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This site is flooded with the questions about parents concerned about their children who try to sleep with them.

I wish to know why exactly are western country people so obsessed about not letting their children sleep with them.

I know about SIDS, but around at the age past 1 year there isn't said to be any risk of SIDS so why do parents force their kids to sleep in a separate room always?

I mentioned western country people because here in India if the parents don't let the child sleep with them, then it is a concern for everyone because that would mean that it is a foster child or the parents are foster or the parents are cruel.

We let the child sleep in her room when she's grown up enough to take care of herself.

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Not an answer, just a comment. Not everyone in the west is anti-cobedding. We live in the USA and have done it with all three children. The oldest two (now 13 and 11 years old) did it till they were each about 3 and became interested in sleeping in their own rooms. The baby (now almost 5 months) is sleeping in our room but seldom in our bed. Unlike the other 2, she seems to like her space and sleeps poorly by me. The other two were cuddlers that couldn't seem to sleep if they weren't up against me! –  Angela Feb 24 at 20:04
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4 Answers

up vote 19 down vote accepted

TL;DR Version: Having a separate room for a child is generally a luxury that not everyone has, and the options that it opens up for those who have the opportunity to try it can be attractive. Bed sharing is generally not recommended for health/safety reasons, so room sharing while avoiding bed sharing may be problematic or completely impractical.

First, I'd like to distinguish between two variations on co-sleeping: bed sharing and room sharing.

Room sharing is generally considered to be a best practice, as it allows easy monitoring of the child to facilitate feeding and comforting.

Bed sharing, on the other hand, is considered a significant risk for SIDS and other infant death issues such as suffocation, and should be avoided, particularly under the following circumstances:

  • the infant is under the age of 3 months, regardless of other factors
  • bed-sharing with a current smoker, or if the mother smoked during pregnancy, regardless of other factors
  • bed-sharing with someone who is excessively tired, or using medications or substances that could impair their alertness or ability to wake up
  • more than one child should not share the bed
  • soft surfaces, such as waterbeds, old mattresses, sofas, couches, armchairs, heavy blankets, quilts, comforters, etc.

These come from the 2011 recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics' task force on SIDS.

It is, I think, unfair to paint this as a "western thing" or an "obsession", as many, many parents in western countries are strong advocates of co-sleeping. Sleep training (as opposed to co-sleeping) may be unusual, or even unheard of, in many eastern cultures, but I'm not certain that all eastern cultures stigmatize it to the degree you portray India as doing. It may simply be that having a "spare bedroom" that can be dedicated for an infant or child (or, for multi-children households, every child!) is generally considered a luxury (even in western countries).

Note that the average household size in the U.S. has been steadily declining, and is now down to 2.59 people per household (with an average family size of 3.14 people).

Compare this to India, which appears to have an average household size of 4.8.

The desire for sleep training as an alternative to co-sleeping is, in my opinion, largely a function of opportunity, rather than culture (it has admittedly become embedded as part of the American culture in the past, although, as I mentioned, that has changed in recent decades).

So, now that that's out of the way, let's get to the question: why do some parents want their children to sleep in other rooms?

Dariusz's answer covers the basics quite well. In addition to hampering intimacy, facilitating future transitions, and allowing divergent sleep schedules, giving an infant or toddler their own room allows a few other options that might not be available otherwise.

In addition to letting the parents have some hours of "adult time" after the child goes to sleep, it can make it easier for parents to split up night time "baby duty." When my son was born, my wife and I alternated periods where one of us would be responsible for getting up in the middle of the night to respond to calls for comfort/feeding/changing. Typically this responsibility would fall on whichever of us was not working the next morning (we alternated our vacation/maternity/paternity time so we could have one of us stay home all day with our son longer before we had to send him to daycare).

This arrangement wouldn't work nearly as well if the baby was in the room with us.

Another idea that I recall seeing before is that of giving a baby their own "safe room" to explore on their own, filled with comfortable, safe, and age-appropriate toys.

On a more practical side, since bed-sharing is considered a safety issue in many situations (as I described above), having the child sleep in another room may actually be a more practical alternative than finding ways to share the same room, whether due to living restrictions (e.g. there simply isn't enough room to place a safe crib or cot within the existing bedroom) or financial considerations (e.g. the family can't afford a crib and a small cot, or they were gifted/handed down a crib that is too big to fit).

