showfront

Coming out of the bed-sharing closet

Aug. 2, 2011 at 10:46 AM ET

My 5-year-old comes into our bed some nights. All right — so it’s most nights. But I send her right back to her own room.

Fine, it’s every night and I’m so crazy tired I realized we’ll all get more sleep if I just let her stay, rather than do the back-and-forth dance of taking her back to bed.

And you know what the experts say? It's fine.

Researchers are saying relax when it comes to bed-sharing. If it works for your family, go with it. There is no harm to your child’s intellectual or social development, according to a new Columbia University study of nearly 1,000 families. (Click here to read more about the study.) The American Academy of Pediatrics still recommends against co-sleeping until after age 1 due to the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The Columbia study was on toddlers.

Why the stigma attached to bed-sharing? Dr. Joshua Weiner, child and adult psychiatrist, tells TODAY viewers that “parents don’t want to look like they don’t have control over their kids.”

Bed-sharing is common in Asia and Africa, but it’s not the norm in the U.S. However, there is a growing trend of parents no longer afraid to admit they let their kids snooze in bed with them.

“My son is four and we have let him sleep with us whenever he needs since he was born,” Ericka Iverson wrote on our TODAY Moms Facebook page. “We don't worry about it because like all other phases of life, he will outgrow this and sleep on his own when he feels safe and comfortable to do so.”

Amy Stitzel Vandermark, another TODAY Moms Facebook poster, warns: “Don’t do it! I made the mistake with my first -- now 6 -- and she still has difficulty falling asleep alone and we’re just finally getting her to stay in her room all night.”

Sure, there’s the risk of interrupted sleep with junior tossing and turning, not to mention the minimal opportunity to get busy with hubby under the covers. But you can always get creative with making time for romance.

Related from TODAY Moms: Mayim Bialik on why her kids share her bed

If you’re ready to reclaim your bed, Weiner offers his tips: Carry your child back to his room gently but firmly. Be boring—don’t play or act silly. Rub his back. Be ready to repeat.

“My daughter slept with us until she was 5,” Keri Johnston wrote on our Facebook page. “She sleeps in her own room now, but still sneaks in once in a while! I love that we had all that ‘snuggle’ time together; they're only little once!”

Sleep is key for good health, Dr. Weiner explains to TODAY viewers. “If everybody is sleeping well, I don’t care where you sleep.”

Do you let your kids snuggle with you at night -- and are you comfortable admitting it? Does the new bed-sharing research help you to be more open about your sleeping arrangements?

Julie Weingarden Dubin is a Michigan-based freelance journalist and author with three rocking kids, a loving husband and a trashed minivan. She covers health, psychology, parenting, relationships and pop culture. 

TOP