Is The Family Bed An Option For You?

Your child starts out the night in his own bed, but usually gets up while you are still doing things on the household chore list.

Instead of finishing the chores, you go to his room and lay with him until he falls asleep.

You are up later to get everything done.

After you are asleep, your child comes into your bedroom sometime during the night.

You are tired, so you just let him climb into the family bed.

However, not everyone sleeps well when this happens.  You or your spouse toss and turn or feel cramped.

Plus, you hear horror stories and expert warnings about the dangers of the family bed.

One of the most common bedtime problems parents face is children not “staying in bed.” A common solution is to let children climb into bed with you.  “Family beds,” “co-sleeping,” or “shared sleep” is one option millions of parents worldwide practice. It is an option, however, that is controversial, particularly in the United States, and could even be dangerous. There are many myths about co-sleeping, so this article looks more closely at bonding and physical touch during early child development years because it stimulates brain development.

Here are some quick facts about Family Beds:

  • Americans are one of only a few cultures worldwide that sleep separately.
  • There are many physical and emotional benefits to shared sleep.
  • Family beds don’t work for everyone. Only use them if everyone sleeps better.
  • The family bed can be dangerous if parents are deep sleepers, on medication or use alcohol/drugs. If any of these are the case, then never share sleep or it could endanger the child.
  • Children will eventually sleep on their own if they are regularly encouraged to and learn skills to sleep independently.
  • Parents need to nudge children to take the next step on sleeping alone but not push them to do it all at once if the child is truly fearful, not ready or has difficulty.
  • Children don’t have to sleep in the same bed as parents; sometimes just being in the same room will suffice. This is also a nice transition step between parents’ bed and child’s bed in his or her own room.

Ideally, you want children to start out the night in their own beds, so they have to get up and come into your own bed. That way, as their sleep cycles develop they will be more likely to sleep through the night in their beds and not the family bed.

To help children start out in their own beds instead of the family bed, involve the child in picking out the bed or which audios to listen to.  You can also use the techniques found in the articles, “Looking for Bedtime Routines to Make Bedtime Peaceful?”, “How Can I Help My Child Through Bedtime Tantrums Caused By Fear?” and “What Is The Best Way Of Handling Temper Tantrums At Bedtime That Are Caused By Toddler Separation Anxiety?”.

It is your choice whether or not to use a family bed, but it’s critically important you make an informed decision.  It’s not overly dramatic to say it could be a life and death decision.  There are sleeping arrangements that can promote bonding without suffocation risks.  Find the one that works best for you and your family so everyone gets the rest they need.

Getting children to sleep on their own is only one type of bedtime hassle.  For details on how to solve all ten bedtime challenges get the teleseminar that summarizes all my bedtime articles.   Click here for more details about “The Halting Bedtime Hassles” teleseminar.  This one hour audio contains the solutions you need to help solve all top ten bedtime battles with children.  Click here to check it out!


Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is the author of the award-winning book, The Parent’s Toolshop and president of Parent’s Toolshop® Consulting, where she oversees an international network of Toolshop® trainers. She has 30 years’ experience as a top-rated speaker and parenting expert to the media worldwide, including serving as the Co-Producer and Parenting Expert for the Emmy-nominated Ident-a-Kid television series. She has interviewed many parenting experts on her Parents Tool Talk radio show and is a parenting expert columnist for many parenting websites. She has produced almost 100 multimedia resources, which are available at her award-winning website,

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