Should Siblings Co-Sleep?

cosleepingI have a five year old daughter who lately always wants to sleep in the same bed with her three year old brother. It’s a queen size bed, and therefore there’s certainly more than enough space for both of them, and he doesn’t mind it at all. I love the idea of them bonding in such a way. My husband completely disagrees and believes they should sleep in their own beds in order to maintain that bed time discipline going. We’ve compromised at one per week, but I feel like maybe I’m hurting her in the long run by not allowing it every day. What do you think? Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

Agnieszka, in CA

Is there anything more heartwarming than siblings that want to be together? As parents we strive to help our kids bond, this seems like beautiful evidence that yours are really loving each other a lot right now. Let me answer a few questions.

Is it OK for siblings to co-sleep?

Sure!* In many cultures in the world, whole families sleep together in the same bed, out of custom, desire, necessity or a combination. If you and your husband can agree that your kids sleeping in the same bed should be your custom right now, that is great.

Does co-sleeping mess up bedtime routines?

Only you can answer that. When you let your daughter sleep with her brother, does she take longer to get settled? Does she repeatedly get out of bed? Does she disrupt his sleep? If those things are true, it may not be the best answer for your family right now.

What is really bothering your husband?

This may be the main issue. We have strong taboos against incest for very good reasons, and it’s possible that your husband is not articulating that this practice makes him uncomfortable for reasons that have nothing to do with bedtime discipline. If bedtime routines are great with or without co-sleeping you could ask your husband – in as nonjudgmental a way as possible – if he just feels like them sleeping together is “wrong” or “weird” for some reason.

If he is concerned about body privacy issues, you and he may want to watch this video about nudity at home, and the impact it has (and does not have) on our children.

Are you harming your daughter by allowing what she wants only one night a week?

No. Some kids love to change up the routine, ask for privileges or treats. We don’t hurt them by placing limits on the number of times we say yes.  If anything, you are showing her that this is a privilege and that she should treat her brother – and her time with him – respectfully.

*Important safety issue!

At these ages, co-sleeping does not pose any increased risk for kids. Babies should not co-sleep with siblings as they run the risk of accidental suffocation!

 

Parents – have you had any problems letting your kids share sleeping space? What tips do you have?

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37 thoughts on “Should Siblings Co-Sleep?”

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I have two little boys, and my older (who will be 3 next month) would do anything to sleep alongside his baby brother (who will be 1 next month). Right now, I think the baby is too young, but I would be curious when would be appropriate? Right now, the baby actually co-sleeps with me and his dad, and our older almost always ends up in our bed by morning. It’s getting a bit crowded, but neither kid is happy to sleep alone!

    1. That is totally normal. Katie, ask your doc if your younger one is old enough to hold his own asleep in a bed with your bigger guy. It depends on a bunch of factors, including size, motor skills and temperament. Soon, I bet!

  2. You raise some really great points here. When I read the question, I thought more about the ‘inappropriateness’ of the act. I have heard a few stories about siblings who were inappropriately touched by another sibling so I may be a little more sensitive to it. I think there is always a thin line because kids don’t always know what their actions mean, and it could be detrimental to a sibling.

    1. Just like with bathing, changing, playing together, you are absolutely right Angela – kids need boundaries and those boundaries need to be enforced. Thanks for bringing up this touchy subject – we can’t ignore it or it will never go away!

  3. Once you children are over the age 10, siblings should NOT be sleeping together. It’s not right. It’s teaching you children the they should not sleep alone and when they get older they will think they should be sleeping next ti someone.

    1. Nelly, I can totally understand that concern. I do think that most kids become uncomfortable with bed-sharing by then, if they have the option of their own bed. I also believe that kids can bed-share if that is the family culture or if it’s occasional, and that the belief that they must never sleep alone coudl be addressed with conversations. I really appreciate you adding your perspective!

  4. We have a 6 yr old daughter and just-turned-10 year old son that are still sleeping together eventhough theydo have their own beds and rooms. We keep thinking our son will prefer to stop this soon, but I sign of it. They are creating bad habits though, talking for way too long and keeping each other awake. We wrecking to start trying to implement a stay in your own bed policy (they can still sleep in the same room). Thanks for the article. This issue has also concerned my husband who wasn’t nearly as close to his own younger sister growing up. But our kids are very close and love playing together in addition to co-sleeping.

