Friday, June 11, 2004

The 'family bed' ruffles feathers



By Doreen Nagle
Gannett News Service

Most families have tried it if even for a few nights, but the idea of everyone sleeping on one mattress every night raises eyebrows in some homes while it brings smiles in others. Is it for you?

Pro

• In many countries, sleeping in the same bed as a family is the norm. Our ancestors practiced this sleeping arrangement for centuries, sleeping in caves and later, small cabins, without lasting psychological harm. Very few families had the luxury of separate bedrooms for every child.

• Small children and babies may sleep more securely cuddled next to Mommy's and Daddy's warmth. If they awaken during the night, a parent is on hand to feed and nurture them back to sleep.

• Moms sleep better when there is a breastfed infant involved because she does not have to get out of bed for middle-of-the-night feedings or other nocturnal awakenings. Some research even points to an infant's ability to develop the same sleep patterns as his mother when the two share a bed.

• For families that don't get many daytime hours together, sleeping together can mean sharing early morning or bedtime pillow talk about each one's day, as well as future dreams and hopes.

• Many parents who sleep-share with their young children say the bond of love and trust is more tightly woven as a result.

Con

• The jury is still out on whether children who share a family bed will develop the skill necessary to comfort themselves to fall asleep as they get older. Will it be more difficult for them?

• Parents not only lose privacy and intimacy, but they also lose sleep for fear they will roll over on to their infant. With older children, many parents spend their nights dodging wiggling arms and legs or tolerating tossing and turning.

• Not every child has the temperament or need to sleep with her parents. It is not something that should be forced on an unwilling child.

Alternatives

• Move your infant's crib next to your bed so you can easily check on her during the night. Try keeping the side of the crib closest to you down and you'll be able to simply reach over as if she were in the same bed.

• Let your child fall asleep in your bed and carry him into his own bed later on, right before you are ready to jump in for the evening. Or, try the reverse: put him to bed in his own room and bring him into yours when he wakes up during the night.

Safety

The risk for sudden infant death syndrome increases when babies sleep face down on surfaces that are too soft. Infants need hard surfaces - no pillows - and to be positioned face up. Waterbeds are strictly verboten.




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