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My Family Bed

Christine Gross-Loh
Tokyo Japan
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 25, No. 1, January-February 2008, pp. 16-17

I'm an early riser and am always awake a few hours before the rest of my family is. The other day I went back into our bedroom for a moment and paused at the heart-warming scene before me -- four members of my family (and the family dog) sleeping peacefully in our bedroom in the early morning light. What an adorable sight! My sons were sleeping cuddled next to their father on a king-sized mattress on the floor, and beside that was a single futon where my baby daughter was snoozing away, next to where I'd been lying with her all night. In the room there is also a bunk bed, which has gotten little use but is always available should anyone wish to stretch out a little bit more. I really realized then (with quite a bit of amusement) that we pack a lot of living creatures into one room!

What began as a way to keep our first baby close for nighttime nursing sessions has grown into a lovely way for our whole family to connect at night. Bedtime has never been a struggle, but is a pleasant time we all look forward to. The conversations we have in the moments right before sleep descends are among the most precious memories I have. If we've had a hard day, our cozy nighttime ritual offers redemption. I've been there to hear all of the funny things our children say in their sleep. Children look younger when they are asleep -- being able to watch them, cuddle with them, and breathe in their scent is a visceral reminder to parents of how little our children really are and how much they still need us. In fact, one strategy I've heard about for overwhelmed or stressed parents is for them to take some time to watch their little ones sleep. The sight of little ones in slumber is soothing, relaxing, and promotes connection.

Each family must decide what feels right to them about nighttime sleep when they have a new baby. Quite a few nursing mothers find that even if they did not intend to cosleep, it helps them get a good night's rest -- babies can nurse at night without moms having to get out of bed. Such parents find that their babies thrive in a cosleeping environment and are well rested during the day! Other families may put their babies to sleep in a crib in another room, but bring them in to bed with them when they wake. Still, others may sleep on a mattress in their baby's room and share part or all of the night's sleep with their child. There are many options out there. With some experimentation and flexibility, each family is sure to figure out what works for them and to make adjustments as they go along.

Sometimes, parents may feel concerned that their children will never leave the family bed. But as the LLL Web site FAQ on cosleeping says, "While every baby and child is unique and has different needs, they all eventually become independent" and that in fact, "cosleeping actually helps babies become independent." Young children thrive from the emotional security of knowing their needs will be met all the time, whether during the day or at night.

As children grow, some families may encourage them to sleep on a mattress on the floor, or a bed in the same room, or eventually move to their own bedroom with the assurance that they are welcome back into the family bed when they need an extra little cuddle. If there are siblings, having them share a room or a bed is one way to encourage the sibling bond. When my parents visit, my children love sleeping with them instead of us (children sleeping with their grandparents is quite common in Korea, where my parents grew up). I am in no hurry to rush the children out of this stage before they are ready. One thing that my three children have taught me is that our time with our little ones is heartbreakingly fleeting. I realize that, before we know it, this special period in our lives will merely be a lovely memory.

Reprinted with permission from the LLL Japan publication, Close to the Heart.

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