Co-sleeping is considered a controversial topic for many parents. It elicits angst and fear of judgment in many, leading them to keep their preferences private from friends, family, and physicians.
However, it is a decision only parents can make as they truly know their families and their needs. A variety of factors can influence the decision to co-sleep with their children, from cultural beliefs to circumstances, such as overall family well-being, living situation, children’s temperament, and medical needs.
Bed-sharing and room-sharing are sub-sets of co-sleeping, and many families choose some form of co-sleeping despite pediatricians’ opinions regarding the practice.
When should a son stop sleeping with his mother? There is no consensus age at which children should stop sleeping with their parents. However, many health professionals agree it is best to transition children to independent sleep between one to three years of age.
If a mother, however, chooses to co-sleep with her son beyond the suggested age, when should she stop sleeping with her son? In general, most pediatricians agree that a mother should stop sleeping with her son when he starts puberty, roughly around ten to twelve years old.
Nonetheless, it is suggested a mother and son stop co-sleeping before puberty, if possible, especially if the child requests it. As the child gets older, he may need more privacy and it may become more difficult to rest and sleep while bed-sharing.
Continue reading for some important things to consider before deciding to co-sleep with your children.
Things to Consider Before Co-Sleeping with Children
1. Benefits of Co-Sleeping
It Leads to Independent Children
According to McKenna, on average, children who bedshare “may be more independent, self-reliant, and confident in their daily lives than children who did not bedshare” since it makes them feel safe and secure.
Since children’s fears change based on their age, co-sleeping can provide the protection and support they need as they gain confidence and independence.
2. Drawbacks to Co-sleeping
Children Could Lack Self-Soothing Skills
Bed and room-sharing children may develop a dependence on parents for sleep. This is called “sleep onset association” because they may not be able to fall asleep without a parent present.
It is important children develop the tools and the confidence to fall asleep on their own.
Children May Develop Anxiety and Stress
Co-sleeping children may expect physical contact, such as back rubbing, patting, or being held, to fall asleep. When they do not get this, children may struggle to calm down and relax, which could lead to insomnia and may become a problem into adulthood.
Moreover, when parents try to transition away from co-sleeping, their children may try to convince them to stay with them as they feel the need for someone to protect and take care of them while they sleep.
It May Lead to Bedtime Issues
Since bedtimes tend to vary by age, co-sleeping families may face frustration as parents or older children may have to go to bed earlier than desired to satisfy the youngest child’s bedtime.
The situation becomes more complicated when multiple children are involved.
It Could Result in Poor Sleep Quality
Bed-sharing with active children may lead to sleep-deprived parents. Children may also wake often during the night as they bump around and kick in their sleep.
Sleep deprivation may lead to long-term effects, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, lowered immune system, and behavioral issues, to name a few.
Parental Intimacy May Suffer
For many couples with children, it is difficult to find time for intimacy. Parents who decide to co-sleep with children no longer spend evenings together, especially when one parent ends up sleeping in another room.
As a result, their communication and physical closeness may suffer.
It May be Socially Damaging to Children
Children who co-sleep with their parents and become dependent on their presence to be able to relax, feel safe, and fall asleep may not be able to participate in social activities, such as sleepovers, summer camps, and overnight field trips.
Children may develop low self-esteem as a result of feeling left out and may even blame their parents for their situation over time. Their lack of night-time independence will undoubtedly become an issue as they develop friendships and get older.
Children May Develop a Stunted Identity
Because co-sleeping involves an emotional, psychological, and energetic connection, children may develop an extreme emotional attachment to their parents.
Children may become co–dependent with their parents and their identity may become enmeshed in the parental figures. Additionally, co-sleeping children may not understand the importance of privacy and may become needy as they are unable to separate themselves from their parents.
3. Transitioning Away from Co-Sleeping
Transitioning your child to independent sleep can be an exciting milestone to look forward to and should be approached with positivity.
However, it can be a challenging endeavor, especially if co-sleeping has gone on for a prolonged period. Below are a few ideas on how to effectively transition your child to independent sleep.
Create a Safe, Sleep Friendly Environment
It is normal for children of any age to be hesitant to end co-sleeping with a parent. When transitioning away from bed or room-sharing, it is important to create an inviting environment for your child.
Create a calm, relaxing environment for your little one by exploring their likes and dislikes. Do they like complete darkness, or do they prefer a nightlight? Do they want silence, or could they benefit from a white noise machine or calming music?
Allow transitional objects in their bed, such as a favorite blanket, toy, or plushy. Make sure, however, not to allow too many items in their bed as they may be too distracting.
Additionally, ensure the room temperature is comfortable and provide a firm mattress.
Provide Clear Expectations
Before the transition to independent sleep, discuss the changes with your child. Tell them what to expect and what your expectations are. Express to them they’ll be required to sleep in their bed all night.
As you talk, take care to pay attention, listen, and validate their feelings about the change. Be empathetic, develop a game plan for the transition, and come up with tools they can use if they wake up in the middle of the night.
Don’t Rush, Take Baby Steps
It is normal for your child to experience some separation anxiety at first and it may be useful to develop a gradual transition from co-sleeping. Discussing it as a family will help determine what will work best for you.
If you are bed-sharing, you may decide to stay in the same room but in separate beds. Or, you may move them to their bed in their room and you may stay with them until they fall asleep, gradually reducing the amount of time you stay there.
The most important thing is to be patient and not rush things. You will get there.
Create a Nighttime Routine and Schedule
Coming up with a nighttime routine will help your child wind down and prepare for sleep while creating a schedule will allow your child to know what to expect and when.
Promoting a calming environment by dimming the lights, turning off all screens, and removing stimulants, such as chocolate at least one hour before bedtime will help in the transition.
A warm bath, cuddles, and reading their favorite book will create a relaxing bedtime environment. Allowing your child to select a few things every night, like their pajamas and a book will boost their independence.
Furthermore, having a clear nightly bedtime will train your child’s mind to sleep on schedule.
It is not uncommon for children to crawl back into their parents’ bed in the middle of the night as the transition to independent sleeping is in the beginning stages. As fatigue sets in, you may be inclined to let your child stay in bed with you, but don’t!
Return your child to their bed and explain that misbehaving will not work. It may help to place a baby monitor in their room so that they can communicate with you during the night if they truly need you. It may provide the peace of mind they seek.
If your child is scared or sick, set up a mattress or a folding bed in your room to show they still need to sleep on their own.
Find ways to reward your child for sleeping in their bed the entire night. You can give stickers, make their favorite meal, or plan an activity they enjoy.
Remind them that sleeping on their own is not a punishment, but a wonderful achievement. You may even let them pick out their bedding when planning out the transition.
Provide words of encouragement and tell them they are big kids sleeping in their “grown-up bed.” Never use bedtime as a threat. Instead, use positive language when talking about their bedtime schedule and the transition to independent sleep.
To many boy moms, facing the decision to co-sleep is riddled with anxiety and fear of judgment. A mother’s decision to co-sleep with her son is a personal one. Choosing to co-sleep and deciding when to transition the child to independent sleep must be made by each family as it is based on a variety of factors.
Although there are many benefits and drawbacks associated with co-sleeping, the most important thing to remember is to focus on the quality of the relationship between the parents and the child for their proper development, not where it plays out. With the parents’ support, independence can ultimately be gained over time in a variety of manners.