The latest trend in childrearing is the family bed
March 21, 1997
Web posted at: 8:00 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Pat Etheridge
Editor's note: This story is the final report of a week-long series on sleep deprivation's impact on society.
(CNN) -- Gathering in the family bed is by no means a new
idea, but it's become something of a hot issue among parents.
The sound of children crying themselves to sleep is enough to
keep all but the most stoic parents awake. Now, experts say
it's OK for parents to open the door to their bedroom and
invite children to sleep with them -- on a regular basis.
The Ikea Furniture Co. is tapping into the trend by offering
an extra large bed for entire families to share.
And Tine Thevenin offers a new look at this old idea in her
book "The Family Bed."
As a young mother, she felt guilty and confused about letting
her children cry themselves to sleep. "I began to wonder,
'what do I do about this problem?' And I began to talk to
other parents," Thevenin.
In many cultures, the family bed is and always has been a way
of life. Babies are swaddled to their mothers from birth and
sleep with or in close proximity to their parents for years.
But in the United States, most children have separate
bedrooms starting in infancy.
Bedsharing not for everyone
Noted physician and author Dr. Benjamin Spock, who wrote
books that helped generations of families raise their
children, years ago popularized the notion that stern bedtime
routines are essential in raising children to be independent
Many pediatricians still urge parents to follow that advice.
Many parents insist on their own space and privacy. And
there's a strong case to be made that both children and
parents sleep better when the kids have their own beds.
Some parents have an open-door policy, where children are
allowed into the parents' bed if they ask. But a growing
number of parents feel strongly that the best way to nurture
children is a return to old-fashioned bed sharing.
Bedtime with the Lilyerds
Consider the Lilyerd family: Faye, Jerry, 6-year-old Aaron
and 2-year-old Sara sleep together every night.
"I find that after a really rough day, it's a relief to be
able to go to bed," Faye Lilyerd said. "It's a relief to be
able to go to bed. We can all lay down, read some stories and
either relax and just enjoy each other in that peaceful
Jerry Lilyerd agrees. "Why, for such a short period of time,
should you make somebody that's small and young sleep by
"I just love that big bed," the 6-year-old says.
But there are obvious pitfalls to the arrangement. What about
sex, for instance?
"That's never really been an issue," Jerry Lilyerd says. "If
we want to be private or whatever ... we come downstairs."
"Anyone who doubts whether you can have more children when
you have a family bed, go talk to those people who figured it
out," Thevenin says. "You'll figure it out."
But figuring out when to wean the children from the practice
isn't always a simple matter.
"That's always a worry," says Dr. William Sears. "Will they
ever leave our bed? Yes, they do leave your bed."
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