Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Sleeping with the Parents (Bed-Sharing)
Pros and Cons
In general, bed-sharing is not recommended. Although it's
not harmful for your children to sleep with you, it's
unnecessary and it may cause problems for you. Once begun,
it's a rather hard habit to break, so consider the following
before you allow your child to start sharing your bed:
- Your child doesn't need to share your bed to be secure
and happy. Children's fears and insecurities can be
dealt with in other ways. Children turn out fine either
way. In some countries, families share beds out of
necessity, but most children in our country sleep happily
in their own beds.
- Bed-sharing is not quality time. If your child is asleep
in your bed, it is a neutral time. If your child is
crying and keeping you awake, it is an aggravating time.
- Several studies have shown that more than half of the
children who sleep with their parents resist going to bed
and awaken several times during the night. Most parents
who share their beds have to lie down with their child
for as long as 30 to 60 minutes to get them to sleep.
Most of these parents don't get a good night's sleep and
become sleep deprived. Sleeping with your child is a bad
choice if you are a light sleeper and you need your sleep
to work well during the day.
- Bed-sharing is never a long-term solution to sleep
problems. Your child will not learn to sleep well in
your bed and then decide on his own to start sleeping in
his own bed. With every passing month, this habit
becomes harder to break. Your child can no longer sleep
- There is no evidence that bed-sharing produces children
who are more spoiled or dependent.
Prevention of Bed-Sharing
- During infancy, place your child in his crib when he is
drowsy but still awake. He will learn to put himself to
sleep at bedtime, which is a skill he will need to return
to sleep after normal awakenings at night.
- Make nighttime feedings brief and boring. This is easier
to do if you and your child aren't sharing a bed.
- Move your child into his own room by 3 or 4 months of
age. Have a rule that he does not leave the crib at
night and, after age 2, that he does not leave his
bedroom at night except to go to the bathroom.
- If you must sleep in the same room with your infant,
don't allow him to see you during his normal awakenings.
If he does, it is an invitation to play.
- After 6 months of age, encourage a soft toy or stuffed
animal as a security object. Otherwise he may select you
as his security object.
Most children in our country do just fine with these
Putting an End to Bed-Sharing
If you are sharing your bed with your child and want to
stop, here are some suggestions:
- Tell your child the new rule: "You are too old to sleep
with me anymore. You have your bed and I have mine.
Starting tonight, I want you to stay in your bed during
- For being a "good sleeper" who sleeps in his bedroom all
night, give him a treat with breakfast.
- If your child leaves his bedroom, take him back
immediately. If he does it again, close his door until
he's in his bed.
- If your child gets into your bed during the night, order
him back to his own bed using a stern voice. If he
doesn't move, take him back immediately without talking
- If your child gets into your bed while you are asleep,
take him back to his room as soon as you discover him.
If he tries to leave his room again, temporarily close
his door. If you are a deep sleeper, consider using some
kind of signaling device that will awaken you if your
child enters your bedroom (such as a chair placed against
your door or a loud bell attached to your doorknob).
Some parents simply lock their bedroom door. Remind your
child that it is not polite to wake up people who are
sleeping, unless it is an emergency.
Expect some crying. Young children normally cry when they
don't get their way. But continue to be firm and you will
win back the privacy of your bed.