Back in their own beds?


I’ve seen so many articles lately on the topic of children in the parents’ bed. This notion of the “family bed” isn’t a new one, but it is so foreign to me that I’m a little surprised to see that it is still so prevalent.

See, I thought the pendulum was swinging. When our parents were kids, they were taught to be seen and not heard. They were taught to obey at all costs. This notion of the “family bed” didn’t exist. And even when I was a kid, I can’t imagine a child sleeping in his parents’ bed.

I thought the “family bed” idea was at its peak about 10 years ago and that the pendulum had begun to swing in the other direction. I’m not sure why, but I was thinking that most kids sleep in their own beds nowadays. I guess I was wrong. The “every child gets a trophy” generation has been coddled so much by their helicopter parents that their self-esteem is being protected even while they sleep.

I know many good, caring, loving, dutiful moms who have their babies — and children — in bed with them. There’s even a small part of me that envies those snuggles. But I simply don’t think it’s worth it.

I may not win any popularity points with this post, but I will mention a few of my beliefs:

1) What good is a mom or dad who doesn’t get enough sleep? With feet or elbows in your ribs, can you be the best parent you can be without a solid night’s sleep? How patient can you be when all you’ve had is 6 hours of fully interrupted sleep?

2) Who’s to say that the child’s self-esteem is protected in the family bed? My stance has always been that my children are stronger because I prepare them for the world, not shield them from it.

3) When a child sleeps between mom and dad, how stable is the marriage upon which the family — and child — stands? I know many moms who say their marriages are stable and that it doesn’t matter where they sleep. That’s wonderful. But I also know of many marriages that thrive because of those nighttime snuggles (between husband and wife) and early morning chats. Besides, I often wonder how equitable the family bed is anyway. See my next point.

4) Do both parents usually agree to the idea? I’ve heard stories of the family bed not being so family friendly. Dad, who has to be up early in the morning and coherent at work, often sleeps in another spot in the house.

5) And finally, is this what’s truly best for the child? At what point will you send him back to his own bed? Will it really be easier to do so at 6, not 6 months? Won’t the habit be so engrained at that point? What happens when a new baby comes along? If he needs you by his side to go to sleep, does he go to bed late or do you go to bed early? Is he learning that he shouldn’t feel comfortable being alone? Is he being taught to be overly dependent on his parents when he might want to spread his wings a bit?

This reminds me of a comment I made here recently about Lucas and his lovey. It’s somewhat insignificant, but I really want him to need his lovey. The boy is almost 5, and I in denial that my baby is growing up. I need that lovey more than he does. But the fact of the matter is he doesn’t need it. He’ll hold onto it sometimes, but usually, it’s for my benefit. He knows that I want him to want it. And honestly, it bothers me a little. It’s sweet that he’s thinking of me, but at the same time, I wonder if I’m stifling his independence, his desire to grow up.

The same can be said about the family bed. Our kids want to grow up. They can’t wait to be grownups. They can’t wait to have the freedom and independence that we adults all seem to have. So why should we deny them that independence when it comes to something as simple as sleep?

There’s another article that came out recently that reflects my opinions. In My Message to Dr. Sears, the author discusses “detachment parenting.” She states:

I read a great book when I was pregnant, Suzy Giordano’s Twelve Hours Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old. (It was recommended by a well-rested friend.) She says it’s our responsibility to teach our children many things. We of course expect to teach them to eat and sit up, walk, talk, say please and wait for the green light. But she says the very first thing we have to teach them, right out of the womb, is to self-soothe. That self-reliance and self-confidence needs to be rooted in the core of their being. That thrilled me. I want a daughter who believes that she has everything inside her to meet all of life’s challenges and isn’t waiting for some invisible hand to help her do something as simple as fall asleep.

I could not agree more!



