Why is it useful for a baby to sleep with his mother?
In psychology, there is no unambiguous opinion about the usefulness of joint or separate sleep with a child. Each of the opinions has its supporters and opponents. It’s more a question of mom’s comfort and priorities.
From the point of view of the popular attachment theory today and from my own experience as a mother of three children, a child needs to sleep together. This is inherent in us by nature. Being born, a baby experiences tremendous stress. Leaving the mother’s body, where he was so warm and comfortable, he abruptly has to mobilize all the forces of the body to adapt to the changed environmental conditions.
A kid who spends a lot of time in his sleep at the beginning of his journey, staying alone, does not have the tools and resources to regulate body temperature, cope with anxiety. He does not know how to react to those new stimuli that surround him — touches, light, sounds, vibrations, smells, movements of his own body. When the mother is near, the child feels her warmth, hears her heartbeat. Mom becomes a reliable buffer for him, helping him cope with new sensations for him. Not one super comfortable crib will not replace the presence of a mother during this period.
In addition, joint sleep during breastfeeding is a guarantee that both mom and baby will get enough sleep, since there is no need to rock, shift, interrupting sleep for a long time.
Whether the child will sleep in a bed with both parents or only with his mother is a matter of arrangement and convenience. In my subjective opinion, the opinion that the marital bed is something inviolable, because spouses have sex in it, is nothing but a stereotype. You can have sex in other places. The children are growing up and gradually the bed will belong to the spouses again.
At what age can a baby sleep alone
If we talk about the age when it’s time for the child to move to his bed, then usually by the age of three children are completely ready to sleep alone. Someone does it earlier, someone later, here again we can talk about mom’s comfort and individual characteristics.
If the mother is calm and finds opportunities to put the baby in a separate crib already in a year or a year and a half, and it is during this period that active night feeding ends, then this is fine.
How to teach a child to sleep separately?
It is good to make this transition gradual, first putting the child in the crib next to the parent, then gradually practicing the possibility of switching to a bigger bed. The presence of a parent when falling asleep, joint rituals in the form of preparing for bed, reading together or a lullaby at night are a necessity for him, and not just a whim. According to psychoanalysts, going to bed for a child is a symbol of non-existence or death, so falling asleep causes particular anxiety.
A good motivation becomes for the child the realization that he is already big, will sleep alone as an adult. Buying a bed-machine or some kind of themed bed linen works well for boys.
Why difficulties may arise?
If a child in infancy received the basic trust and warmth that his mother gave him during a joint sleep, then it will not be difficult for him to move from the parent’s bed to the nursery. Conversely, frequent returns to the parent’s bed can be associated with anxiety and distrust of the outside world, a lack of warmth and care.
Additional difficulties may be caused by stressful situations, in the form of teething, the appearance of a sister or brother, during which the child may again ask to go to bed with his parents.
Strict prohibitions can lead to the fact that for a child it will become a fundamental issue of the type «forbidden fruit is sweet». Temporary relief will reduce anxiety and calm the baby.
If we talk about the dangers of co-sleeping, then practicing it, starting from school age, is not just pointless, but also dangerous from the point of view of forming boundaries, autonomy and identity of the child. Since the age of three, the child has no constant need to sleep with his parents, there is only a habit, which, like any other, is easier to cope with the earlier you start.
In case of any difficulties in the transition to a separate sleep, falling asleep or frequent night awakenings, night worries and fears, it is better to consult a specialist.