Bed sharing or co-sleeping can either be an amazing way to bond with your baby or child or a way to increase his risk for Sudden Infant Death syndrome, depending on who you ask. HealthyChildren.org recommends having your child sleep in his own crib from day one, though he can stay in the same room as you. By approximately 3 months of age, he should sleep in his own room.
Risks of Bed Sharing
Adult beds aren't designed with tiny infants in mind. If you share a bed with a baby, she could fall into the space between the mattress and headboard and suffocate, according to the March of Dimes. The pillows, blankets and quilts on a bed also present a suffocation risk. Adults or other children in the bed can roll over onto the infant in their sleep, too.
Establishing a Sleep Routine
Most babies start to develop a sleep-wake rhythm by the age of 6 weeks, and many have a regular sleep cycle by 3 months old, according to the National Sleep Foundation. HealthyChildren.org recommends helping your baby get used to sleeping alone by putting him in his crib when he's showing signs of drowsiness so he learns to drift off to sleep on his own. If your baby wakes up in the middle of the night and fusses, give him a few minutes to settle down before rushing in to check on him. Don't automatically bring him to your bed to sleep.
Older Children and Bed Sharing
Sharing a bed with an older child doesn't have the same risks as co-sleeping with your baby, but it can have a negative impact on your relationship with your partner and impact the quality of sleep you get. For example, you can't be intimate with your partner if your child is in the bed with you. If your child wakes regularly during the night or needs you to cuddle him to help him get back to sleep, your sleep schedule becomes disrupted and you become sleep deprived. Although letting your child share your bed after a bad dream seems like a good way to help calm her down, it can be detrimental, as your child might not feel safe enough to sleep alone.
Getting an Older Kid to Sleep Alone
If your older child wakes up in the middle of the night, is frightened and tries to climb into bed with you, reassure him that he had a bad dream. Walk your child back to his room and look under the bed to check that there are no monsters or bad guys. Tuck him back in and close the door. If your child regularly gets up at night and tries to climb in with you, offer him a reward if he stops doing it. For example, after the first night he sleeps in his own bed and doesn't get up at all, make him his favorite breakfast or send his favorite snack in his lunch box.
- HealthyChildren.org: A Parent's Guide to Safe Sleep
- Ask Dr. Sears: Co-Sleeping: Yes, No, Sometimes?
- National Institutes of Health: Roughly 14 Percent of Infants Share a Bed with Adult or Child
- March of Dimes: Co-Sleeping
- National Sleep Foundation: Children and Sleep
- HealthyChildren.org: Getting Your Baby to Sleep
- Children's Health Network: Sleeping with the Parents
- KidsHealth: Should My Daughter Sleep in My Room After Having a Nightmare?
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