7 things that you should never say to a parent who bed-shares

Discussing children’s sleep can sometimes be controversial with lots of different schools of thought of what makes for good sleep or what is the “right “ way. For me, the decisions that parents make are deeply personal and an entirely in-house decision.
When asked how you can help a child to sleep better, I am always willing to share some suggestions that can help nudge your current sleep practises closer to your goals and your child’s sleep ability.
However, many parents will report unwanted advice from all sorts of quarters, much of it unwelcome and unhelpful.
Parents who share the bed with their child generally do so from 2 perspectives: in an effort to help their child sleep better-which we may call unplanned bed-sharers who convert and then parents who have made a conscious decision to share the bed as part of their parenting philosophy.
Bed-sharing in general is not supported by the health agenda, and yet we now that 70% of families (and I am historically one of those) are practising this approach at some point in their parenting career. Once, everyone is making an informed decision then I suggest that we keep out of it and allow each to their own.
Provided that the bed-sharing feels right for you and your little family-then continue and enjoy for as long as it feels like an instinctively appropriate approach for you.
As a bystander, here are something that are not helpful and that you should never say to a family that are sharing the bed

1. You are making a rod for your own back. Every parenting decision that you make is appropriate and right for you at that moment in time. Each family unit is unique and if it works then keep doing what you are doing. Nothing is unchangeable anyway if you ever decide that the bed-sharing journey has come to an end
2. We never allow our baby in our bed; I just would not feel safe. As I said, each to their own, allow every parent the scope and respect to make an informed decision. Many parents do not plan to share the bed but it is what has come naturally to them and their child and provided that everyone is rested, then it is a very connected and emotionally considerate way to achieve sleep for many
3. Aren’t you worried that your will roll on her? Provided that everyone who shares the bed is in agreement and has not taken alcohol or medication, this is not typically a problem- if one of the parents is a particular heavy sleeper you may need to assess the situation but generally when we sleep with our children we are very conscious of their presence and more issues occur from falling asleep with children in armchairs than in beds that have been made safe for bed-sharing. Remember there is no entirely risk free sleep environment.
4. You will never get them out of your bed-some veteran bed sharers will tell you that getting their child to sleep somewhere else took a lot of work at some stage when they decided that the bed-sharing adventure had ended, and others will tell you that it came to a natural end with their child opting to leave the family bed as part of their own decision. Whatever way it ends-and it doesn’t have to-that’s the families choice-nothing is irreversible it is just a case of helping your child learn a different way/location/ place for sleep-and as long as this is done sensitively with positive input from the child and time and patience from you, then the point is this: regardless of the decisions that you make today, everything can be emotionally considerately adjusted, nothing is forever unless you want it to be.
5. You have to teach them to be independent-you only need to teach your child to feel loved, safe and secure; being independent comes from this alone. Helping a child sleep with reduced parental input can still be effective at bedtime and you can continue to share the bed if all parties agree that this is suitable.
6. You must not get much sleep. Many bed-sharing families get more sleep than any of us…obviously, if it is a case of CO sleep and NO sleep then perhaps timings need to be looked at but the practise itself does not reduce sleep tendency it is how you are responding that can dilute the sleep durations
7. You must miss sex-parents who bed share with their children are creative about creating opportunities to intimately connect, so you don’t need to worry about their sex-life. Just your own!
Remember, there is no right way, just what is right for your family, so focus on that and everyone else will so the same for their own families and all will be good and well rested in the world.

Lucy Wolfe, CGSC, MAPSC, H.Dip RM is a paediatric sleep consultant, Author of the bestselling book The Baby Sleep Solution, creator of “Sleep Through”, a natural bed and body sleep spray and relaxing rub, and mum of four. She runs a private sleep consulting practice where she provides knowledge, expertise and valuable support to families across the country. See www.sleepmatters.ie |087 2683584 or |lucy@sleepmatters.ie
The book and products are available online www.sleepmatters.ie and in retail outlets nationwide