When my husband & I got married, one of our first major purchases was a massive king-sized bed. After a few months of sleeping jammed up against each other in a full-sized bed like sardines in a can, we basked in the luxurious grandeur of a massive king mattress.
We chuckled about the vast canyon of space between each of our “sides”…then we had kids.
And soon after, our copious amounts of unused mattress real estate was gobbled up by our horde of kids, who flopped around in their sleep like a fish caught on a line. While my husband & I were on the same page about allowing our kids to come into our bed at night if they wanted to, sleeping with kids is no easy feat.
In fact, co-sleeping can resemble a New York City subway station- it’s usually too hot, too crowded, & might just be hazardous for your health. And let’s not forget the aroma of urine, because KIDS.
Whether you’re an avid supporter of co-sleeping or firmly against it, it now seems that letting your little one worm his sneaky little self into your bed at night has some pretty big perks in the long run.
According to some studies, children who sleep with their parents at night become intelligent & confident adults, with a higher degree of self-esteem than their peers who didn’t co-sleep.
(Great. Yet another study that basically says, “Hey, parents that don’t do things THIS way? You’re doing it wrong.“)
The parenting website The Healthy Mummy compiled various studies completed by independent researchers that have evaluated if co-sleeping had any beneficial effects for children.
Research indicates that there are multiple perks to children sleeping with their parents.
NOTE: These studies all focused on children that were older than one year of age. There’s a lot of controversy about infants sleeping in the same bed as adults, because pediatric experts believe that co-sleeping puts infants at a greater risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). As such, they advise against co-sleeping with babies.
Research duo Robin Lewis and Louis Janda surveyed college students in order to assess any correlation between co-sleeping & and an individual’s level of emotional/sexual security. They reported that their subjects indicated that being able to sleep in their parents’ bed led to a marked decrease in potential anxiety, as well as a greater sense of emotional intimacy with their parents.
Numerous respondents stated that:
It always gave me a feeling of security to know that if I had a bad dream I could crawl into bed with my mom and dad.
This emotional intimacy apparently translates well into future relationships, allowing a greater degree of ability to ideally connect with a partner both sexually & emotionally.
For women in particular, co-sleeping resulted in less discomfort with physical contact and affection as an adult. But there are apparently benefits for boys, too.
According to the research, boys that slept with their parents between birth to age 5 were better off, too; subjects reported less anxiety, less guilt, higher self-esteem, and -get this- a greater frequency of sex than those that did not co-sleep as child (what the WHAT?!).
The study reveals that the positive effects seem to last for an extremely long period of time, too:
Turning to a sample of college psychology students, a retrospective survey found that males with a history of sleeping with their parents had higher self-esteem, less guilt and anxiety.
Yep, talk about benefits, am I right?? In fact, one study shared in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reported that the co-sleeping subjects from their study had a higher level of confidence and higher self-esteem.
The study (“The Co-Sleeping Habits of Military Children” by J.F. Forbes) also claims that co-sleeping children fared better academically and… (whoo, boy!) had less psychiatric problems than those who did not.
So basically, folks, if you’re not allowing your child to sleep in your bed, you’re screwing them up for LIFE!!
Now granted, some selective research has indicated that children who co-slept with their parents appeared to be more well-adjusted individuals.
But before you either beat yourself up over not allowing your child in your bed, or -even worse- now feel guilted into doing so simply because some research says you’d better or else… let’s take this with a grain of salt.
We all want to raise happy and healthy (both physically/emotionally) children. As parents we’re often confronted with research or experts that bombard us with exactly what we “should” be doing, which is overwhelming to say the least.
It’s even more overwhelming when the advice you’re hearing flies against what you personally have chosen to do. No one wants to feel like they are choosing anything detrimental for their child, so research can be a heavy instrument of guilt in these cases.
No matter what the subject, you can always find a study contradicting what you’ve chosen to do.
Case in point: breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding. When I had my oldest child, breastfeeding wasn’t well supported. In fact, the hospital nurse did everything she could to try & sway me to give her formula, even guilting me with “your baby won’t get enough to eat”. You couldn’t say anything worse to a new mom. Thankfully, my doctor heard it & chewed the nurse out. I breastfed, my baby thrived, despite my choice to ignore the so-called ‘expert’.
But later… experts insisted that “breast was best”. By the time I had my third child, the pressure on new moms to breastfeed was intense. The nursery wouldn’t even give mothers the option to bottle-feed unless they specifically asked to do so. The pendulum had swung, but with the same result: potential guilt for anyone who didn’t choose whatever was deemed “best” by the experts.
We’ve seen the same thing with research about moms that work vs. moms that stay home.
Or children that attend daycare facilities vs. those that don’t. Moms that let young kids use electronic devices vs. those that don’t.
Anyone of us could manage to find legitimate research that we can selectively use to support our perception of what’s best.
While the subject of the research can vary, the bottom line is: you won’t always agree with what the “experts” say. And that’s YOUR RIGHT AS A PARENT- to make the best judgement call for your child.
In the case of co-sleeping, the benefits reported in this research are nifty. Who wouldn’t want to raise a child that’s confident, secure, can love well, and thrives in school?
But there are many ways to raise children with those very same beneficial qualities, regardless of if they’re sleeping in your bed at night or not.
Of course we want our children to feel safe, nurtured & loved. But what we do to cultivate those ideals during their waking hours should be our primary focus.
If you love co-sleeping & savor that nighttime bond with your child, then by all means keep doing so. But if you love on your child and savor the bond you have with him or her yet tuck them into their own beds at night, then by all means keep doing so.