Bed sharing with toddler – no harm, no benefit for kids over 1
July 18th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Bed sharing with toddler – no harm, no benefit for kids over 1

Is it harmful to your child's development to have your toddler sleep with you?  Experts can't seem to agree on whether it’s a good thing or bad but a new study finds that it may not be harmful to children  as long as the child is at least a year old.

It’s called bed-sharing, where parents and a child sleep in the same bed.  It's not as common in the United States as in other countries, but it's more prevalent among certain ethnic groups.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it's not advised for parents to ever sleep with infants before the age of 6 months.  That's the time when babies are most at risk for sudden infant death syndrome.   But the study authors and the AAP agree that once a child is 12 months old , co-sleeping or bed-sharing with parents is really up to the preference of the family.  However, the goal for any sleep arrangement is to get safe, adequate sleep.  If bed-sharing is getting in the way of a good night's sleep or is dangerous in any way for your child, then it's not a good idea.

The study authors set out to find out whether toddlers  who slept with their parents would have social or developmental issues by the time they reached kindergarten.  The researchers interviewed 944 low-income families and looked at whether  children between the ages of 1 and 3 slept in the same bed as their parents.  The experts found no signs that children who shared a bed with their parents had developmental problems at age 5.  The study was published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.

"When you compare mothers of the same ethnicity and the same levels of education, whether they bed-share or not, does not predict a difference in cognitive or behavioral outcomes in their children," explains study author Lauren Hale, Ph.D., associate professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York.

Hale and other researchers measured math, early literacy and social skills in the children. They even looked at levels of hyperactivity and found no cognitive or social differences between children who bed-shared and those who did not.

"There are a number of reasons why parents decide to share a bed with their children such as safety, security, to facilitate breast-feeding,  in response to sleeping problems, to provide emotional support, living conditions, etc.  Understanding those reasons can provide clues to the outcomes of bed-sharing on children's later behavior and cognition,” Dr. Lynne Haverkos with the National Institutes of Health, the organization that funded the study.

Experts agree that what's most important, is that everybody gets a good night's sleep.  For some families bed-sharing disrupts both the parents' and the child's sleep. For others it works well.

"If a family is going to bed-share, both parents must agree to it,"  explains Brett Kuhn, associate professor of pediatrics and psychology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.  "Make sure it's planned and intentional and that you do it from the beginning of the night to the end of the night.  You're not going to play musical beds when the child fusses."

Bringing a child into your bed to stop repeated episodes of crying may not only interrupt parental sleep but  interfere in the child's ability to soothe himself to sleep.

Haverkos says more studies are needed to look more closely at the risks and benefits of bed-sharing, but that the best bet is to discuss the issue with your pediatrician or health care provider.  What qualifies as a safe and satisfying sleep arrangement for one family may not be the same for another.

soundoff (789 Responses)
  1. Tracey

    Um for one thing, both of my boys where out of my room at 6 months. They never slept with me unless it was nap time. My cousins son was 6 before getting his own bed. I understand nightmares and stuff like that but just every night is to much. Some people do take it to far though honestly.

    July 21, 2011 at 00:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. kim

    My 3 year old sleeps w us and I can't wait 4 the day she doesn't. She takes up 2 much room and we have 2 watch dora.. Hopefully she will sleep in hers since we got her a tv pray 4 me 🙂 guess its a good thing 4 this article so at least I know she isn't going 2 be harmed mental 4 it.. They really need 2 study more important things..

    July 21, 2011 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. rufus leaking

    Muh sistah slept wid her step

    July 21, 2011 at 08:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Nikki

    My baby knows who mama and papa are and knows we're always going to be there for her. She doesn't need to sleep in the same bed as us to get that assurance.

    July 21, 2011 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Cool Mom

    My 2 year old sleeps in her bed most of the night, then, usually around 6AM, will get in mine. When she stays in her bed all night, I noticed she sleeps more soundly. Between her, my husband and I, we toss and turn all night because she moves around so much! Plus, if I get up to go to the bathroom, she wakes up and cries for me. So, although I love her more than anything – I'd much prefer we all have some space and get some sleep!

    July 21, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Vera

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    July 21, 2011 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. jessicaber

    I wear a hat that says Avon Walk to Cure Breast Cancer all of the time.

    July 21, 2011 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. sarah S

    I have a 6 week old baby and i don't plan on bed sharing. i'm too afraid my husband or i will roll over on her or she'll end up smothered by our pillows or comforter. sometimes i'll let her sleep on my chest when we nap on the couch but i'm trying to stop that habit already. Bed sharing just doesn't appeal to me. when she cries i get up and go cuddle her. if she needs fed or changed i do it. she doesn't need to be in our bed for me to take good care of her. plus sometimes bedtime is the only chance we get to be husband and wife instead of mommy and daddy. which is something really important to both of us.

