Should I Let My Baby/Toddler Sleep with Us?

Sleeping safely with baby
Sleeping safely with baby

Is the Family Bed for Us?

Is the Family Bed for Us?

I've never been one to listen to other people's opinions on much of anything - especially not parenting. The way I see it, if someone had figured out the way to parent every child in every situation, they would have written a book by now, they would be rich, and we would all be required to follow it or risk penalty of death. Since that has yet to happen, I'll do my own research and follow my own instincts. I did that with my older two (now 19 and 16) and I will do it again with my 17 month old - and yes, I said 17 month old. One of the more controversial things that I have done - with all three children - is allowed them to sleep in bed with us. Now, if you admit this to someone here in America, they will frequently look at you as if you just admitted that you put tequila in your baby's bottle every night. So why do people react like that and what is the truth about the "family bed"?

History of the Family Bed

For as far back as we have records, and in every known culture, babies and children regularly slept in the bed with their parents. This was done for practical as well as health reasons. Most families could not afford separate beds -- much less sleeping quarters --for all their children. Keep in mind that until recently families typically had 5, 6, 7 or more children. Additionally, by letting baby sleep with mom and dad, you were assured that your little bundle of joy wouldn't freeze to death in the night. Also, until the advent of formula less than 50 years ago, moms found it much easier to feed baby in the middle of the night since baby was already in bed with her. In most parts of the world today, co-sleeping is still considered the norm. Even in places where it is not the norm (United States, Europe and Australia) it is coming back into fashion and can be considered a significant minority.

Is it Safe for Baby's Physical Health?

As with most controversial topics, you can find a study to support either side of the debate. Opponents of the family bed claim that it raises the risk of suffocating baby. Those in favor of letting baby sleep with mommy and daddy say it helps prevent SIDS. Both sides have a point and both can site statistics to back them up so I won't bore you with them. The bottom line is that if baby is in the bed with mom and dad, baby is less likely to fall into the deep sleep associated with SIDS. On the other hand, it is possible to suffocate a baby that is sleeping in the bed with mom and dad. In my experience, moms don't move in the night when they know baby is in the bed with them. I don't know why or how we do it, but we do it. We can fall asleep next to baby and wake up in exactly the same position 5 hours later. I am convinced that there is an internal maternal gauge that just KNOWS there is a baby next to us. Of course, if you don't want to rely on your internal gauge, you can always buy a sleep positioner. This allows baby to be right next to you but reduces the risk that you can roll over on baby.

Is it Safe for Baby's Mental Health?

Again, you can find a statistic to support either side of this issue. I will, however, argue vehemently that allowing a baby to sleep with her parents DOES NOT IN ANY WAY produce an overly dependent child or adult. My 19 year old and my 16 year old both slept with me until they were about 3 years old. I distinctly remember moving my son into his toddler bed (still in our room at first) to make room for his sister. Not only are they two of the most INDEPENDENT teenagers I know, but they were like that back in Kindergarten as well. My theory was - and is - that if my children feel secure with me then they will be more secure venturing out into the world. It worked for my older kids. They didn't wet the bed, they didn't have nightmares, they didn't scream and yell when it was time to go to bed, and they weren't clingy. Maybe I just got lucky - who knows. I will say though that I have asked them, now that they are older, whether they felt scared to explore the world when they were little. They have both told me in so many words - "no...because I knew you would be there if something went wrong". Those are all the statistics I need.

What about My Relationship with My Spouse?

Here's the big question. How does your spouse feel about the idea? In my opinion, it is CRITICAL that both spouses are in favor and fully support the idea of having baby in the bed. My older children are from my first marriage and their father basically agreed to whatever I decided - that worked at the time. My current husband thought I was crazy when I was pregnant and mentioned that my older kids slept with me. He couldn't fathom the idea and instead insisted on buying a rather expensive - but beautiful - crib for our daughter. I'm glad it's so beautiful to look at because it has never been used by our daughter! From the moment she arrived in the hospital, he couldn't imagine her being even 10 feet away. At first it was "well just for the first few days - maybe you were right". Well the first few days have turned into a year and a half and he will have nothing to do with putting her in her crib. He insists that he can't sleep if she's not there. There really is nothing more intimate than snuggling up with your husband AND your baby at bedtime. As for sex, well all that requires is a little creativity.

In the end, you have to make the decision yourself - with your spouse. Just remember that if you do decide to let baby sleep with you - you are hardly alone!

