When a baby is born, most parents would order a crib to ensure that the baby is not co-sleeping. In fact, some parents take a hard stand and let the baby cry until he is tired and sleeps on his own in his crib. For older kids, beautiful nurseries are made to coax them into sleeping alone. Stuffed toys are given as replacements for human touch.
And all of it, to prevent a bad habit which may not be so bad after all.
Let’s look at it from a child’s point of view first. Nighttime is dark, quiet, lonely and intimidating, even to adults. We often seek company ourselves. It is only natural that the child would look for security or a familiar touch as he closes his eyes. But will he need that all his life? Not likely. We have hardly ever heard of teens sleeping with their parents. And that goes to prove the theory that kids do outgrow the need to co-sleep. Once they are ready, they will make it clear and there is no need to fret until then.
Let’s look at more reasons why sleeping alongside to help your children sleep is not a bad habit:
Night time will evolve into being happy hours
You are assuring a sense of security to your child. It will only make him less fearful and more independent. It goes against the theory that the child will always be dependent on you for sleep. With you by his side, he might slowly but surely agree that nights are calming, not frightening. He might volunteer to sleep on his own because he would have developed positive feelings about night time.
Right age will be around the corner
You are only doing what your child is asking you to. If you refuse at an early age, he would not get the reason. It is easier to explain an older child with more maturity. Is it really worth stressing out the little one and yourself over a matter that involves only a few minutes of your day. Once he is asleep you can step out.
Change is inevitable
You might have to rock the baby for an hour before he calls it a day. As he grows, you might be only required to pat him until he falls asleep. As time passes, it might evolve into just a goodnight kiss and a warm hug before you step out. Sleeping patterns and habits evolve. There is no reason to believe otherwise.
It’s not worth the trade-off
Daytime has so much packed in them that we do things like clockwork. There is no time to sit up and ask the kids how their day passed, what they loved doing, what they didn’t and so on. Night time is when the kids can open up and tell you everything they didn’t get to discuss during the day. Is it really worth missing out on those intimate moments? Let them speak their hearts out and know that you are listening.
Emotions know no logic
The times are changing and children are growing up more emotionally unstable than ever before. Parents are pressed with time and the moments of hugs or kisses are so much fewer. There is no way parents must skip a routine where they get to physically be close to their children, embracing them in a warm cuddle and telling them how much they mean to them. No matter how many times you say you love them, your close presence at night can make them feel really important. Emotions know no logic. Let’s do it, if it feels right.
The jury is still divided but we strongly believe that it is not a bad habit. That said, if you want to wean your child off, make it easy by following these basics:
Encourage the child to sleep on his own by making it sound wonderful. Tell him a story about yourself and how you started on your own. Hype the moment by calling it a big boys/girls habit. Make another boy/girl his age tell him how he sleeps on his own. Being no longer called a baby is important to them and they would want to be in a grown-up’s shoes.
Make gradual changes. No more Mama from tomorrow is too harsh for the little one. Consider changing patterns. If you sleep alongside, switch to simply sitting by his side. Slowly move to patting and reading a story. Eventually only a story from a distance will do. Give plenty of time for these changes to take place.
Be open and flexible. A child who sleeps on his own, might suddenly call for you. It may be a bad day at school or he could be getting nightmares. When you ask him why he wont be able to explain in so many words. Simply give in and help him sleep on those unusual nights. The more you resist, the more he would insist on your presence.
Work out a positive incentive. Instead of forcing or scolding the child, you can work out a rewards program. It may not be a monetary reward. You need not trade a toy for every alone night. It can simply be a chance to see your office or go to grandma’s after a full month of sleeping on their own.
Aid the transition
Prepare the child fully by telling him all the possibilities. If he wakes up mid-night, what should he do? Instead of walking over to your room, he can drink water and count the stars until he falls asleep. He can read a story or take a toy next to him. Give him plenty of choices and assure him that you will be around if nothing works.
So, there is no right or wrong when it comes to parenting. Choose what is right for your family and your circumstances. Don’t succumb to social pressure or worries on habit formation. Do what comes naturally.
For more on children and sleeping, check out Sleeping should be as high a priority as food for kids – are your kids sleeping enough?.
And head to Mumzworld for a variety of bedrooms products that you and your children will love.