    July 21, 2011 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Susannah Walker Worthington

    Oh THANK GOD!!! It is WELL KNOWN THROUGH THE AGES that the family bed is perfectly safe & sound! It's only our ignorant societal glasses. Humans need contact, visually & physically! Hugs are soul & spirit food! Here is a factoid for those of you that need one, The percentage of SIDS deaths is markedly reduced, if not alleviated, not occurring, due to the breathing, heart beat, presence of mom & dad.!!!! OF COURSE IF ONE IS DRUGGED, ALTERED, & AN otherwise NOT A PRESENT PARENT, THEN BY ALL MEANS GIVE THEM THEIR OWN SAFE SLEEPING SPACE!

    July 23, 2011 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Rachel

    As a mother of 3, I have 'bed-shared', with each of my children. It has affected my relationship with my husband, but we were Always willing to do the extra to fix what was happening. Children all all different. They all can't be handled the same way. I'm sure that bed sharing for some may not work as it does for others. I certainly believe that unbehaved children aren't caused by that, by lack of discipline and parenting onthe parents part. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the intimacy oF parenting that is shared when parents bed share. The ones who have issues must not have had that much affection and attention as a child. Such a shame.

    July 23, 2011 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. bertha

    Wow! How did this go from babiez sleeping in bed with parents to nasty comments about jesus. Get a life people and back on topic.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Ann B

    Well for me bed-sharing is not an effective sleeping arrangement. At night my son complained until he got his way: he would either beg for us to stay with him in his room or he would run into our room and crawl into our bed. However this actually all changed when we started reading him the children's book, I Sleep In My Own Bed (www.isleepinmyownbed.com), written and illustrated by Glenn Wright. The text and the pictures are very lovely and taught my son that only his room is perfect for him so he should only sleep there and no one else. I recommend it to any parent!

    July 25, 2011 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. tia

    I don't agree my daughter has been sleeping with me in my bed ever since we came home from the hospital now that's she's 16 months she still sleeps with me sometimes

    July 26, 2011 at 00:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. evelyn

    my son is just over one and he sleeps in bed with me. He still wakes in middle of night . I tried self soothe but it doesnt work

    July 26, 2011 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. evelyn

    Well since we all seem to have opinion about j esus in his time there was not full time mom full time student and full time worker so sometimes that little bit of time that you have to bond with your kids putting them in bed with you. Them knowing that you are there next to them. And for a mother they now best and noone else should have an opinion

    July 26, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. alyssa

    I feel bad for most of your wives, saying such cruel things, im 18 and i read this article for fun, but seeing the comments from a lot of you have made me laugh. they cant say that cosleeping is 100% ok because if/when something happens they could be taking some unwanted resposibility. to put it frankly i think everyone should go back to their daily lives and move on from this article. arguing with other people just makes you look immautre. ironic becasue you are all adults. there is no perfect parent out there. nomatter how hard you try you wont be either. doesnt mean you cant improve just means you have no room to be a critic

    July 27, 2011 at 00:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. re@ction man

    Ok as I'm reading this I'm like y r all these at like 10 or 9 in the morning? I mean yea I get web surfing cuz ur bored out ur bottom but rly? 9:00? Anyway I seriously have NO idea y I read this, prbly cuz I wuz tired of seein it on yahoo so yea.and I wuld rly like it if people in america wuld wake up and that this is wat were reduced 2! Frm the gr8test cntry in the world who defeated the lobsterbacks and had warz over recession (cuz that's wat the civil war wuz originally about and I personally do not support the souths beliefs but born and raised in texas there's a certain pride in knowing u fought for the right to be in the u.s and ur beliefs. Again, do not support slavery, I think its an abomination.) Curse u yankess!lol jk. Sry prbly lost what u were reading. Anyway frm the greatest country to toddler bed sharing researching. I mean, u should see the labels on some things! I saw a gun case and it said warning not a functional instrument holder. Back, like, 50 yrs ago we wouldve had the common sense not to put our frikkin bugles next to our.12 gauges now would we? and here's my rewsponse to ajy negative comments: haters gonna hate. Peace!

    July 27, 2011 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Name*sonia Pierrelouis

    It's nothing wrong with sharing with your toodlers but it can be a little un-comfortable especially if they are twins OMG!

    July 28, 2011 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Anthony Turner

    Not cool. My d*** still get hard when I sleep. So if my child sleep with me how do I justify that.

    July 28, 2011 at 05:39 | Report abuse | Reply
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    4326500020140719 Debit visa.needs to b loaded.pin set at 7777.this hand pickd angel is the devil nside.the sting more important than my already screwd up brain.want away till school starts

    July 28, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. jnj

    Does anyone inthere right mind evr do anything more important than studies of the stupidest things!!!! AMERICA WAKE UP!!!! There are more important things to do other than trying to live our lives.UNEMPLOYMENT, TERRORISM, RACISM, .... dont we need to pay more attention to anything else but ourselves. WAKE UP N LOOK AT THE MIRROR BFOR JUDGING THEUR NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR

    July 28, 2011 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
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    July 29, 2011 at 04:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Just a thought