UPDATE: My daughter is now 3 1/2. About 2 months ago she decided that SHE wanted to start sleeping in her big girl bed. She transitioned to it easily. She is still in our room and can climb into bed with us in the middle of the night if she wants, but most nights she sleeps peacefully in her own bed. This makes three children that have slept with me and made the transition to their own bed with ease.

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Comments 24 comments

balvarez143 profile image

balvarez143 6 years ago from New York City

I have been working with parents on this issue for more than 10 years. I do believe it is a personal issue but when your child is old enough to go to daycare or school is when the problem begins. I see children suffering from sleep deprivation because of this and they don't nap at school at all. This makes their day very difficult for them and those around them. I think that children are better off sleeping in their own space.

nancy_30 profile image

nancy_30 6 years ago from Georgia

I let my two children, when they were young, sleep with me. It was a lot easier on me because I breastfed. Now they have their toddler beds they sleep in. I miss having them with me of a night.

leigia67 profile image

leigia67 6 years ago Author

Balvarez - I think everyone has a their own experiences and their own situation. For me, my kids had no problems - we'll see with this one. Thanks for the opposing view point though :>

Nancy - thanks, as always for your comments. I feel the same way you do - easier on me (I breastfeed also) and on them.

Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia

Before I had children, I was of the mind that children shouldn't sleep in the bed with their parents.

How quickly that changed when I had a c-section with both of my children, and found that in additon to not only having them share the bed with us was easier on my healing body, it was very comforting to have the closeness of baby, daddy, and mommy in the bed together.

I agree, there are some pros and cons to both sides of the coin, however cosleeping with my toddlers has worked well for my family.

The only drawback, my husband and I do have to get creative when it comes time to "come together" - but come to think of it, that actually adds a little spice.

leigia67 profile image

leigia67 6 years ago Author

Thanks for your comments you can see, I am a believer in having baby/toddler with you at night. We just couldn't imagine not snuggling with her in the middle of the night...

cbris52 profile image

cbris52 6 years ago

Really enjoyed your hub! Thumbs up!

leigia67 profile image

leigia67 6 years ago Author

thanks cbris!

Janet 6 years ago

Thank you this made me feel a lot better about keeping my 2 year old in bed with us. My husband works night and my son screams everytime i even try to take a nap in his bed with him. Strange thing is when he goes to daycare he doesn't mind sleeping alone

leigia67 profile image

leigia67 6 years ago Author

Janet: I think it's all in what is their comfort daycare they are used to sleeping alone but at home if they know they have the option of sleeping with mom and dad then that is what makes them comfortable...just do what is right for your family and all will be well!

chick 6 years ago

oh my goodness finally i found a site that says its ok for your little one to sleep with you i feel like crying. no more sitting on the end of my little princesses bed or camped out on the landing. i can assure you we will all be snuggled up in my bed tonight happy. huh who needs suppernanny

leigia67 profile image

leigia67 6 years ago Author

Snuggle away! My little one will be two in September. She JUST noticed her crib this week. Luckily we bought a rediculously expensive one that turns into a day bed/toddler bed and then a twin bed so it's not too late for her to use it. We took the front rail off an turned it into a day bed. She hasn't actually slept in it yet, but she likes to play on it. When she's ready she'll sleep there the same way my older kids did. My husband, however is already dreading that day...he's afraid HE won't be able to sleep without her in bed!!! :>

Penny 6 years ago

Great article and some quality comments too. It really is up to each parent what they decide as every baby is different. Sometimes the expert's advice is very appropriate but many parents have found doing things differently can be equally as effective. - Penny

ajc_80 profile image

ajc_80 5 years ago from Northwest Ohio

I love this article. I remember when i was pregnant with our daughter, I thought "Oh, no way will she sleep in our bed! It's way too dangerous!" Little did I know that our baby's temperment would lead to co-sleeping. It's the only way I've found to get sleep. I find it frustrating when other parents are negative about co-sleeping because unless you are going to live in our household for a week, you don't really know what works for my child. If there is anything that I've learned about parenthood, it's that every child is different and they all have different needs.