    1. It sounds like, for health and sleep reasons, you need to stick to that in-your-own-bed policy. Being in the same room they may still keep each other awake. I’d suggest putting a monitor in the room so you can hear them.

  5. My wife & I have a 10yr granddaughter & 4yr grandson. The boy refuses to sleep alone. His sister is tired of it and has her sleep disrupted by her brother. They must share the same room but there are 2 beds. He cries and basically throws a temper tantrum until his mother gives in and either lets him have his way sleeping with his sister or sleeping with mom. Myself and my wife are trying to get him to sleep by himself but mom keeps giving in. Because we sleep next to the children in our room my wife has to get up when he starts crying and whimpering after a few hours of sleeping alone. We are both older& suffer from bad backs & knees. He cries and calls for Nana because we are closer. It is hard for us to cater to him. Mom who sleeps in the other end of the house gives into his fits so we can all sleep. As grandparents we would like to break this cycle? Help?

    1. I completely understand how frustrating and difficult this can be. Unfortunately, nothing will change until the mom decides it will. He is old enough to understand that Nana is not going to come in to him, and to start to learn that he will be praised if he can soothe himself during the night, but that won’t necessarily stop him from crying if he knows that – if he keeps it up long enough – his mom will come in.

  6. I have two sons that share a queen size bed, one is 13 and one is 11. Both boys have high anxiety (one with Aspergers and the other with OCD/Tourettes) and have always shared a bed. My husband really wants them to be in their own twin beds, but neither boy wants this. Is this a hindrance to their development. I feel that this is completely natural and does not pose a problem. But, I am a naturalist (breastfeeding, co-sleeping, no problem with nudity, etc.). Any advice would be helpful.

    1. Jennifer, this is a good question. Here is a question back to you: Can the boys sleep separately ever? Meaning have they done sleepovers or had a friend over and not shared a bed? This is a skill that they need to develop as they move towards adulthood. If they can sleep separately but prefer to share a bed, that may be OK for their development. It would be great to get the advice of a counselor or doctor who knows the boys to answer this. If they’ve never slept separately, they need to develop that ability.

  7. I have a 9 year old boy who is insisting on sleeping with his 1 1/2 year old sister. Currently boy has his own room; my LO sleeps in her bed in my room. However, she does come to our bed in the middle of the night. They both sleep some nights in our bed; but, it gets very crowded with 4 people in bed. He keeps insisting to either sleep with us or that let him sleep with his sister as he doesn’t want to sleep alone in his room upstairs – they both adore each other and enjoy cuddling when sleeping together. I am afraid to move them together due to age and gender difference and that soon my son will need his privacy and then my LO will be so used to sleeping with him, Could you please advise: 1. Would it be appropriate for them to share room given difference in age; 2. At what age is it advisable to separate them in their rooms?

    1. There is no ideal age, though I would say when he hits puberty it would be usual for him to not share a bed in our culture. In most cultures, families bedshare for many years. For now it sounds like he loves his little sister and she him, and he doesn’t want to be the only one not in the family during sleep.

  8. I have 5 and 6 year old granddaughters who sleep together( they have their own beds) but fall asleep holing each other all night. They’ve both underwent trauma dad drug addict abandoned them Two years ago the mother a recovering alcoholic they used to have people go in and out of their home for drugs drinking should I be concerned about their sleeping or is it because they depend on eachbother

    1. I’m not worried that sleeping together at this age, or holding each other is dangerous. In fact, it’s helping them feel secure and loved. It is, however, an indicator that they need other support. They need a great family counselor to help them learn other coping mechanisms and express their trauma and feelings so they can learn more resilience.

  9. I my 9 yr old and 4 yr old boy want to sleep in the same bed tonight they share bunk beds and the 4 yr old always is in bottom but they both wanted to sleep on top.. is this safe? It is a twin bed do I need to worry about the 9 yr old suffocating the 4 yr old?

    1. I’m not worried about suffocation risk. If the top bunk is safe for your four year old to climb to and sleep in on his own, then it’s safe for him to co-sleep there with a nine year old.

  10. I have 3 girls. My oldest is 11 from aprevious marriage, my huband’s daughter is 11 from a previous marriage. The oldest share a room with bunk beds. They have no problem with sleeping in their own beds. Then there’s our child together that is 5 yrs old with her own room. They all sleeping their own beds on school nights, but we let all of them sleep on the couch on the weekends. My 5 yr old has been asking for my oldest to sleep in her bed with her from time to time. My husband is completely against my 11 yr old cosleeping in our 5 yr old in her bed. They want to sleep together. How should I handle this? So far, I’ve not rocked the boat with my husband. I have yet to get more explanation from him as to why they shouldn’t, he just says no.

