sleeping child with mother

Lying Down With Your Kids at Night While They Fall Asleep Is Not a ‘Bad Habit’

Misconceptions about attachment parenting are the reasons why many parents avoid lying with their kids at night. Attachment parenting (AP) simply means nurturing the healthy connection that children can develop with their parents. It revolves around deepening the parent-child bond rather than severing it as the child grows older. 

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Critics over the years have argued that AP makes children emotionally unstable and unable to handle their emotions. They believe that children who are deeply attached to their parents tend to go ballistic when they’re separated for even the shortest amount of time. Many parents have tried to limit the time and amount of physical contact they allow their children to this effect, believing child-rearing to be destructive. They are convinced that putting their kids to sleep at night will make the children permanently dependent on their presence to fall asleep.

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Dear parents, experts say there’s nothing wrong lying down with your kids at night

According to Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, research has shown that children who are nurtured by their parents are more likely to grow up as mentally stable and successful adults.

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“When you separate the popular exaggerations of AP from the more objectively oriented scientific studies, it’s a sensible approach that fosters physical and psychological health in children,” she wrote on Psychology Today [1]. “We do know from extensive research … that securely attached adults have happier and less conflict-ridden lives. There’s even research to suggest they may be better parents themselves.”

An article written by Stacey of the Soccer Mom Blog portrays the guilty feelings most parents encounter when they do not spend enough time with their children [2].

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“’Mommy, will you lay with me? Just for a little bit?’

And many nights that’s how it goes,” she wrote. “My husband and I try to get the girls into bed as quickly as possible so we can finish up our chores before calling it a night ourselves. It’s easy to think that we’re so busy, we can’t take that time to lay with our kids for a few minutes. Or perhaps you’ve heard those who claim that laying with kids at bedtime is a bad habit. But maybe – like me – there is a little voice in the back of your head that whispers: You’ll never get this moment back. That voice is persistent. And it speaks the truth.”

Most parents do not try to share a bed with their kids or even spend a few minutes lying on the kids’ beds for fear of smothering. Co-sleeping (which is different than ‘bed-sharing’) has its benefits and risks, but there’s nothing wrong with caressing your child to sleep at night for a short while. It increases the bond you share with them and makes them emotionally secure and confident.  Some older, but relevant evidence, has even shown that children who were severely neglected by their parents had smaller brains than those who were loved and nurtured [3]. On the other hand, nurtured children are less likely to be dysfunctional as adults, and they generally perform better in school. Before we move on, let’s clarify something there. Does this mean if you don’t, for example, co-sleep with your children, it will lead to poor brain development? Of course not, but it does show that nurturing or lack thereof can have some implications, serious ones, albeit, in specific circumstances. 

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Extra special minutes

According to Stacey, it’s important to spend those last minutes of the day with your children because a time will come when they’ll stop asking. They may begin to feel as though they are not loved by their parents and will condition their minds to accept the false, harsh reality.

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“One night, I gave in.

I tiptoed back into the bedroom and saw my youngest daughter breathing deeply, eyes closed. She was already asleep. But she almost immediately sensed me there, and a smile spread across her lips. ‘Mommy,’ she whispered. ‘Can I have one more hug?’ ‘Of course,’ I said as I crawled into bed next to her. She sighed a happy sigh and almost immediately went back to sleep. My heart melted into a puddle deep in my chest. It was a moment I wanted to soak in forever. And I’d almost missed it.”

According to researchers Patrice Marie Miller and Michael Lamport Commons from the Harvard Medical School, the benefits of attachment parenting include less exposure to stress and reduced mental health problems [4].

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“Another important psychological benefit is secure attachment, which is the tendency of the child to seek contact with a parent when distressed and to be effectively consoled by that contact,” they said. “The result of more effective emotion regulation and secure attachment … is that children engage more effectively with essential developmental tasks, including peer relationships and schooling.”

Parents should overhaul the mentality that spending time with kids at night will make them incapable and dependent. While attachment parenting may seem indulgent at first, no one says you shouldn’t discipline your kids or teach them core social values while raising them this way. 

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If you’re a busy parent who spends the entire day at work, spending ten to fifteen minutes with your kids while they fall asleep is a golden effort they will always remember. 

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Co-sleeping and bed-sharing may not be for everyone. It’s always best to be informed before making any changes. If you would like to learn more about the benefits and risks click HERE

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.

Keep Reading: Parents Still Lose Sleep Over Their Adult Children

Sources

  1. The 4 principles of attachment parenting and why they work.” Psychology Today. Susan Whitbourne. July 13, 2013.
  2. ” Laying with Your Kids at Night is Not a Bad Habit.” Soccer Mom Blog. Stacey. September 24, 2019.
  3. A tale of two toddler brain scans: One shows the shocking impact caused by abuse and the other reveals the difference love can make – but can you tell which is which?” Mail Online. Claudia Tanner. November 2, 2017.
  4. Scientists claim lying down with your kids until they fall asleep is a good thing and can reduce mental health problems later in life.” The Sun UK. Becky Pemberton. May 28, 2020.
  5. Attachment Parenting.” Attachment Parenting International. Admin. 
  6. Baby Suffocation Deaths from Co-Sleeping Rise.” Web MD. Jennifer Clopton. 
Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.
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