ER/Trauma Nurse 4 years ago

I have to comment as a mother and as an ER Nurse. I did let my child sleep with me when he was older ON OCCASION and AFTER he was 2, not on a regular basis. From day one from the hospital my kids went into their beds in their rooms. I see a lot of comments that are FOR the babies sleeping with the parents, but let me tell you how many parents would change their mind if they spent one day or night in the ER watching parents' devastation as their babies are not successfully resuscitated. And whoever said that mothers do not roll onto their babies does NOT know what she is talking about. ANYONE who sleeps with a baby is risking that child's life. If you have to be near your baby, put a bassinet or crib in your room. Do NOT put them in your bed. The last baby that came in was napping with the father on the couch and was suffocated. It's a horrible, horrible thing to watch parents realize their child is dying or has died because of their negligence. My heart has been broken hundreds of times watching this and working on babies who have been suffocated in their parent's beds. Yes, all children are different and all children have different needs, I agree 100%, but EVERYONE needs to know the risks they are taking. (Because it's never happened to you or someone you know doesn't mean it doesn't happen. It does! FREQUENTLY.)(There are those few that survive but a large percentage of those are left with lasting brain damage.) Very sad.

virgil 4 years ago

Hey...I just started to wonder abt this son is 19 months old and I'm a single dad....he loves layin on my chest and fallin asleep with me rubbin his back....what are some proven disadvantages of sleepin with him. Other then a partner and that's not an issue anymore.

virgil 4 years ago

Plz send comments or infO

leigia67 profile image

leigia67 4 years ago Author

Virgil: Sorry, I can't respond to e-mails, but this biggest issue with letting a child sleep with you is the risk of rolling over and suffocating him/her. This risk diminishes, clearly, the bigger and older the child is. There are two "camps" of thought on this. One camp argues that a child will be more insecure if he/she sleeps with a parent while the other argues the child becomes MORE secure. I am obviously from the second camp. I believe that the more you let a child know that you are always there for him, the more independent he becomes as he grows up. Worked with my now 21 and 18 year olds!

sunbun143 profile image

sunbun143 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

I personally favor bedsharing, extended breastfeeding, and attachment parenting, and I love your article. Thank you for sharing your viewpoint! The only downside I'm experiencing is a toddler that wriggles around a lot but at least we have a king-sized bed.

leigia67 profile image

leigia67 4 years ago Author

Sunburn: The space issue does come up lol, but that just makes for more snuggling right ? :)

Gemma 4 years ago

I suffer with severe arthritus and never had my son in bed with me until lately he wakes up eary hours of the morning and wants mummy cuddles. His dad goes in his bed as he has a proper double bed now. It isn't selfish to have him inbed with me, just easier and lovely just like the bnd wehad when I breastfed him. He is now 2 and a half and I always make sure hes ony got is blanket on and I never roll over as I find it uncomfortable too, I believe as long as yourbaby/toddler and you are happy nothing to do with anyone else.

Feebee 4 years ago

Thanks for this article. I felt so much pressure to have baby in her own bed, and I persisted for 9 months. So 9 months of sleepless nights trying to settle her. In the end my husband had had enough and demanded I put her in our bed. And what a change it made!! I still get worried and I say 'I'm going to try the cot again tonight' but my husband just looks at me and says 'NO!' as he pointed out, western culture is really the only culture where families don't sleep together. We all sleep better together. But I do lie, and if people ask I say she's in her cot, in her room. I can't stand the judging looks and comments - makes me feel like a terrible mum!

leigia67 profile image

leigia67 4 years ago Author

Feebee: I'm so glad you are all happier. Don't feel like you have to lie! If we would all be honest about it, more people would be secure in considering it an option. Mine just transitioned -- very easily-- to her bed in our room a couple of months ago at about 3 years and 3 months. She still crawls into bed with us if she wakes in the middle of the night, but she loved her own bed becaue she was never pressured into sleeping in it.

Dana 4 years ago

Thank you so much for this article, it really made me feel better about sleeping with my baby!

The truth is that I love sleeping with my 5 month baby boy, but there is so much pressure in our society from friends and family in regards to this issue... they all want baby to sleep in his crib... He actually does go to sleep in his crib and will sleep there for half of the night usually... then he ends up with me in the bed that I placed in his room so that he gets used to sleeping in his room. My husband is ok with this arrangement, even if it will last for a couple of years (or even more), because we do get some private time together in the evening and first half of the night. The only problem I this it's other people saying to us what's wrong and what's right. I feel so much pressure about this sleeping situation, instead of just enjoying it, because I know it will not last forever... I feels so good to know that I'm not "weird" or a bad mom, and that other parents sleep with their babies! thank you!

leigia67 profile image

leigia67 4 years ago Author

Dana: I'm so glad you feel a little better now. Seriously, follow your heart on everything you do with your child. If you love your son, then it will not lead you astray...unlike friends, neighbors and well-meaning family members.

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