When Should Kids Stop Sleeping With Their Parents? Here's What the Experts Say
We've all been there — those sleepless nights when our little ones insist on joining us in bed, leaving us to contemplate the age-old question: when should kids stop sleeping with their parents? It's a topic that sparks a wide range of opinions, advice, and even a touch of controversy, and there rarely is a one-size-fits-all approach to these types of parenting conundrums.
As parents, we want the best for our children, and we want to keep our kids safe in the short and long term, but when should kids stop sleeping with their parents? POPSUGAR spoke to experts to find out when kids should stop sleeping with their parents and how to get closer to the right balance of comfort, safety, and independence.
The Safety Guidelines: Sleep For Babies 6 to 12 Months Old
Unsafe sleep practices in infants have been linked to the 3,400 babies in the United States that die unexpectedly every year while sleeping, per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency backs the information and advice on safe sleep practices for babies by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should sleep in the same room (but not bed) as their parents until they are 6 months old," Dr. Christina Johns, pediatric emergency doctor and senior medical advisor at PM Pediatric Care, tells POPSUGAR.
Bed sharing with babies is not considered to be a safe practice due to the risk of suffocation, injury, Sudden Unexplained Infant Deaths (SUIDs), and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Dr. Johns explains.
"A safe alternative to bed sharing with your baby is having them sleep in a bassinet or crib next to your bed or in your bedroom," she continues. "This maintains the baby's safety while giving you quick access to them in case they need to be soothed."
In addition to the benefits babies receive from room sharing, Matthew Schubert, nationally certified counselor, child specialist, and mental health expert, tells POPSUGAR there are perks for parents, too. "Parents also experience a sense of reassurance when they witness their child sleeping peacefully and breathing steadily," he shares. "It's common for new parents to check on their infants during the night to ensure they're breathing due to thought patterns that trigger anxiety."
Co-Sleeping With Toddlers and Older Kids
Some of those same benefits babies and parents see from sleeping in the same room continue as kids age. However, they're not as clear or obvious.
"There are lots of studies that suggest very different things about the emotional effects of co-sleeping," Dr. Johns shares. "Depending on the child's age and duration of co-sleeping, some research suggests that co-sleeping helps children regulate emotions and feel more stable and independent." While other studies have found that co-sleeping can be associated with anxiety in school-aged children.
Schubert says that transitioning a child into their own room has benefits beyond sleep, including allowing a child to independently self-soothe. "Transitioning the infant to their own room after their first birthday can be a valuable step in cultivating a sense of independence and self-assurance," he explains. "Continuing to co-sleep with parents beyond the first six months of a child's life can hinder their emotional development and capacity for self-soothing."
Ultimately, This Is Another Example That One Size Doesn't Fit All in Parenting
In the end, the decision of whether to have your child sleep in their own room depends on both their development and your comfort level, Dr. Johns says. "At the end of the day, there isn't a guarantee that co-sleeping will benefit a child emotionally. However, it is true that co-sleeping is not a safe sleep practice for babies under a year old and is not recommended.
The decision of when kids should stop sleeping with their parents is multifaceted, influenced by both safety and emotional considerations, and like most parenting topics, there's no right or wrong answer. While guidelines suggest that infants should transition to their own rooms after 6 to 12 months, the emotional impact and the need for autonomy must also be weighed.
The key, according to experts, is to find a balance between comfort, safety, and independence that works for your family.