Normal Parent Behaviors and Why They Won’t Hurt Your Child

My child is still sleeping in our bed

Posted Mar 10, 2013

Normal Infant Sleep Part 3

Many parents who sleep with their child get comments along the lines of, “Your child will never leave if you don’t move them” or “What about your sex life?”.  Parents end up questioning if they are doing the right thing for their child. Or they wonder if they will end up with a 16-year-old who still wants to crawl into bed with mom and dad every night.  First, let’s address the question of when a child leaves the bed.  Rest assured that your child will not be dragging you off to college so they can still sleep with you even if you don’t force them out of the bed.

The age at which a child is ready to move into their own room varies widely and bedsharing is quite common worldwide.  Notably, bedsharing rates in Scandinavian countries and Asian countries are much higher than those in the US or Canada (Mindell, Sadeh, Wiegand, How, & Goh, 2010; Nelson & Taylor, 2001; Welles-Nystrom, 2005; for a review, see Cassels, 2013).  Parents polled by one the authors about the age at which their child initiated the move to another room report ages as young as 18 months and as old as 10 years.

Some factors that influence the transition age include: having a sibling in the other room (thus being able to room-share with another child), the presence of a new baby in the bed (and needed attention to safety for the new baby and disrupted sleep for the older child), and the child’s own developmental needs. Each family will need to consider the factors that are relevant for their particular child.  No one should tell a family that they must stop the family bed if it is working for them.  Importantly, the research on extended bedsharing has not found any social, emotional, or cognitive detriment for bedsharing children relative to children who were placed in their own room in infancy (e.g., Abel, Park, Tipene-Leach, Finau, & Lennan, 2001; Barajas, Martin, Brooks-Gunn, & Hale, 2011; Keller & Goldberg, 2004; Okami, Weisner, & Olmstead, 2002).

The second issue that is often brought up is to do with the marital relationship when the family bed is utilized.  New research looking at bedsharing and marital satisfaction has reported no influence of bedsharing on the marital relationship when bedsharing is intentional (Messmer, Miller, & Yu, 2012).  When bedsharing is in reaction to child sleep problems, parents may report greater stress on their relationship, but it is likely that this is due to the problems associated with infant sleep problems.  As to intimacy, parents of co-sleepers and bedsharers often find creative ways to make sure their needs are met as well.  There are excellent (and humorous) blogs on the topic if you’re in need of some extra assistance.

 Previous posts in this mini-series:PART 1,  PART 2,

Next posts in this mini-series:  PART 4, PART 5

Posts in Sleep Series:

Baby Sleep Training: Mistakes “Experts” and Parents Make

'Let Crying Babes Lie'? So Wrong

Simple Ways to Calm a Crying Baby

Normal, Human Infant Sleep: Feeding Method and Development

Normal Infant Sleep: Changing Patterns

Normal Parent Behaviors and Why They Won’t Hurt Your Child

Normal Infant Sleep: Night Nursing's Importance

More Normal Parenting for Sleep

Understanding and Helping Toddler Sleep

Understanding and Helping Toddler Sleep-Tiredness?

Understanding and Helping Toddler Sleep--Preparing Success

SIDS: Risks and Realities

Bed Sharing With Babies: What is the Hype About?

Bedsharing or Co-Sleeping Can Save Babies' Lives

Also, check out: Dangers of "Crying it Out"

Co-Authors

Tracy Cassels, University of British Columbia, www.evolutionaryparenting.com

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, babycalming.com

Wendy Middlemiss, University of North Texas

John Hoffman, uncommonjohn.wordpress.com

Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Texas Tech University, http://www.uppitysciencechick.com/sleep.html

Helen Stevens, Safe Sleep Space

James McKenna, Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory, University of Notre Dame, www.cosleeping.nd.edu

References

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Barajas, R.G., Martin, A., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Hale, L. (2011).  Mother-child bed-sharing in toddlerhood and cognitive and behavioral outcomes.  Pediatrics, 128, e339-e347.

Cassels, T.G.  (2013).  ADHD, sleep problems, and bed sharing: future considerations.  The American Journal of Family Therapy, 41, 13-25.

Delgado, P.L. (2006). Monoamine depletion studies: Implications for antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 67(4), 22-26.

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Hibberd, C.M.; Brooke, O.G.; Carter, N.D.; Haug, M; Harzer, G. (1981). Variation in the composition of breast milk during the first 5 weeks of lactation: implications for the feeding of preterm infants. Arch. Dis. Child., 57:658-62.

Lee, K.A. & Gay, C.L. (2011). Can modifications to the bedroom environment improve the sleep of new parents?  Two randomized control trials.  Research in Nursing and Health, 34, 7-19.

Lien, E.L. (2003). Infant formulas with increased concentrations of α-lactalbumin. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 77(6), 1555S-1558S.

Meltzer, L.J. & Mindell, J.A. (2006).  Sleep and sleep disorders in children and adolescents.  Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 29, 1059-1076.

Messmer R, Miller LD, Yu CM.  The relationship between parent-infant bed sharing and marital satisfaction for mothers of infants.  Family Relations 2012; 61: 798-810.

Mindell, J. A., Sadeh, A., Wiegand, B., How, T. H., & Goh, D. Y. T. (2010). Cross-cultural differences in infant and toddler sleep.  Sleep Medicine, 11, 274-280.

Mosko, S., Richard, C., & McKenna, J.  (1997).  Infant arousals during mother-infant bed sharing: implications for infant sleep and sudden infant death syndrome.  Pediatrics, 100, 841-849.

Narvaez, D., Panksepp, J., Schore, A., & Gleason, T. (Eds.) (2013). Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development: From Research to Practice and Policy. New York: Oxford University Press.

Nelson, E.A.S. & Taylor, B.J.  (2001).  International child care practices study: infant sleeping environment.  Early Human Development, 62, 43-55.

Somer, E. (2009) Eat your way to happiness. New York: Harlequin.

Spencer, J.A., Moran, D.J., Lee, A., & Talbert, D. (1990).  White noise and sleep induction.  Archives of Diseases in Childhood, 65, 135-137.

Trevathan, W.R. (2011). Human birth: An evolutionary perspective. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

Uvnäs-Moberg, K. (2003).  The oxytocin factor: tapping the hormone of calm, love and healing. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

Welles-Nystrom, B. (2005).  Co-sleeping as a window into Swedish culture: considerations of gender and health care. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Science, 19, 354-360.