In her new book, “Co‑Sleeping: Parents, Children, and Musical Beds,” sociologist Susan Stewart writes about how co-sleeping isn’t just a phenomenon with infants and toddlers. Some children continue to co-sleep with their parents until the age of 13 – Stewart looked closely at the factors that lead parents to co-sleep, and the issues surrounding co-sleeping for parents and children alike.
In a study conducted at Iowa State University, a little more than half of the parents interviewed said that they would “prefer not” to co-sleep, but due to stress and overtiredness many parents decide to co-sleep out of necessity. However, many of these parents would not admit this to their pediatrician or close family.
Certainly, there is also a large group of parents out there who enjoy co-sleeping fully and I am not criticizing this decision either. If this is what works best for the family dynamic, they of course, should stand by their decision. However, I find that many parents I talk to are either doing it because they felt it was the only choice, or they started by co-sleeping and now, as they say “the honeymoon is over”.
The potentials pitfalls and dangers of co-sleeping have been documented, but despite these issues, many parents still feel forced to co-sleep as they do not know how to help their children sleep better.
Co-sleeping can affect intimacy between parents, and the poor sleep that results from sleeping with children can affect the health of both parents and their little ones. Poor sleep increases the possibility of obesity, anxiety, aggression, poor performance at work and school, as well as marital problems, and many parents simply don’t know how to get their children to sleep independently. As a result, they hope the issue will resolve itself naturally.
As the study found, many parents do not feel comfortable talking about these issues with others. This is where a professional pediatric sleep consultant can be most helpful – sleep consultants have heard it all. There’s no judgement and no preaching – only helpful recommendations and a program to get their child sleeping independently and well through the night.
For parents who are ready to make the separation, it’s not always easy. But the pay off in the end is worth all the hard work. And the end result? Their babies/toddlers/children are getting much better quality sleep.