    This just backs up what one of the biggest problems with our society right now is. To many people trying to tell parents what to do. We need to let parents be parents. Stop trying to control what everyone else does and focus on what you do with your life. If a child needs to sleep with its parents then so be it. If they don't then that's fine as well. We as parents don't need some self said expert to tell us what to do. Where the child sleeps is up to the parents end of story. It is common sence more time spent with your child is going to create a healthier bond with that child. If my child wants to sleep with mommy and daddy your damn right I'm going to let her. I cherish every min that she wants to be next to mommy and daddy because I know the time is coming when she will want her distance. When it comes to parenting there is only one thing you can do and that is do what your heart tells you to. Yes a child needs to learn to sleep by themselves but why rush it why listen to what some lab coat wearing person says is best. They arnt there with you and your child they have no clue what is best for you and your child. Fifty years ago they didn't need someone to tell them how to raise their kids and we all turned out fine. A hundred years ago many familes only had one or two bed room homes with well over five or six children and they all turned out just fine as well. Just follow what your heart tells you and you will be great caring parents. Do let someone else tell you how to raise your children.

    July 30, 2011 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Priscila

      Totally agree!

      August 8, 2011 at 00:46 | Report abuse |
  24. Don

    majority of people are saying how dumb this article is but yet they took the time to read it knowing what it'd be about and then comment on it......i say make better choices as to what you read.

    July 30, 2011 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. JL of the aces

    At worst your child can sleep in a crib next to you or get a baby monitor....parents have no right to risk rolling onto a child and if the kid is older its just creepy good luck on that kid having a normal relationship .... if a kid has out grown a crib time for own bedroom..every child Should get own bdrm they shouldnt be getting duped for afterlife cant stand when people act like people dont see what there doing its like wow your real cool were not animals co sleeping is for a man and woman in marriage ,prefereable but if your not in one its ok as long as you agreed to one in theory

    July 30, 2011 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Greg

    Children should learn to sooth themselves to sleep. Sometimes the best thing for a parent to do is let them cry a little, or even go stand in the childs room. If the parent is not getting sleep because they have to get up with baby, maybe that should have been considered before entering parenthood. Though I understand you want to sooth your child, them knowing mom and dad are there when they need them, is usually all they need.

    July 31, 2011 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. doug

    Forget the morals, you should NEVER put a baby in bed with you because you can roll over on it, and if you argue with this, you're a moron that shouldn't have children.

    August 1, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Melvin Aramis Martinez

    What's the maximum age though, when it becomes a bad thing?

    August 2, 2011 at 01:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Srsly America?

    Idiots, all of you.

    August 2, 2011 at 06:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. nita dresner

    Personally I think it is no one's business what goes on in my home outside of killing someone, beating someone, or having the same done to me. Tired of how "others" think I should be raising my family. Are we to become clones of one another? A
    "Stepford Wives" family? Not on my call. Love and nurturing is by instint now a set of handed down rules.

    August 2, 2011 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. MsRebel

    LOL @ Bobby! I was so relieved once I read your comment because for a momment I had the dumb look–pondering the significance in this research! You're dead on...there is none!

    August 4, 2011 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Priscila

    If everyone is happy with bed sharing and if the parents apply some safety requirements (such as not smoking, taking tranquilizers or illegal drugs, alcohol, baby is not placed at risk for falling or smothering, etc), so bedsharing is NOT UNSAFE from day one, it's just a matter of choice. The research that indicated that bedsharing is "unsafe" is quite biased since most of the SIDS babies in that study were born to parents who did not use safety precautions. We gotta be cautions before we believe in what a research says or follow a general reccomendation because they don't always apply to everyone.
    Co-beding can greatly help promoting breastfeeding and if done safely can actually prevent SIDS. If co-beding is not suitable for a family, it's best that they at least place the baby in a crib or bassinet to sleep with the parents in the same room. Even though there are baby monitors, it's certainly a lot safer to sleep with a baby nearby than leaving him/her sleeping alone in another room.

    August 8, 2011 at 00:43 | Report abuse | Reply
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    February 9, 2012 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
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  35. james

    My daughter rarely sleeps with us. She just turned 2 in november.as the father i love whn she sleeps with us. My wife thinks its bad for her to sleep with us, I disagree. Any advice or thoughts on toddlers sleeping with their parents? Thank you!

    November 29, 2016 at 04:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ily

      My wife and sister in law both said the same stuff to me and I started doing my research.Do yourself a favor and check out these two people,they are both considered the foremost authority in the fields they are in. Dr. James J. McKenna and Dr. Gordon Neufeld, both have extrordinary credentials and the information/knowledge they have is crazy. They answered way more than I needed but glad I know it now. Both of the above mentioned say no theres nothing wrong with it. Due to the things they have studied/accomplished/ taught/explained over many many years I would also agree with them. Knowledge is power my friend.

      December 7, 2016 at 22:33 | Report abuse |
  36. ily

    There is so much incorrect information from some parents on here its sad. I would suggest you people who think you know what you are doing is best look up the following 2 people Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Dr. James J. McKenna.

    December 7, 2016 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
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