Where Should Your Child Sleep?
“I couldn’t imagine putting my child down in a crib and walking away, to me it just doesn’t feel right,” says Amy N. She, like many moms these days, are foregoing the crib altogether and opting to co-sleep, piling the whole family in one bed.
In some cultures co-sleeping is the norm. Here, it’s just one facet of the increasingly popular attachment-parenting approach, which includes forging an emotional bond between parent and child through physical closeness. Yet for other parents, co-sleeping has nothing to do with parenting philosophy – it’s the only way everyone in the house can get a full night’s sleep.
Stacy Q. enjoyed the bonding she built co-sleeping with her first daughter, particularly during the time she was breastfeeding. “As she approached toddlerhood and stopped nursing, she still needed me at night to comfort her to sleep,” she says. “When my second daughter came along, I thought I’d try something else. After realizing how tough it was to break my first daughter of the co-sleeping habit, I was reluctant to go down that road again.”
The snuggling might be great, but co-sleeping parents ready to move children into their own beds often face quite the showdown says Virtua pediatrician Charles Scott, MD. While Dr. Scott notes the convenience of co-sleeping for nursing moms, he dissuades parents from the habit and like many doctors worries about the bigger risks, such as accidental suffocation. “Loved and properly cared for infants sleeping apart are every bit as likely to be wonderfully well-adjusted as co-sleepers,” he says.
For parents committed to co-sleeping as part of their parenting style, Dr. Scott offers some important safety tips, such as avoiding soft mattresses and waterbeds and making sure infants are wrapped properly in their blankets to prevent suffocation.
When transitioning a child into their own bed, Dr. Scott explains that children learn and “un-learn” behavior when parents take the lead, and urges parents to work past the protests of their children. If a baby’s or child’s needs have been met, then it is absolutely acceptable to let the baby cry a bit, which teaches them self-settling coping skills.
“At some point the parent needs to take control and decide, ‘This is what we will be doing,’ and the kid needs to do it,” he says. “A parent helps the child learn to adjust by sometimes saying no and sticking to it. Too many parents are concerned that if the child isn't fully indulged, or if there are tears, the child will grow up maladjusted; if you are a loving parent, sometimes saying no is the best thing you can do to help a child develop properly.”
Updated June 6, 2016