Whether intentionally or unintentionally, many parents end up sharing a bed with their children. Working parents might establish a family bed so they can enjoy some peaceful hours with their children. Other families end up co-sleeping out of desperation when their kids wake frequently during the night or refuse to sleep alone. Co-sleeping can help families get more sleep, but it can also potentially compromise the quality and duration of that sleep. Before establishing a family bed, spouses should sit down together and decide whether the benefits of co-sleeping outweigh its possible risks and disadvantages.
Adult beds can pose serious risks to infants and toddlers who might become entangled and suffocated in the bedding or trapped between the bed and the wall. Due to the potential for serious injury or death, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommend against bed sharing with children under the age of two.
If you do decide to sleep with your baby, Dr. Mary Gavin, a medical editor at the Kid’s Health website and a practitioner at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE, urges parents to follow some basic safety precautions. Always place your baby on his back. Remove all fluffy pillows and heavy comforters from the bed. Position the bed so that no gaps exist between the bed and the wall and check to make sure the mattress fits snugly in its frame. Never sleep with your baby when you are under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Most co-sleeping arrangements come to an end at one point or another, whether by parental choice or that of the child. Gavin advises moving your baby into his own room by the age of 6 months to avoid separation anxiety and other potential developmental problems. Older children often end up depending on their parents’ presence to fall asleep and might be reluctant to sleep solo. No strict guidelines dictate when you have to move your child out of your bed, but avoid moving him in the midst of reaching different milestones, such as starting preschool or mastering toilet training.
Sleep Pattern Problems
Since infants wake frequently, sharing a bed with your baby can make it easier to feed her and tend to her other basic needs -- especially if you breastfeed. As your child grows older and increasingly mobile, you might find that her wriggling, twisting and kicking interferes with your ability to sleep soundly. You might also find yourself needing to go to bed earlier than you normally might -- or taking impromptu naps -- if your child refuses to fall asleep without you in the bed. This can interfere with your ability to spend some solitary time with your spouse before bed, which can cause disharmony, especially if one parent wants to discontinue co-sleeping while the other wishes to keep the existing arrangement.