Still sleeping in the same bed as your toddler or preschooler?
While most children who grew up in Western countries are used to sleeping in their own rooms (nursery rooms thus being a common feature in Western homes), it is not uncommon for Filipino parents to share the same bed with their young children. Culturally, many of us prefer to have our children nearby, just within reach, because we feel that they are safer and more secure that way.
And in case you need validation (although it's unlikely you need it), here's what research has to say so far.
A survey conducted with a group of college psychology students reveals that adults who had a history of co-sleeping with their parents "had higher self-esteem, [and] less guilt and anxiety." This was particularly true among males.
One respondent even said, "It always gave me a feeling of security to know that if I had a bad dream, I could crawl into bed with my mom and dad.”
Furthermore, co-sleeping with their parents helped the respondents become comfortable with relating to others physically.
"Females with a history of sleeping with their parents during childhood reported increased comfort with physical contact and affection and increased sexuality" while the men "reported greater frequency of sex" as adults.
Parents who advocate against co-sleeping often do so to encourage independence in their children, as it is believed that solitary sleep is correlated with independence. However, James McKenna, Ph.D., who serves as director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, points out that co-sleeping may actually contribute to kids becoming more independent, confident, and socially competent.
Dr. McKenna notes that "a study of English children found that children who never slept in their parents’ beds were more likely to be harder to control, less happy and to exhibit greater tantrums than children who were allowed into the parental bed.
"They were also more fearful and more dependant on their parents than children who always slept in their parents’ beds," he writes.
When we talk about co-sleeping and bed-sharing here, we're talking about kids above a year old. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns against co-sleeping with babies under six months old. The AAP guidelines for safe sleep, updated in 2016, recommends that parents avoid co-sleeping with babies “preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months,” and that babies should “share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface.”
Dr. McKenna has long been studying the effects of parents co-sleeping with their children especially in relationship to breastfeeding and SIDS — and he sees the co-sleeping benefits or bed-sharing. In a 1997 study, he found that "babies, who routinely share a bed with their mothers, breastfeed more frequently and for longer periods during the night than babies who do not routinely share a bed with their mothers." This could "have a significant positive impact on an infant’s well-being as there is 'near universal agreement that increased breastfeeding reduces infant morbidity and mortality worldwide.'"
However, in his safe co-sleeping guidelines, Dr. McKenna highlighted the importance of a parent's awareness that adult beds were not designed to assure infants safety and what goes on in bed is vital. For example, a baby should never be placed in a bed where a sleeping adult is not aware that the infant is in bed with him or her. He should always sleep with an adult, not an older child like a sibling who may not be able to fulfill the responsibility of taking care of an infant.
He stresses, "Regardless of whether an infant sleeps on the same surface as his or her parents, on a same-surface co-sleeper, in a bassinet or in a separate crib, in the same room as their parents or in a separate room, all infants should follow these same guidelines: infants should always sleep on their backs, on firm surfaces, on clean surfaces, in the absence of (secondhand) smoke, under light (comfortable) blanketing, and their heads should never be covered."