When parents start letting their child sleep with them, they may wonder if they’ll ever again have a bed to themselves. Parents of a nine-month-old can feel overwhelmed by the thought that their child may be in bed with them for a few years, although actually, children’s sleeping patterns and needs are hard to predict, and parents’ expectations change as children develop.
The amount of time a child will spend in his parents’ bed varies between families and within families over time. Some parents have their infant with them for the first six months to a year. Some parents let their toddler or preschooler fall asleep in their bed and then move him to his own room each night; he may spend the whole night there or wake up and come back to his parents’ room. Some children spend part of every night with their parents, while others come to their parents’ bed only occasionally.
Some parents find that having their child in bed is not very restful. An infant makes many sounds as he sleeps, and a toddler or preschooler may toss and turn, waking his parents. Some pediatricians who are advocates of the family bed recommend that parents buy themselves a queenor king-size bed so they can accommodate their child. Another possibility is for parents to place a mattress or crib in their room so their child can sleep nearby.
Most parents who let their child sleep in bed with them focus on the results. They often report that their child doesn’t have nightmares and has fewer problems falling asleep when he’s in bed with them. And families tend to get more sleep when parents don’t have to wake up and go to their child in another room. Parents who are away from their child all day enjoy the chance to be close to him at night, to give a middle-of-the-night hug and say, “I love you.”
If you’re concerned about having your child in your bed, remember that there are different ways to meet his needs. If you’re comfortable going to your child’s room, that’s a good choice for you. And if you prefer bringing your child back to your own room, that’s also okay. Whichever way you choose to respond, the important thing is to give your child the security (even in the middle of the night) that comes with your attention, love, and care.