Family Bed - Should You Have a Family Bed?

Considering a family bed? Already sleeping with your kids and feeling bad about it because of comments made by others? A lot of people get uptight about this, but it's just a remnant of our puritanical roots. There's nothing wrong with sleeping with babies or toddlers, but since there are arguments against the practice that initially seem sound, in this article, I'll lay out the pros and cons.

First of all, you should know that I speak from experience. Each of my children slept with us until they were about three years old. The older they became, the more difficult it was for us because they often shifted position during the night and my husband and I would wake up with little feet in our face or falling out of bed because our child was hogging all the room. When this started to happen—when our sleep was getting compromised—we figured it was time to transition our child into his own bed.

Aside from occasionally getting kicked in the face by a toddler, I loved having a family bed. When my child was an infant, there was something so reassuring about knowing that he was nestled in the safe, warm place between his parents' bodies. When he woke up during the night, I was right there to respond to him. If he needed to feed, I was accessible. Every night, I counted my blessings as I was lulled to sleep by the comforting sounds of his gentle breathing and the subtle rise and fall of his little chest. When he awoke crying, I didn't need to drag myself out of bed into another room (although we did have a nursery and crib set up, which we never used.)

Some people warn that you shouldn't sleep with a baby because you might accidentally roll over on and crush him, but I can tell you that isn't a real danger. I'm a light sleeper and even while I slept, I was somehow aware of my body's position, relative to my baby's.Maybe if you drink alcohol, do drugs or are a heavy sleeper, this might be a concern, but we never even came close to hurting our baby in any way and in fact, I felt much more secure having our baby sleep with us.

Another argument against the family bed is that you'll never get your children out of it. Experts claim your baby will become so dependent on you, he won't know how to soothe himself. Well, I have news for these so-experts: babies are dependent, period. Attending to their dependency needs is what gives them the sense of trust, confidence and courage to strive for independence.

Unlike some parents, I don't subscribe to the let-your-baby-cry-himself-to-sleep school of parenting because cries are the only way a baby can communicate his needs. Cries can mean a baby is hungry, sick or wet, but it can also signal the need for emotional comfort and physical closeness. If you don't answer your the cries of your baby, you are teaching him that he can't depend on you to provide for his needs.

Although there are definitely more pros to having a family bed than cons, I will be honest and say that I probably got less sleep than I needed, especially as my child became a toddler and would shift position more during the night. Sometimes, my husband and I would awaken as we were pushed off the bed because my toddler was laying perpendicular to us. For most families, including ours, this signaled that it was time to transition our child to the toddler bed at the foot of ours and eventually, to his own room.

All in all, I'm glad that we had the courage to have a family bed. It is at least partially responsible for the close bonds my husband and I enjoy with both our children and the fact that they are healthy, happy, resilient and confident.

About the author: Laura Ramirez is the author/publisher of Family Matters Parenting Magazine and the author of the award-winning book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting. The book teaches parents how to raise children to develop their natural strengths and grow up to lead uniquely purposeful and fulfilling lives. It offers a very different take on parenting.

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