Why we have a family bed and how it works for us
This Article is not at all an attempt to convert you into a “Family bed -lover”. I have many friends who know about our way of doing that, telling me “for such or such reason, I would never be able to do it like you do!” And you know what? This is totally fine.
What I am planning to bring about through this article, is another reality that can work, reasons why we choose to do it like we do and what kind of gain we experience by doing it.
In the next article I will address the popular worries and concerns around the subject of a family bed, including some information and guidelines we applied in our own family.
In Switzerland and many other European countries, the whole topic around sleep is a serious matter.
In most families, children have their own room and often they don’t share their room with their siblings. Many babies sleep in their own room right from the start.
Siesta times for babies and toddlers are scheduled and at night, bed time is fixed around 6-8pm. Many babies are very light sleepers and therefore, when the baby or toddler sleeps (mostly in a crib or children bed in his /her own room), the room is dark and the whole family walks around on tiptoes.
It is a no-go to walk into a room where someone is sleeping (no matter if it’s an adult or a child) and make any noise, talk or even switch on the light.
Dear reader, if this is your reality; I don’t make fun of you.
I only wanted to showcase the reality of the western world in order to explain how differently I experienced it in South America and how I saw it work there.
In the beginning, it was pretty challenging to experience their way to deal with that matter.
Sleeping soundly in your bed in a room you share with others? No problem, until they decide to go to bed too. My Latino friends came in, switched on the lights, talked and laughed – not caring at all for me, even thou they saw me sleeping! I was so upset inside that I couldn’t fall back to sleep for a long time.
As time passed by, I got used to it but I still was challenged by it.
I was so humbled by their attitude, their heart for us, that, even when their two daughters came into “our room” while we were sleeping, to watch TV, I couldn’t get irritated even a bit, because hey – this was their only room, their only bed – and they gave it to us!
The more I observed this whole topic, the more I realized that the whole subject around sleep is much more relaxed. There is nothing “holy” about sleep. It is something important and vital, but the “when, how and where” is not their first preoccupation. And in many situations, the way we are dealing with that subject here in our western culture would simply be impossible for them – for reasons of space, way of living, even the way houses are built and cultural differences.
I was impressed to see that even with toddlers and babies this whole topic is not a big deal.
A tired baby or toddler in a bus, train, in a meeting with people or at home? Well. Put that child on the lap, on a blanket on a floor or in a hammock – and off they go into the land of dreams.
I loved that. It looked so simple from the outside. I decided that the day I have children, I want to do the very same thing.
We have four children who sleep anywhere.
For years we have had only one room where we all were sleeping. All my babies slept closely by my side for their first two years of living.
Be it in the car, in the tent, airplane, at a conference, on daddies lap while playing a game, in the bathtub, in a hammock, on their high chair, on the floor, on the beach or by the pool, on a walk in the snow near Benny or me while visiting people, in the middle of a birthday party with many people around, in the train, slide or on a canoe trip – everywhere.
A friend of mine from Bolivia was astonished to see how I transferred their cultural way of doing it into my home and how it works the same way.
Like I said, this issue about sleep is very cultural and personal.
The way we do it in many countries of the western world started only in the industrial era, which was around 1760. It started in Great Britain and spread throughout Europe and North America, later Asia and Africa. This means that this particular way of handling the matter is only about 160 years old, a very short period of time compared to the history of humanity.
In my researches about that subject (triggered by friends from my culture who were telling me that it was dangerous and harmful for our children and our marriage to do so), I realized that there is a big wave of scaremongering going on.
- The fear that the risk of SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome) is even higher while having a family bed
- The fear of harming the baby by lying on it or suffocating it by pillows or blankets
- The fear that babies will become egocentric and overly dependent to the parents if they act to “baby-centered”.
- The fear that intimacy in marriage will be nearly impossible
- And – the unwillingness of accepting that the parents’ comfortable “childless life” will change drastically by having children – even more by having them in the same room or even the same bed.
I am happy to be able to tell you – through extended studies of the subject and applying that way of living the last 8 years with our 4 children – there is no reason to subject to that scaremongering!
By applying some guidelines on how to make it save for the baby – and by applying some personal initiative to make it work, there is no substantial reason of why you should not share your room with your kids, your bed with your babies.
In the next article I will go through the above mentioned barriers which hinder many people to give this way of nighttime rest a try, with the hope that those of you who would love to do it but are scared to do so, will happily give it a shot with your children!
I will even reveal how we resolved the issue of intimacy in marriage – after all, sharing our room with our four children definitely needed a creative solution.