Parenting Advice ColumnSubject: Should older sibling leave the family bed when baby arrives?
Q. I have read your book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have been very confident in the way we have raised our 2-year-old son thus far. We have a very secure attachment and it has been a wonderful experience. We have co-slept with our son since he was first born. He turned two a few weeks ago.
My husband and I are starting to think about having another child so we thought it would be easier on everyone when the new baby is here if our son slept in his own bed. There has also been some pressure from family members that it is time for him to get in his own bed.
Has he received all the benefit from the co-sleeping at this point or does he continue to receive benefits if we continue to co-sleep and for how long? Is there a "too long"? I don't want him to feel as if he is being pushed away from us. Also if there is another child I don't want him to feel like he is not a part of the family if we are all in one room together and he is in another. But I also don't want any wakeful nights from baby number 2 to disturb him. Of all the research I have read it never really discusses how long to co-sleep. I now it is a personal thing but I am just looking for some advice and support. Thank you!
- Name withheld
A. Ideally, cosleeping lasts as long as the child needs it. How long is that? Well, if we take our cues from those cultures - like India - where children remain with their parents until they decide to leave, it can be many years.
Cosleeping is one of the easiest and most beautiful ways to bond with a child. My son (an only child) left at about age 12. I am convinced that cosleeping all those years helped immensely to bring about the wonderful closeness and trust we share now that he is 25 (see Confessions of a Proud Mom).
Parents expecting a second child often consider moving the older child to his own bed after the birth. However, many of the cosleeping reasons I list in Ten Reasons to Sleep Next to Your Child at Night still hold for older children, especially at those times when they are being asked to cope with stressful experiences. Since the birth of a sibling is a naturally stressful and jealous time for the older child, every attempt should be made to be sure that he still feels loved and accepted. Feelings of jealousy and rejection can remain within a child well into adulthood, affecting his self-esteem and self-confidence.
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