Six Reasons We Don’t Let our Daughter Sleep in Our Bed

The gang's all here.
Ready for a good night’s sleep (this photo is several years old).

By Estelle Erasmus

Usually I share the pieces that I’ve published on the blog, but the end of 2015 got away from me. I am particularly proud to have published this piece on The Washington Post On Parenting column at the end of 2015 that talked about why we haven’t let our daughter sleep in our bed. I have gotten some flack for it (don’t read the comments they always say, and I always do), and some of my writer colleagues also took issue with what I wrote. I stand behind my piece, because I researched it, and it is what works for my family. Would love to know your (respectful) thoughts.

My husband is South-African, and culturally where he comes from bed sharing is a popular habit in families. But we did not let my 6-and-a-half-year-old daughter sleep in our bed. Why? Because we have seen relatives and friends go down that slippery slope and once you go there, there is no coming back.

I’ll admit when she was a baby she co-slept with us – which is different than bed sharing. We had her sleep next to our bed in her pack and play. Studies show a baby’s physiology is more stable when she is close to her mother. When my daughter was just under a year old, she returned to her crib in her own room for sleeping. She had been taking naps there since she was a newborn, so she was in familiar territory.

But bed sharing as a regular practice was never on the agenda for us as a family. Here are my reasons why I don’t think it’s a good idea (and one time when I did allow it):

Studies Show Sleep Problems: The research shows that kids who sleep with their parents have bad sleep habits. They sleep for shorter amounts of time and wake up more during the time they should be sleeping. Those bad habits can last a lifetime. Disturbed sleep in children is also a predictor of behavior issues. No thank you for my daughter.

Say Bye to Sexy Time: I believe allowing children to sleep in your bed hurts a couple’s relationship. If my hubby and I want to make love after my daughter goes to sleep at night, we can. It allows us to keep our relationship alive! We have recently purchased some toys and fun bits (click here to see what I mean) and we want to be able to use them freely and have fun, just like we did before having children. We love our children immensely but I also love my husband and it’s nice to get a little loving back too. Couples who allow their kids to sleep with them have a harder time carving out intimate time. Resulting in males and females resorting to adult content from the likes of which never fully satisfies the desire for your partner intimate touch.

Read the rest on The Washington Post On Parenting

To see my other pieces on The Washington Post check out:

When I wrote about my daughter being out of control (and what I’ll do to fix it in 2015)

When I wrote about my husband doing the laundry

When I wrote about why I didn’t want anyone to touch my pregnant belly.

My 2015 Year in Publishing

So what are your (respectful) thoughts on children sleeping in your bed?

15 thoughts on “Six Reasons We Don’t Let our Daughter Sleep in Our Bed”

  1. Great points! But I’d have to say I don’t feel entirely comfortable with letting a one year old sleep in his room alone. While we didn’t really let my son sleep with us on our bed he had a cot in our room. He was a little over 2 before we started to transition him into sleeping in his bedroom. We didn’t experience any problems during this stage and I’m glad we waited a little longer to do this as I feel this has made our bond stronger.

  2. After your intro, I couldn’t resist taking a look at the comments and it seems that most people who complained didn’t really get that you aren’t talking about babies, since you had your baby right close to you.
    In my opinion this is a totally personal decision and there is no right or wrong way. What works for one person doesn’t for another. I didn’t get the impression that you believe your way is the only way, but some commenters did seem to get that impression. I guess it depends on how sensitive we feel about our own choices.
    I did find what one commenter said very interesting though – that research that only looks at possible impact in the western world is always going to be flawed, because it excludes so much of the world who may successfully use methods that don’t work so well in western culture.
    I also think it’s a mistake to look at tribal cultures, see what works there and think we *should* apply it here. There’s a woman – I forget her name – who did a lot of research into child-rearing in some tribal cultures that she saw working well, and when she wrote about it, many people in the west picked up on some of what she said and rigidly tried to implement it – with different results to what she’d observed. I haven’t read her book, but read an article she’d written about how she’d been misunderstood.
    I guess she’s a brilliant example of how what the reader brings to a piece of writing is as important as what the writer does – which is something it’s not always easy to remember as a writer!
    For what it’s worth, my own experience was a mixed bag. My first daughter slept all night the first night and then never again for years! We drifted into a pattern of her starting the night in her crib and by early morning she was usually beside me. She was incredibly sensitive to emotions around her (still is) and when we moved house (and cities) a few months after her birth, the only way she could sleep was right beside me. As things settled down, so did she. So I tend to agree with the commenter who said sometimes parents take kids into their beds because of sleep problems that already exist, rather than that taking a child into your bed causes them sleep problems. It’s a bit like the researchers who found that having a nightlight caused children to grow up short sighted. It later turned out they’d missed a very important point – kids with nightlights tended to have short sighted parents who’d put them in for their own benefit, so the kids were genetically more likely to end up short sighted!
    This is of course, why we need to follow our own intuition, rather than research and it sounds as if that’s what you did and do.

  3. You make a lot of good points! Just like everything with parenting, we’re all putting together a balance of all the many choices we have to make. We all know best what our families (and ourselves) need. Good for you for doing what made the most sense for your family! We have always allowed our little one to sleep in our bed when she prefers (she does sleep in her bed, too). We’re doing what’s best for us, too! 🙂

  4. Well, I’ll have to be the first to disagree. At 59 yeas of age I have raised 3 children and have 3 grandchildren. All of my own children shared the family bed. For me, it was easy. I was also a working mother so sleeping together made it easy for me to nurse at night without a big interruption of sleep. For my 2nd child, he always started out in the crib, but when it was time for nursing, I never got up and put him back. My 3rd never slept in the crib.

    I understand the negatives. When my husband and I needed time together, we took that time with the babies or children elsewhere. There were no behavior issues other than normal teenage stuff. But the positives were phenomenal. Now at 35, 33 and 23, my children, myself and husband are extremely close. When I had my first child the family bed was a big thing in the world of parenting. I don’t hear much about it now and I guess I see why. The tide is flowing the other way.

    But culturally with other countries I see the benefits, have learned from it and now have a wonderful family who’s children have been nurtured the same way. I’m all for the family bed and I think people are missing out or misinformed about ‘what’ harm is does. Just my two cents.

  5. I don’t have children, so I have no experience with bed sharing, but your reasons are so logical. I can’t imagine anyone would find fault with your perspective. Brenda

  6. I know this is going to sound strange but…
    When I was growing up, way back in the Fifties, my four sisters and I were not even allowed to walk. uninvited, into our parents’ bedroom. It was their territory and we had our own. I’m not sure why this was, but for one thing, their room was always a lot neater that our rooms were.

  7. I would never let my children sleep with us either. I think it’s dangerous too. I was always afraid of rolling over on them. Yikes! I’ve read stories about that happening. Good awareness post for sure!

  8. I never thought bed sharing was healthy for the child. I was afraid of the dark as a child and I think if my parents let me sleep with them I never would have learned to face that fear. I agree with your decision.

  9. We never had a “family bed” per se, in which children and parents slept in the same bed. That being said, when our children (mostly our son) came crying in the middle of the night because of night terrors, we let him in. All cultures have a different view on this issue.

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