The Aftermath of Co-Sleeping: How Does it Affect Children?
Approximately 50 percent of American parents admit to co-sleeping. And the actual percentage is likely even higher. Co-sleeping has been a natural and normal way of sleeping for centuries — and still is in many other cultures. But it's one of the most contentious parenting subjects in our society. Many of those against co-sleeping claim that it creates sleep issues. They claim it increases needy personalities because the children don't learn to “self-soothe,” and that the aftermath of co-sleeping can result in emotional or cognitive dysfunction later on. So is there any truth to these claims? So far, studies say no.
The bottom line is that there isn't a lot of scientific information on co-sleeping. It is very difficult to get a large, standardized sample group or long-term data. Some of the attempted studies relied heavily on parents self-reporting data, which could skew results. However, studies so far show that there are no increased adverse effects on sleep quality or emotional and cognitive function for children who co-sleep. In fact, a 2011 study published in Pediatrics said something quite different about the aftermath of co-sleeping. According to the study, any “negative associations between bed-sharing in toddlerhood and behavioral and cognitive outcomes at age five years are probably not due to bed-sharing itself but rather to the sociodemographic characteristics of U.S. families who share a bed.”
So, what happens if your child never wants to sleep on his own? Is the aftermath of co-sleeping going to cause emotional issues later on? Probably not. All children grow up and sleep in their own beds eventually. And much of what we see as “sleep issues” is actually quite normal biological behavior. In non-industrialized countries where bed-sharing and co-sleeping are the accepted norm, children often sleep in the same bed with at least one parent well after the child has been weaned. Need more proof? Another study published in Pediatrics found that children who bed-share actually had a decreased risk of behavioral issues later on.
As long as you're co-sleeping or bed-sharing safely, the choice comes down to what you think is best for your family.