co-sleeping with your kids: a look at the pros and cons

We never thought we'd do it...and now here we are.  The 4 year old has gone from coming in in the middle of the night to full-on sleeping in our bed from start to finish.  I know a lot of other parents, especially of preschoolers, are dealing with this and asking themselves: is this okay, is this best for my child, our relationship, our sleep (or lack there of).  It still feels a little taboo to have your child sleep in your bed, even though in so many other countries and cultures, it's the norm (or at least much more accepted).  So here's what I've discovered and what some of the experts say:

The Pros of Co-Sleeping:

*Together time: A friend recently confessed to letting their 4 year old daughter come in their bed lately very early in the morning to sleep/snuggle.  She reported bringing this up with her pediatrician who said it was totally fine and in fact, at this age when children are away from their parents a lot (school, daycare, classes, etc.), and very independent when they're awake, they may actually NEED this time with their parents for comfort and security.  And parent's may need it too.

*Security for the child: To elaborate on the above, even though one might think a child who sleeps with his parents will grow up to be dependent and too attached to his parents, many studies have actually found the opposite.  A child who sleeps with his parents has more "normal" cortisol (the stress hormone) levels than a child who sleeps on his own and has been shown by a few studies to be more independent, more comfortable with intimacy as an adult, more self confident and even more self-reliant.  With all this being said, I think it's important to keep in mind that these positive traits are a result of many other factors, not just co-sleeping.

* Better sleep:  Really?  Seems counterintuitive but everyone may actually sleep better....sort of.  When a child wakes up and walks into your room crying at 3 am, it wakes you up and is upsetting for everyone.  Perhaps you're able to fall right back to sleep, but if you're like me, you're awake for 30 minutes or more while he snuggles in or you take him back to his room and deal with that whole thing.  When you're sleeping together, everyone may wake up a bit more often, but usually for a shorter time and it's less stress inducing when it happens.

*Talking time: Some of my favorite conversations with Sam are when we're snuggling in bed and his little mind is thinking out loud.  He says the sweetest and funniest things, asks intelligent and touching questions, tells me that I'm the best mom, and talks about the little things that are concerning to him like the boys at school who are bigger than him.   This conversation doesn't come out as easily at breakfast or in the general rush of the day, but it's so important to make time for it, especially as they get older and are dealing with peer pressure.  Granted, this doesn't have to be in bed, but that's where it seems to happen for us.

* The power of touch:  Touch can improve everything from the immune response to cortisol levels and as your babies and toddlers grow into preschoolers, they often want to snuggle less, but there's still something to be said for it when they do.  And who doesn't like to snuggle (most of the time).

The Cons of Co-Sleeping:

*Time with your partner: This is the big real explanation necessary.  You have to find other time for each other and this can and obviously should be done, but it takes the extra effort.

*Time away from your kids:  There have definitely been mornings where I feel like I haven't been away from one of my kids in days.  And there is absolutely something to be said for alone time to reset and restore.  If you don't get it in the shower, bathroom or bed...where exactly can you find it?

*Sleep: if you're not one to wake up easily if your child comes in in the middle of the night,  but you do get disturbed by all the elbows to the face, you're sleep quality might suffer.  With anything, it probably depends on the child, on the night and on how much you value your sleep space.

*Safety: This post is focused on co-sleeping with a toddler or preschooler, not with an infant.  If you're co-sleeping with an infant, you should be aware of all the safety precautions you must take and the different pros and cons associated with that.  We went through a stage with our second son where he slept in bed with me as an infant because it was the only way he would sleep.  It worked pretty well for the few weeks or months it lasted (it's all a blur) and made nursing easier for us, but there's always the safety concern!

So with all the above, you might think I'm an avid co-sleeper...not exactly.  Maybe I'm trying to convince myself that it's okay (and the points above make a decent case) because right now it's working for us and it's easier.  What I have decided is that no matter what the "studies" say or what your mom tells you is best, what's really best is what's best for you and your family.  Trust your gut and let go of the guilt (that's what my mom says is best ;) and realize that no matter what you choose, this won't be the last battle, but it will only last a short while in the grand scheme of things.


  1. We are big co sleeping fans. Ella never once slept in her crib. When they do sleep in their own beds, we stay with them until they fall asleep. We aren't even putting up the crib for baby #3, but purchased an arms reach co sleeper and a king size bed. :)

    1. Thanks for the comment, Kelly! I'm going to have to figure out the situation for #3 too. Good luck :)


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