Advice

Is There Such a Thing as ‘Too Old’ to Co-Sleep with your Child?

If you’re ever looking for a heated debate, mention the word “co-sleeping”. There’s something about the idea of sharing a bed with your child that turns everyone into a critic. And we’re not just talking about co-sleeping with your baby, which can be controversial due to safe sleep recommendations.

What we are talking about is to co-sleep with your child. Toddlers. Preschoolers. School-aged children. Tweens.

Co-sleeping with a baby is one thing, but co-sleeping with a 10-year-old? Isn’t there an age limit on this sort of thing?

This is what the experts have to say. 

Sarah Blunden is a psychologist who directs a clinic specialising in sleep difficulties in children from birth to 18 years. She shares her views with The Conversation, explaining that there will always be two sides to the great co-sleeping debate.

THE PLUSES

Some say it nurtures the parent-child attachment, that it reduces anxiety, and helps children sleep better. In some instances, sleeping with your child can also mean more sleep for the parent and fewer up-and-downs as the child wakes in the night scared.

co-sleeping Peta Tuck
Mum Peta Tuck is all for co-sleeping. Read her story here.

In this corner, we also have the argument that most adults don’t sleep alone. They sleep next to their husband or partner. So why are we expecting children to sleep by themselves?

THE CONS

In the other corner, we’ve got the people suggesting that co-sleeping stunts a child’s independence and disrupts parents’ sleep and intimacy. Plus, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to end up with a foot in your face at some stage in the night.

mum central
Source: Bigstock

There’s also the suggestion that co-sleeping can foster poor sleeping habits as children may have a dependency on mum to fall asleep.

In older children, co-sleeping can be problematic for sleepovers and school camps, which tend to occur around the age of 10. A child who is unable to spend a night without mum will most likely be unable to attend an overnight camp with her schoolmates.

45% of parents are doing it. 

But here’s the thing. There are A LOT more people co-sleeping out there. Sure, they may not have wanted to co-sleep, or told everyone they would “never co-sleep” before having kids. But, once you have children – and need sleep- – and it’s a whole new ballgame.

As Sarah says,

[Co-sleeping] is more common than people may realise and is under-reported.”

And this isn’t just in infants. School-children too.

Data of rates of co-sleeping in school-age children in western countries are scarce. But recent studies show in China, 25% of pre-adolescents co-sleep. In Brazil up to 47% of school-aged children sleep in their parents’ bed at least sometimes, while 30% of school-aged children co-sleep in Italy.”

According to a survey conducted by Parenting‘s MomConnection, a surprising 45 percent of mums let their 8- to 12-year-olds sleep with them from time to time, and 13 percent permit it every night. 

The bad rep of co-sleeping

In Western counties, the idea of having a 7-year-old child in our beds is frowned upon which is why not many parents will admit to it.

Having an 11-year-old sharing a bed with mum is even worse. Just look at what happened with Alicia Silverstone admitted that she and her son, Bear (11) still co-sleep. People were ready to break into her home and saw her bed in half. Not really, but you get the drift.

mum central
Alicia made headlines when she admitted to sharing a bed with her son. Source: Instagram

Co-sleeping was once the norm, even in western countries, but during the 19th century, this all changed.

As Sarah explains,

But with the emergence of nuclear families in Victorian times came the need for increased discipline with children who were independent from their parents. Bedrooms were “privatised” and sleeping alone was thought to instil self-regulation in children.

Co-sleeping was also seen as something “poor people” did, as wealthier families could afford a bed for each child.

By the early 20th century, there were fears over-indulgent parenting styles would spoil children and co-sleeping became synonymous with raising lazy, difficult children.”

Dr. Kate Roberts from Psychology Today, explains that there are a few reasons why we’ve returned to the realm of co-sleeping and it has nothing to do with being lazy or poor.

The reasons for parents allowing older children to co-sleep are complex and not completely understood.

Anecdotal data indicates that children today have higher levels of anxiety than previous generations. The reasons for this include higher divorce rates, frequent transitions, more over-scheduling, greater academic pressures, the influence of being plugged in 24/7.”

Experts also point out that children are actually not biologically primed to sleep alone.

co-sleep with your child
Source: Bigstock

This is something they often need to learn with support from a parent or other trusted adult. Gaining the confidence and resilience to sleep alone is not a given and some children, especially sensitive or anxious children, need more time and assistance” – Sarah Blunden.

So how much time? 

There is no special time frame for this but according to Dr. Brazelton, author of Touchpoints, most kids stop cosleeping on their own by thirteen years of age. 

YES. 13 YEARS OF AGE. 

However, many parents would prefer to gain their beds back well before their child enters the teenage territory and thus, start the ‘learning to sleep alone’ saga well before this time.

The bottom line? 

There’s some research to support prolonged co-sleeping. One study shows that while co-sleeping may result in a temporary dependence on a parent, in the longer term it results in a child who is more resilient, gaining the skill of solo sleeping when they are more able to cope.

But there’s also the other side of the coin. As Dr. Kate Roberts puts it, “the impact of chronic co-sleeping on a person’s functioning—younger and older—can run the gamut from memory loss, fatigue, low energy, depression, and obesity.”

Basically, you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.

So do what works for your family. If you think your child is too old and it’s impacting your sleep, move them out of there. If you love falling asleep next to them every night and you both are waking up refreshed, then co-sleep away!

And, if you’ve got a child who’s turning 13 and is still sleeping next to you, odds are that he/she will be outta there pretty soon. Imagine what you’ll do with all that extra space!

What to read next

 

Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar of brett

    hi,interesting read as i am a father to an 15 and 12 yr old.both boys.single dad and both still sleep in my bed at least twice a week.doesn’t bother me at all.as long as they are getting a good nights sleep 🙂

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