeping in the arms of someone that loves them. Children deserve that same comfort, and will have a closer bond with their parents and siblings for it.
Children that are expected to sleep in their own beds all the time all have one thing in common. They all have parents that complain about trying to keep their kids in bed. Excuse after excuse, and often stealthy late night missions to get into their parents’ bed are common fare. When children are welcome to join their parents, they don’t have to find excuses to do so.
Children in families with family beds tend to be more self-confident and independent. Since they feel fully emotionally supported and closer to their parents, they don’t need to cling to them the way other children might.
Children that sleep in family beds are less likely to suffer from sleep disturbances like nightmares, bed wetting, and many more. This is partially because they are more emotionally secure, but also because their parents are right there to help them with their needs. They also have a lower likelihood of suffering from sleep disorders, probable for the very same reasons.
Less Sibling Rivalry
Since they have closer bonds to their siblings, there is less sibling rivalry. It doesn’t mean they won’t fight, but those fights are less intense and less often with co-sleeping families. This is one of the most common benefits families with a family bed seem to comment on.
People that don’t practice family beds insist that letting their children sleep with them would cause the children to become overly dependent. There are no studies to back this up, and even anecdotal evidence disputes it more than supports it. It’s something you’ll hear a lot if you have a family bed though, so it’s good to understand.
Babies that aren’t crib trained can be dependent on their parents to help them fall asleep. This leads people to believe that children will continue that dependency no matter how old they are. In reality, the reason babies often need their parents love to relax is that they are not developmentally ready to sleep independently. The older a child is, the easier it is for them to self sooth and fall asleep on their own.
Babies are also notoriously difficult to transition away from their parents. Small children can be too. Generally speaking, the more a child is in need of comforting the more they’ll fight sleeping on their own. Again, the older a child is, the easier this transition is. The older they are, the more they will transition themselves to their own bed at their own pace. If a family wants to transition a child into their own bed before they are ready to start sleeping there voluntarily, it can be difficult.
A number of factors can make it hard for some or all of the family to sleep in a family bed. If anyone is a light sleeper, other’s movements or noises can disturb them. If anyone is a heavy snorer, it can upset everyone’s rest. If anyone is an active sleeper, kicking, rolling, sleep walking, etc. it can be disruptive too. These are all common complaints at some level for families that sleep together. Sometimes it’s so bad they decide to transition their children early. Other times, it’s an inconvenience but so outweighed by the benefits it’s considered tolerable.
While bed wetting is less common in family beds, it does happen. There are also other messes to consider, as well. Some children sweat a LOT, or drool. If you only allow your children in your bed occasionally, you run a higher than usual risk of waking up to urine or vomit. Children are going to want your comfort more when they’re feeling ill. You’ll still have to clean these things up if children sleep alone, but you won’t wake up laying in it.
Parents shouldn’t be sleeping in the nude or engaging in intimacies with their children in the bed. To parents that are used to having that level of privacy it can seem as though they will never have any. Most families are comfortable working around a bed full of kids and finding other times and places to be together. Even for those families, it can sometimes be a daunting task. If like is already highly complicated, adding one more obstacle can cause an unjustifiable level of tension in the marriage.
This seems to be the biggest reason parents choose independent sleeping arrangements. The other parents may look down on you or even make fun of you. They’ll tell you that you need to “cut the cord” and that your children will be dependent. Sometimes they’ll even make insulting comments about there being a sexual reason behind your choices. The kids friends only ever care if their parents have made a big deal out of it, but the other parents can be brutal sometimes.
Each family faces this issue, and handle things the way that suits them best. While there’s no doubt that family beds are the healthiest and most supportive option for the children, a family is made up of more than just children. Parents have to decide if the cons sound likely to occur in their home. If not, the only reason to insist on individual sleeping arrangements is lack of self-esteem and self-confidence when faced with the judgments of parents that make different choices. If the cons listed sound likely, it may be more beneficial for the family to sleep alone most of or all of the time.
If you are going to continue allowing your children into your bed, here are a few tips.
*Be prepared for occasional opposition. Parents that make less nurturing choices tend to be very defensive, even if they have good reasons for their choices.
*A simple way to get a little privacy is to lay down with the children in one of their beds until they fall asleep, then join your partner in your bed for a while. If the children want to join you later, they’re welcome to.
*Even if you have a family bed, it’s a good idea to have beds for each child anyway. In many parts of the United States, it can be considered neglectful if your children don’t have their own beds. Also, it will foster more love and independence if the children have a choice between sleeping alone or with their parents.
*If you’d like them to transition to their own beds, talk to them about it. They’re usually more open to the idea if you explain the reasoning and work with them to make it a comfortable transition.
*If talking didn’t work, make them comfortable with it in spite of themselves. There are many methods. You can move their bed into your room and have them sleep in it. Then, move it further from your bed and towards their room a little each night. I suggest doing their evening routines in their bed instead of yours, and staying with them until they fall asleep. When they wake up they’ll come to your room, but it will be later and less common each night.
*Above all, don’t let anyone make you feel badly about your parenting style. If your prime concern is for the welfare of your family and upbringing of your children, you should be proud of your efforts and confident in your decisions.