“Mommy, do you know why I have all my pets around me when I sleep?”
“Because I never want to sleep alone!”
Why is the idea of sleeping alone such an unpleasant thought for a 4 ½-year-old?
My daughter has slept with someone for over 3/4 of her life.
She started out in our bed at night time from the day she was born. She and I would nap together during the day. The daily together-nap went on for years. When she was about 2 ½ years old, she and her brother asked to sleep together at night. So she left our bed and joined her older brother in his. She would even nap with him occasionally, the other times choosing to nap with me.
When her older brother started school, she and I started napping together consistenly again. When her older brother wanted his own room and his own space, my husband would lay down with her on her bed every single night until she fell asleep.
Friends and relatives scoffed: “You need to put her in a baby bed!” “It’s just a bad habit now!” “She’ll never learn to sleep by herself!”
What are we setting her up for? A lifetime of dependence? The inability to fall asleep alone? Clinginess?
Indeed, just the opposite. Studies show that children who co-sleep have higher self-esteem, higher self-confidence, greater life-satisfaction, and greater independence than their non-co-sleeping counterparts. Co-sleeping children are also less fearful, have fewer tantrums, and are happier.
We are already seeing these results in her eight-year-old brother; he has every one of those wonderful qualities. Friends, relatives, teachers and acquaintances have commented on how confident and well-behaved he is.
So as I put my 4 ½ year old daughter down for her nap, and she surrounds herself with her stuffed animals and says that she never wants to sleep alone, I hug her and and reply,
“Nobody does, Honey.”