What happens when parents and children share a family bed? – Love & Family

Parents of young children dream of peaceful nights. Does a large family bed help everyone sleep better? Pediatricians and sleep doctors have different opinions.

“At least once a week.” “Every night.” “Regularly until they were ten years old.” On the question of whether their children visit them at night, the parents in their circle of acquaintances agree more than on almost all other family matters. In some families, the “change your bed” game is played the other way around, and the parents move in with the children. Or the children come to the parents, after which one parent moves into the crib. For it sounds more cozy to share a bed that was originally intended for two adults with children than it actually is. There is rolling, kicking and pulling on the cover until the parents squat at their feet, flee up on the sofa – or buy a family bed.

So much space that it does not matter how many people are in it

Anyone looking for examples on the internet will be jealous: Beds 2.30, 3.20, even 4 meters wide look like cozy mattress dormitories in mountain huts. The family beds are assembled by the parents themselves or ordered by a carpenter and all have one goal: to offer the family enough space at night that it does not matter how many people seek refuge in it.

“Only those who feel safe and relaxed can fall asleep.” Herbert Renz upholstery

But why do so many children prefer to sleep with their parents – when they have such cozy children’s rooms with sleeping caves, bunk beds or starry skies? “Only those who feel safe and relaxed can fall asleep,” says Herbert Renz-Polster, pediatrician, scientist and author of several educational guides. Tired children therefore usually become very clustered, climb up on the lap, let themselves be carried to bed and enjoy falling asleep with company.

If they then wake up alone in their room at night – either because they have to go to the toilet, have had a bad dream or are thirsty – and there is no one there, “then their high-security program is activated and an alarm sounds,” says Herbert Renz-Polster. This means nothing more than that the child – depending on age – begins to cry, call on the parents or grope into their bedroom.

“A baby can not even shoot a fly out of its face at night,” says the pediatrician. During the day, the parents would never think of leaving such a helpless creature alone for hours. At night, on the other hand, they would not mind not seeing the offspring for eight hours – especially when the children have reached kindergarten or primary school age. But even three- to ten-year-olds spend a lot of time near someone they trust during the day. “Why should it be any different at night?”

In 70 percent of cultures around the world, bedrooms are shared

Sleeping as a private matter is still a very German phenomenon. In nearly 70 percent of cultures worldwide, family members have always shared a bedroom, which American anthropologist John Whiting researched back in the 1960s. There is certainly often a need for space. But even though there is room for their own children’s room, as is the case with many German families, the offspring often decide to stay close to the parents’ bed.

So there are good arguments for sleeping in the family bed, for “sleeping together” (here you sleep in the same room) or “sleeping together” or “sharing a bed” (here the bed is also divided). Nevertheless, very few parents plan a XXL sleeping area for everyone. Reservations among friends and in online forums can be summarized in three points: 1. At least as long as the children are small, it is dangerous to sleep together due to sudden infant death. 2. Once the kids move into the bedroom, never get rid of them. 3. Parents have the right to privacy – and a love life.

In fact, doctors and scientists have advised against it for a long time – precisely because it increases the risk of sudden infant death, the results of several studies show. Researchers have now discovered that a wide range of factors lead to babies dying suddenly at night in their first year of life. Bottled children have a significantly higher risk than full-term children because the latter wake up more frequently at night and have fewer deep sleep phases: “In most cases, alcohol, drugs, cigarette smoking or sleeping pills play a role for parents,” says Renz-Polster.

If such risk factors do not apply, in his opinion there is nothing wrong with letting a baby sleep in the parents’ bed – it lies in its own sleeping bag, the parents do without pillows and thick duvets, and there is protection against falling. out. “Babies should definitely sleep in the same room during their first year.”

Sleep medicine does not believe in sleeping in the same bed

Alfred Wiater, a pediatrician and sleep doctor from the German Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine, is also in favor of co-sleeping in the first year of life. On the other hand, he does not think so much about sleeping in the same bed when he is a baby. “If babies in the first year of life sleep in their own bed in the parents ‘room, preferably anchored to the parents’ bed, then they can be breastfed at night without any problems,” says Wiater. The recommendation of the working group of scientific medical associations is that “Children should sleep in their own cot, especially in the first three months of life and, if the parents are smokers, also afterwards”.

“The more you meet the children’s need for closeness, the more secure their bond becomes, and the easier the detachment process is later.” Jutta Eichenauer

The experts also make it very clear when they object to spoiling. “The more one meets the children’s need for closeness, the more secure their bond becomes, and the easier the detachment process is later,” says Jutta Eichenauer, president of the Baden-Württemberg Midwifery Association. The family bed could even help a child to sleep well and relaxed earlier in their own room. “At some point, it’s also part of the process of developing independence and further socialization,” Wiater says.

This leaves the question of sex, which must inevitably be neglected in the family bed – at least many in parenting forums fear it. Practicing family beds that sleep respond quite bluntly: “You certainly do not need your bedroom to have sex!”

Of course, not all families need a XXL bed. There are also children who like to sleep well in their own room. And with siblings, it is often enough if the children sleep together in one bed or a room. Then the parents have their bed to themselves again.

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