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I always wished that you'd answer each and every question that I posted here. :) –  TheIndependentAquarius Feb 24 at 16:32
    
You're too kind! –  Beofett Feb 24 at 16:38
    
and you have the patience and will to make the site roll on with very detailed and referenced answers. –  TheIndependentAquarius Feb 24 at 16:39
    
+1, you distinguish the difference between room sharing and bed sharing. –  BigHomie Feb 24 at 20:01
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First of all, if the child is sleeping with us, we can't engage in any other bed-suitable activities than sleeping. At least I think that sex is out of the question if our child sleeps with us.

Secondly, it may be difficult for the child to learn to sleep without parents later on. At one time or another it will have to happen and the transition may be painful.

Besides - what if the kid goes to sleep at a different time than parents? What if the parents have to wake up early? Sleeping in a separate bed (most and likely a separate room) gives the parents much more freedom. And we do strive for as much freedom as possible, since the kids take so much of our time.

I - personally - have nothing against co-sleeping. I think that both children and parents can take pleasure from it. I do, however, enjoy the freedom more. Two hours of free time in the evening and a low chance the child will wake is priceless.

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thanks for the useful answer. –  TheIndependentAquarius Feb 24 at 16:32
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I would add that there are significant cultural differences between the US and to some extent other western countries (particularly British-origin cultures) and eastern countries (and even some 'western' countries) that make this a very different issue for the two cultures. I'm going to use 'Americans' here as that is my experience, but I believe some of these points apply to other British-origin cultures as well (ie, Canada, Australia, and of course the UK).

In the US, independence is very valued. Independence from the government, independence from your family, independence of your children are all valued much more highly than in other cultures. In the US, it's very common nowadays to have relatively little contact with your parents and siblings as an adult (ie, contact once a month or less), for heaven's sake. Americans also value having large amounts of space in their home; in part this is due to availability of space, since it would be hard to imagine a 200m^2 home in India for a family of 4 - but in the US that's pretty normal. It's also due to valuing property ownership (due to historic/cultural reasons) and owning a large enough property to have some space between oneself and one's neighbors (again, possible in the US).

Americans value having children in their own space as early as possible for similar cultural reasons. Having a large enough house that you can have each child in their own room is a status symbol (or was, now that it's fairly easy to do with smaller families). Giving each child a separate area to call their own, and to feel ownership of, makes sense to Americans in a way that it doesn't really to others.

Additionally, Americans aren't as comfortable with physical closeness - even with family members - as many other cultures. A common issue Americans have travelling abroad in Europe or Asia is being uncomfortable with how close people stand to them when talking. That might contribute to being less interested in having children sleep in the bed for some people.

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Dariusz gave a great answer. I only want to add that in reference to smaller (< 1 years old) children, some parents are heavy sleepers, in the event that a parent rolls over on the child, and smothers that child so that they cannot breathe, and the parent sleeping too heavy to know, then tragedy can result. The child may also decide at that moment to start their milestones and roll over, only not being able to roll back to the other side and suffocate themselves.

On that same vein, kids that small can roll off of the bed, the bed being at a height that can damage to a kids skull and/or neck. Now, if the child sleeps between the parents or pillows, then they can still suffer from the above.

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Just as an FYI, it has actually been studied, and the chances of a sober parent doing this to a child are pretty slim - a mother, zero (the rolling over on top of part). Its really mostly just a myth that this happens. –  balanced mama Feb 24 at 22:29
    
@balancedmama, I wouldn't say it's a myth, though I do buy that the chances of a sober parent doing this are low, the chances can only be zero in the case of not bed sharing. We also have to remember that some parents have extremely demanding day jobs, and can sleep very deep as if they weren't 'sober'. –  BigHomie Feb 25 at 13:43
    
@balancedmama: so there's a reason there -- if your child sleeps in your bed, you're forced to stay sober. –  RemcoGerlich Feb 25 at 19:18
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So True - and who want's to be sober???? lol AND truly, I read about a couple of studies on it (eight years ago so I don't have the reference anymore) and there has never been a case of a baby hurt or killed in this kind of circumstance, and they found some sort of reflex in mothers when they rolled near a lump in beds with them. It really is myth that it happens. Babies will still roll off beds, there are still SIDS concerns. . . but the rolling on top of the baby thing is truly not an issue with moms - no matter how deeply they sleep. –  balanced mama Feb 25 at 20:22
    
@balancedmama, if it never happens, why does the English language have a word for it ("overlay", specifically referring to an infant being suffocated by the mother rolling on top of it in her sleep), and why does the OED's definition include a quote from an 1890s newspaper reporting on a number of overlaying deaths? –  Mark Feb 26 at 9:42
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