Mother Magazine Wired Cover
January 1, 1997


By Laurie Kobliska, Syndicated Columnist

STOCKTON - Many parents today tell me they still let their children sleep with them. Most child-care experts say that shared sleep is a good thing for children.

Child care physician, T.Berry Brazelton, M.D., says he has been reevaluating shared sleep patterns in families after recently hearing from parents about this practice.

Parent surveys earlier this year report that over 25% of American parents regularly share their beds with their children for at least part of the night.

Shared sleep is usually associated with dependency, and not independence, what most parents strive for early in a child's life. However, many parents believe just the opposite. Shared sleep can actually encourage independence by giving the child a strong sense of security. Children become independent when they are ready.

It is the parents responsibility to provide a secure environment which allows a child's independence to develop on its own.

When parents seek the advice of their pediatrician many times they're told to "let the baby cry it out". That's not the easiest for mothers to understand or follow through with.

When a child cries a mother's body chemistry changes. She experiences a surge of hormones and an increased blood flow to her breasts which triggers the need to nurse.

Mother's instincts should be followed before the advice of anyone else, because they have no biological attachment to your infant.

Many parents sleep better with their baby, especially the mother. Sleep cycles are synchronized when physical closeness is regular.

Awakening during deep sleep is what causes exhaustion and if sleep cycles are shared both parent and child are likely to awaken during light sleep and mother is likely to feel more rested.

Can you get your child out of your bed once he's used to it? Not to worry.The difficulty of this, of course depends on the age of your child and you.

Before the age of 9 months it may be easier to wean them because separation anxiety sets in between 9-12 months experts say and usually eases up about age 3. Most children will accept their own bed around the third year, but children may still feel the need to 'visit' in times of need.

The older children get the less they depend on the security of their parents presence. Experience shows that a healthy child will wean himself from the parents bed in time. Each child's time, of course is different.

Children do mature in healthy environments naturally. How the child leaves the bed is more important than when.

If you want the child to leave your bed but are having trouble many parents begin by putting a mattress or sleeping bag on the floor beside their bed.

Gradually move the child to their room or a siblings room. For some parents this method works even for those 'visits'.


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