There are many myths about bedsharing out there. Despite studies showing the benefits of bedsharing, doctors and parenting experts continue to advise against it. More and more parents are beginning to practice this. As it becomes more common, the myths are being dispelled; however, we still have a long way to go. Some people still cling to these old wives’ tales as if they are reality or cannot see past their own preconceived notions. There are many positives to bedsharing and very few actual negatives.
Bedsharing and cosleeping are the same thing. No, bedsharing is a form of cosleeping. Cosleeping is when your infant beds near you, such as in a bedside bassinet. Bedsharing is when you and your child sleep in the same bed. Many use the terms interchangeably, but the two are separate practices.
It creates dependant children who will never develop autonomy. This is completely false. Children who cosleep with their parents often become more independent than those who don’t. The harder you hold onto your children, the more they will pull away. This also works in reverse. While some children take longer than others to move to their own bedroom, by the time they are adults, they are just as capable as any other person of living an independent life. My son is 21 months old and still bedsharing. He falls asleep and wakes up on his own, puts on and removes his own shoes, feeds himself and puts his dishes away when finished, and insists on doing anything himself that he can. Toddlers are going to develop autonomy and independence, and children that feel secure in their relationships with their parents will do so without any prompting.
You’ll never get them out of your bed. Obviously this isn’t true. Some children may take longer than others to give up bedsharing. Every child moves at their own pace. One of the reasons some children take so long to transition into their own bed is because of the way the parent handles the situation. If the transition is gentle, gradual, and not forced, the child is much more likely to comply than if you remove them from your bed, plop them down in their own, and tell them to go to sleep without any further discussion. Very few teenagers still sleep with their parents. Most children are in their own beds by the age of 5, often by their own choice. Children reach a point where they want to be independent and pull away. How many grown men do you know who sleep with their parents still?
They need their own space to sleep well, to learn to sleep through the night and fall asleep on their own, and to become comfortable with being alone with themselves. This is absolutely untrue. My son hasn’t slept alone one single night. At 21 months, he sleeps through the night waking up only once to nurse. He drifts off to sleep on his own for naps and bedtime, though I do occasionally allow him to nurse. Most of the time when he wakes, he looks around and simply goes back to sleep on his own. He is also quite capable of being alone in a room or downstairs while I write, do laundry, or watch TV. He plays by himself quite a bit. Children do need their own space, but it doesn’t have to be at night. If children who slept with their parents did not sleep well, their parents problem wouldn’t be sharing a bed with them. Moreover, again, I ask you: how many grown men do you know who can’t handle being alone to do their work or watch TV, and how many grown women do you know who need their parents in the bed to sleep at night?
It’s dangerous, because they can fall out and become injured. While it is true that a child can roll off the bed, there are ways to prevent this from happening. Bedsharing can be made safe. Many parents put something against the bed or install a bedrail so their child cannot roll off. Married couples have their children sleep between them, so that one parent is between the child and each edge of the bed. There are sleep positioners for infants. Even a few stacked pillows at your child’s side can keep him from rolling off. You could also go a step farther and stack some on the floor, so that if he did roll, he’d have a soft landing.
It’s dangerous, because parents can roll over onto their babies and suffocate them. This is slightly true, but exaggerated. Most of these occurrences are freak accidents that are over-reported. How many cases do you hear of children dying of SIDS in their cribs at night? Not as many, but more children die of suffocation or SIDS alone in their cribs than do from having their parents roll over onto them. New studies show that bedsharing decreases the risk of SIDS. Moreover, intelligence can prevent these accidents. Bedsharing parents know not to take sedatives or partake in alcohol prior to sleeping with their infant. Heavy sleepers, and those who tend to toss and turn and night, should not cosleep. Mothers who breastfeed have been shown to be more aware of their babies. A mother NOT inheriting that awareness is like a mother not inheriting maternal instinct. It doesn’t happen often and is rare, but when it does happen, the media jumps on it…so it seems like it’s much more common than it really is. Most parents won’t roll over onto their babies, and most who accidentally do will notice that there is a lump under them!
It affects intimacy and interferes with the sex life of the parents. This may be true for some, but a little creativity can prevent this. The bed isn’t the only place to have sex. You can have sex in the hallway, on the couch, or in the shower. Bedtime isn’t the only time you can have sex either. Many parents who want to become intimate in bed will simply move their sleeping child somewhere out of the way. Some parents, of young babies of course, are quite capable of enjoying themselves even with their child in bed–given that something is between the child and the edge. Parents can hire a sitter to watch the child for an evening a week. They can plan ahead and lay the baby down somewhere else on nights that they wish to copulate. Many bedsharing couples manage to conceive another child while still cosleeping with their first. If their sex life was awful, how did they accomplish that? Bedsharing with your children does not mean you cannot find a time and a place for sex or the creativity to keep your passion alive.
It has no benefits, besides to make breastfeeding more convenient at night. This is absolutely untrue. Sleeping near another person, particularly the baby’s mother, helps to regulate a baby’s heart rate and breathing. Infants who sleep in their parents’ bed are more likely to sleep on their backs or sides, which decreases the risk of SIDS. Bedsharing encourages bonding and is a great way for parents and their children to spend quality time together. It saves money, because you don’t need to spend on a separate bed. Bedsharing actually makes more independent children. Mothers don’t have to worry about their babies when they are lying right next to them. Babies are less likely to cry for prolonged periods when they bedshare, which is beneficial as prolonged crying (as is more common in infants who sleep alone) has been shown to have negative impacts on babies and their brains.
Bedsharing parents advocate giving their children constant attention. This is absolutely untrue! We enjoy being with our children, and we want to give them the benefits of being close to us. We believe in being responsive to our children’s cries, not giving them constant attention. Most of our children, during the day, would much rather play on the floor by themselves than snuggle up with mama. I give my son attention when he needs it, and that’s it.
The real drawbacks associated with bedsharing are very different from the ones preached about in these myths. For one, people often warn that parents could roll over onto their child and suffocate them. The truth is that your child is much more likely to roll over onto you. It doesn’t interfere with sex, but it can cramp your style. Some babies like to take up a lot of room and need to be repositioned throughout the night. Some kick or snore. There are also benefits that are rarely mentioned, such as the wonderful feeling of completion a mother feels as she falls asleep next to the people she loves most–or wakes up next to them. Whether or not bedsharing is right for you is up to you, but don’t be turned away from it by the common misconceptions about it!