The query: Some parents share the bed with their infants or allow their children to join them in bed when the kids don't want to sleep on their own.
What tips can you offer to help a family transition children to sleep in his or her own bed?
Taking turns: I remember those first few months as a nursing mom. I was tired, and it was comforting to take a hungry baby to bed and fall asleep with her. But ... sleep became elusive for everyone.
Although the last word is not yet in about the value and safety of sleeping with a baby, we knew that there were some possible risks to the baby. What worked for us with later babies was to have the bassinet close by so we could be tuned into our baby's sounds.
And we took turns. Dad listened for the sounds, learned to interpret them and tried to respond before they became wails. He prepped the babies for nursing - changed the diaper and delivered him to Mom. Mom finished the job and did the return trip.
A single mom could keep the baby's bed at her bedside for easier "prep and return."
- Jeanne A., of Eugene, mother of five adult children (one adopted), grandmother and great-grandmother
When they are ready: Ahh. The age-old question - where do the little ones sleep, and if we let them sleep with us as babes, how will we ever transition them out?
Perhaps a bit of anthropological perspective. For centuries, children slept with their parents, then with other siblings, and that is still this way in many, many cultures.
Somehow, Western culture has decided that all children "need" their own rooms, and that the two most mature family members get to snuggle together all night, while the most emotionally needy young ones are put in their own bed, in their own room, and expected to "cope."
Sounds pretty crazy, when it's looked at in that way.
Children will transition on their own when they are emotionally ready. For some kids, it's at age 2; for my oldest, it was at about age 12.
And I promise you, they won't come home from college and want to share a room with you!
-Barbara M., of Eugene, mother to three adults sons (one set of twins), stepparent to two young adults and a grandparent
Always back to their bed: We didn't have our infants sleep in our bed. The bassinet was in our bedroom for one night, and since we both just laid there listening to our son breathe, we decided that was not going to work.
I read somewhere that if infants wake up in the same environment as they fell asleep, they might go back to sleep. And so while he was held and comforted until almost asleep he might open his eyes upon being placed in bed. We were pleased that by 12 weeks he was sleeping eight-plus hours.
As the children got older, they would occasionally have a nightmare and climb into our bed. They would fall asleep and one of us would carry them back to bed.
When the kids were about 4 years and 6 years, we moved to a house where the kids slept upstairs. They both started coming down in the night and were welcome in our room, but on the floor in a sleeping bag. The problem took care of itself.
- Laurie R., of Eugene, divorced single mother of two adult children
Create bedtime routine: There comes a point when sharing a bed with a child is no longer mutually satisfying. Although everyone needs a good night's sleep, change can be difficult.
Create a bedtime routine that ends with children falling asleep in their own beds. Put them down when sleepy but not quite asleep. People naturally wake up and fall asleep during the night, and waking up someplace different can be disorienting.
If they do cry, comfort children in their own room. Be gentle and firm: Children feel more secure when they know rules are consistent. Otherwise, they have to keep testing those rules and take longer to adjust.
Older children often wake up because they need to go to the bathroom but end up in the parent's room instead. If you discover a sleepy little visitor by your bed, quietly help them take care of business and get back to bed.
- Emilyann L., of Eugene, married mother of six (ages 3 to 13)
Be consistent: Transitioning from the family bed to sleeping independently can be very stressful for a family.
Healthy sleep habits are imperative for a healthy life. Give children a bedtime routine to follow every night.
Start with a warm bath followed by warm pajamas. Spend some time in their bed with them chatting lightly about their day and happy subjects so being asleep or alone doesn't bring on anxiety or fear. Read a favorite book and then give them your love before you head out.
A night light should always be OK. Leaving the door open if they stay in bed is a great reward.
Finally, I always put a cup of water next to the bed for thirsty moments. Be firm, consistent and remain calm.
It may take some sleepless nights, but everyone will be better off over time.
- Lori W., of Eugene, married with a grown daughter and two foster kids
Keep crib nearby: I had both my babies in my bed when they were nursing, and I can't remember it being a problem to transition them to their own bed.
I remember the crib being near my bed, and when the child stopped waking at night, the crib went into the child's room.
It is nice to have a rocker for rocking babies to sleep, and I read older children to sleep.
- Carol S., of Eugene, 68, mother of two adult children, grandmother and great-grandmother
Respond lovingly: This won't be welcome to many ears, but I think the family bed creates as many problems as it solves. It costs a couple the sanctuary of their bedroom, literally letting a child come between husband and wife for a period that often lasts at least two years, and usually costing at least one of the triad some sound sleep.
Then there's the stormy transition to the child's own crib or bed. I'd fight hard against losing that big, warm bed and its all-night parental attention, too!
We all know that sleeping with an infant is dangerous because of suffocation risks, but it's the most this old mom would recommend. By the time baby is a few months old - and sooner if possible - babies should be in their own bassinets or cribs.
Respond lovingly and quickly to all of baby's needs, day and night, and I can't imagine a negative impact on bonding and attachment.
- Ellen W., of Eugene, a 58-year-old mother of two kids, 22 and 17
Set up a sleep station: For various reasons, including sleep patterns, my husband and I decided before we had children that we would not share the bed with them. We have stayed true to that decision about co-sleeping, but we found there were a few situations where it was beneficial to have a child in our room.
When the need arose, we set up the Pack and Play (playard/playpen) or a sleeping mat next to our bed and took care of the child from there. If parents are having difficulties transitioning from co-sleeping, I think that is the place to start.
Rather than the child sharing your bed, you set up a sleep station next to you on the floor. In the beginning, a parent may have to cuddle with the child for a while, but don't give into the temptation to actually sleep with them (having their bed on the floor probably will make that decision easier).
After they are doing well with sleeping on their own, bring the elements of the sleep station to the bed in their room. Sometimes, a sleeping bag on the bed is an adventure that makes sleep more appealing!
Once again, a parent may have to cuddle with the child until they are close to sleep, but don't actually fall asleep in there.
Times will come when a relapse to sleeping in the bed will be tempting. Try not to go back to your bed, but the floor. That gives the understanding that it is a temporary situation and hopefully won't bring back the dependencies of co-sleeping.
- Laura H., of Eugene, married mother of five biological and adopted children, all 12 and younger
Comforting, then back to bed: Huh. We never had this problem.
There were times we got up to comfort a fussing baby - we often joke that our oldest didn't sleep through the night until she was 15! - but as soon as the baby was asleep, back to bed he or she went.
I've often suspected that children sleeping with parents is more for the parent's (or parents') comfort than the child's. I can relate to that: We let our dogs sleep on our bed.
- Jonathan S., of Springfield, father to three adult children (one adopted)
Perseverance through crying: My daughter was 2 when adopted, and she didn't sleep in our bed. However, when she couldn't sleep I slept in her room so her cries wouldn't disturb her dad.
Initially, we would let her cry for a bit in increments of 10 minutes, 5 minutes and 1 minute. I hated hearing her cry, but part of her transition at that time was moving from the foster home she had known since birth and into our home.
Her transition was much different than an infant.
- Jae M., of Eugene, mother to a 28 year-old daughter who has cerebral palsy and mental illness
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