  1. I love this post and agree completely. However, I am also a parent that shares her bed. Not that I want to, though. Our 23 month old had severe stomach issues from birth on….we could NOT figure her out. She just cried and cried. It was awful. I spent from birth until just this summer (20 months) getting up multiple times a night to deal with her. She could not and still is not able to put herself to sleep. She has to be rocked to go to sleep, and when she wakes during the night, has to be rocked again. It has been an ongoing battle. We have let her cry it out and tried all the babywise methods. None have worked. She literally gets SO worked up it takes forever to calm her back down. It’s been so stressful for us. Our 4 year old is a babywise model….always slept and still does sleep perfectly, putting himself to sleep in his own bed and staying there all night. She has us stumped. She is very clingy and wants to be touching skin when she sleeps. (keeps her hand on my face, neck, etc.) She naps well and is independent during the day, but at night it’s different. The only way we’ve been able to get any rest is to put her in our bed. I don’t like it, it goes against everything I believe about children sleeping, but it’s our desperation that has pushed us to this point. She starts off in her own bed every night and when she wakes crying (usually between 1:30-3:30a.m.) we just bring her to our bed and there she sleeps soundly til morning. At least my husband and I have that time after the kids are in bed together. There have been a few nights she’s slept all night in her bed without waking, but they are rare. I am praying it just changes all of a sudden. We are considering a big girl bed for her soon thinking that may help? The worst part is that when she stays at the gparents house overnight, she sleeps all night for them. It is so frustrating. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks for all the great posts…I read them all!

  2. Sleep issues with children are so challenging. And I don’t believe that any of us have the solution for another’s child. I thought my oldest (now 11) was difficult, but my 2nd was the true challenge. I was not a proponet of the family bed and my husband was completely against it. We moved our son out of the crib early (before 2);he was crawling out and it was a safety hazard. From that point on, I spent a lot of nights sleeping in his bed for the 2nd 1/2 of the night. It was not a perfect solution. But a great deal of early parenting is survival in my opinion. I got at least 1/2 a night’s sleep, my husband was able to function through his week, and my son felt secure. The happy news was by at some point after his 2nd birthday, my son began sleeping through the night and I was sleeping in bed with my husband for the entire night. Those years were a bit of a nightmare, but we all survived.

  3. Lana Lyman says:

    Kim, Thank you for your input. My daughter will be 2 at the end of this month and I keep holding my breath she will finally start to sleep all night. Hearing your story gives me hope :)

  4. Lana, I think Kim offers a great perspective. If you are motivated to move her out of your bed, you can still do a few things. I relate, by the way. My oldest was colicky and there was nothing I could do but have him in our bed. But as soon as he was done with the colic, he was out of our bed (around 2 months). My younger son taught me though that some kids just need a gentle push. I wouldn’t recommend letting a 2yo cry it out. But when my youngest was a baby, I did the pick up/put down method described in Secrets of a Baby Whisperer. Take this with a grain of salt, because he was 4 months old, but when he woke up in the night, I went to him immediately, picked him up, calmed him down (took a minute) and put him back down. The book’s author suggests doing this for as long as it takes. It only took a few times for us. My friend did it, too, and they planned to camp out in her room for 3 nights, taking turns. Well, it only took one night.

    So I think if you give her that gentle push, she might surprise you. You might also go to her bed when she wakes up. That way, she still gets you, but she has to stay in her bed. Then you can leave again when she wakes up. But the whole night, she’s never allowed to leave her bed. Then when she’s used to that, you can still keep her in her bed but instead of lying down with her, you can just give her a hug and put her back down.

    The fact that she sleeps at her grandparent’s house is really telling. She CAN do it. Give her that push, and she’ll do it for you, too. It’s all about setting expectations and developing a new habit. It might mean one or two sleepless nights, but plan it over the weekend, and you’ll all be better off for it in the long run.

    Good luck!

  5. Lana, I agree with Maureen, our second was colicky and had reflux and we had to have our him in our bed for the first few weeks mostly because he just didn’t sleep. We’d just pass out holding him after the 8th hour of rocking. He didn’t even really sleep there but would sometimes be sort of quiet and we could lay down, lol! Eventually we got him to sleep some in the swing. Not ideal! But, once we got his stomach issues fixed we immediately started transitioning him into his crib with as many helps as we could (swaddle, snuggleu, white noise, etc). Anyway, he’s a fantastic sleeper now but even today at almost 2 he will wake screaming if he eats something he’s intolerant to. I’d definitely recommend tackling the issue from both a behavior perspective (pick up/put down gradually moving out of her room) and a health perspective by eliminating any foods that might be causing her to wake in the middle of the night. Dairy and soy were our big culprits and to this day even crackers with soy lecithin in them will cause stomach pain for our son.