It’s the wee hours of the morning when you hear the pitter-patter of little feet and a small voice whispering “Mama, Mama.” Now there’s a decision to make -- cuddle up with your toddler or walk her back down the hall to her own bed? The issue can be controversial, with one side saying children should learn to sleep alone and the other saying that a family bed is not only harmless, it’s traditional.
The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend sharing a bed with an infant, according to an October 2011 article in “Pediatrics,” as it increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. However, a study reported in a 2011 Live Science article found no negative outcomes for toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3 when they shared the parental bed. Proponents of bed-sharing -- sometimes called co-sleeping -- feel that it facilitates breast-feeding and maternal bonding, but there may be other reasons for the small fry to stay in her own bed.
Toddlers need more sleep than adults. The National Sleep Foundation reports your little darling should have about 12 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, including naps. Adults, however, are unlikely to sleep for such a lengthy period. You’ll need to leave little Suzy alone at some point to ensure she gets enough shut-eye. For smaller toddlers, that means a risk of falling out of bed -- an adult bed is unlikely to come equipped with side rails.
Multiple people in a bed may not be conducive to good sleep for anyone. The National Sleep Foundation says it’s common for toddlers to have sleep problems or to resist going to sleep. Toddlers often wake during the night and may have nightmares; sleeping with a toddler who is constantly turning, kicking and squirming can be like trying to sleep with a small helicopter under the covers. On the other hand, it can be equally disturbing for a parent to have to get up multiple times and go into the child’s room for nightmares.
If you and your sweetie would like to have a little parental make-out time, you might find it more difficult with your daughter watching your every move. Even after she falls asleep, one or the other of you may not feel comfortable making love in close proximity to a sleeping child. It may also be difficult not to keep checking on her to make sure she isn’t sliding out of bed or waking up. That sort of constant vigilance tends to put a damper on your ability to “relax and enjoy it.”
Toddlers are struggling with the need to become more independent. That’s one reason why she has temper tantrums and you hear “No!” so frequently. One reason for your little pumpkin to learn to sleep alone is to promote independence, according to clinical psychologist David O’Grady. Self-soothing -- the ability to rely on internal resources when you are anxious, frightened or upset -- is an important skill for toddlers to master. O’Grady says children who can learn to master their fears will have an increased sense of confidence and strength in other developmental areas.