Bedtime battles: Is sleeping next to your kids to help them fall asleep OK?

Posted in Sleeping.

I’ve never really mastered the art of putting our kids to bed, closing the door and walking out.

Like a lot of other parents I know, between 7-8pm most nights you’ll find me lying on the bedroom floor in our sons’ room.

It’s a great vantage point for dust mites and lost socks and matchbox cars. And if I’m honest – something of a rest!

Avoiding death by Fisher-Price music

I pull out the spare mattress from under my eldest’s bed and lie down with one hand stroking the hand of my one-year-old. And now we listen to Kinderling’s Bedtime Explorers meditation sessions for kids, we’ve also been rescued from death-by-Fisher-Price bedtime songs via the baby monitor. 

Even though I’m a stickler for bedtime (and sleep generally) and I get annoyed about this process from time to time, for some reason, most nights I decide to go with it. Mostly because of the peace it seems to bring our little ones.

Even our almost five-year-old still takes great comfort from one of us lying in the room while he drifts off.

And so long as you don’t have anything to do that requires your concentration afterwards, it can actually be quite restful.*

Which can’t be a bad thing when you have little ones under five – can it?

The expert jury is a little out on this one

As Wendy Wisner writes in her lovely post for Scary Mommy on sleeping next to her kids, most child health professionals encourage you to jump over this hoop in the baby sleep training phase.

I managed it for a brief and pretty glorious time when our second was about nine months old. But as soon as he moved into a cot in the shared bedroom, all bets were off.

The most compelling argument against lying next to your sleepy kids relates to the often-controversial ‘attachment theory‘, defined by the United States National Library of Medicine as: “responsive and contingent parenting [that] produces securely attached children who show more curiosity, self-reliance, and independence.” The argument being that in sleeping next to your child, you are compromising their ability to fall asleep on their own and thereby, actually threatening their independence.

Personally, I think it’s an age and stage thing. While our five-year-old takes great comfort from our presence in the room, there have a been a few times recently where he’s been happy enough with a kiss on the cheek. And certainly friends with older children (ages 7+) tell me that more often than not, this is the new normal for them; they just kiss on the cheek and walk out the door.

Mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue from Babyology’s Parent School says there are pros and cons to this habit:

“The pros are that your child does gain a sense of peace from this nightly routine and if you’ve been at work all day, it’s a great opportunity to connect peacefully,” says Chris. “But on the other hand, it also means that you’re trapped there on the floor for several years! So, it comes down to the parent’s personal preference. What feels right for you?”

 *Just don’t fall asleep yourself …

The one danger, of course, is that in your enthusiasm to get your little ones to sleep, you may nod off yourself! 

Nothing feels quite as bad as that groggy, jet-lagged feeling of waking up at midnight on the floor of your child’s bedroom with your phone in your hand.  

Still. Sleep is sleep, right? Gotta get it where you can. 


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