    1. I think you need to get your husband alone and ask him to explain what concerns him. He may have a past experience, have seen or read something that makes him feel like it would put one of the girls in jeopardy. In the end, if it makes him too uncomfortable then you all need to respect that boundary. He may also be more comfortable if they have a “sleepout” on the floor of your living room or something. That may help him articulate better what he’s worried about. Hope this helps!

  11. Is it safe for my 2 and a half year old and my 6 year old (both girls) to sleep together in a twin bed? They don’t want it any other way. They even love naps together during the day too. I get scared my 6 year old could roll over on the little one even though she’s not a wild sleeper.

  12. My sons slept in the same room until High School….In High School they had separate rooms…..long story short …they are now 27 &25 amd still dont speak til today!

    I now have two DAUGHTER’S and loving every moment of it …..me never having a sister.
    They sleep in the same room Twin Beds.
    But during family time….they fall asleep together on the sofa….my bed….on the floor.
    They are like little cubs.
    I always Tell them that are. thier Owen Bestfreind before sisters due to alot of sisters are mor Friends.

    So i want to give their room a make over and feel it would be best to share a Queen size bed oppose to two twins.

    Im figuring it will makethem much closer ages 9/10.
    I believe they will go for it …bc imma make it very pretty so they both pick out patterns for the room.

    But Secretly….i want them to have a stronger bond.
    Ive already removed All Electronics & Flat Screen outta the room .
    And they have grown closer just within a week!!!

    So i guess to answer my own Question Co Sleeping is a Yes.
    They Basically do as told…..
    Ive experience the Boys outcome….how can i lose????????????

  13. my little brother is 5 years old and i am 13 years old and am a female. i don’t know if it’d be weird for me and him to still cuddle together sometimes, there’s no nudity or touching involved we just enjoy each other’s company and laugh together a lot but at night he doesn’t like to sleep with me just his parents but in the morning he gets into bed with me and plays on his phone.

    1. Leslie,
      Thanks for asking. If you guys are hanging out together and it’s fun without anything that involves intimate touching or conversation, then this may be a totally safe behavior. You are almost a grown up to him, but you’re not a grown up yet. So make sure you talk about it with his parents and your own to make sure that everyone is comfortable. It may be just a really fun, comforting and supportive relationship for both of you, especially if it isn’t every day. I hope this helps.

  14. Hello,
    I have two sweet little guys (ages 4 and 1 1/2). My husband and I have practiced bed-sharing and co-sleeping with both of them from birth. They currently sleep in their own rooms (little one in a crib, 4 year old on a twin mattress), but wake every night to come into bed with us. I would like to put them in the same room to sleep, with the thought that it will be comforting and perhaps prevent them from joining us in bed every night. Should I add a twin matress in the room with the crib? Or should I add two twin mattresses and take the crib out so they can actually cuddle?

    1. It might be a lot to ask the 4 year old to keep the one year old out of trouble all night and in the morning, if the one year old can just get up and wander around the room. I’m not concerned about them wanting to snuggle or be in a bed together, but a free-range one year old might cause a little havoc!

  15. I have a 5yr old son whom I have full custody of with visitations allowed with his father. Recently I after a pick up of my son from a couple day stay with his dad that for those couple nights that his dad had made him sleep in the same bed with his girlfriends son whom is almost 13 and I have never met either him nor the mother. She has not had custody of her son since he was little and from my knowledge the boy has had a less than stable childhood. My concern is putting both kids in a potentially harmful situation as well as normalizing that to my 5 year that is an “ok” situation. Am I valid to have these concerns that I am NOT ok with that being an ok or appropriate arrangement? The two boys both met eachother for the first time when this all occurred. Thanks for the advice.

    1. This may have been a completely safe situation, but it’s not possible for you to know that. I agree with you that he’s better off in a sleeping bag (if bed space is the issue) than sharing a bed with an older child who may have anything from body curiosity all the way to actually predatory behavior. I’d ask the Dad to change the sleeping situation right away.

  16. My 9 year old daughter and 8 year old son co-sleep due to PTSD from a battle with Children’s Services….they were separated from their older siblings and I haven’t been able to get them into their own beds still. Do you think this could be a problem? I don’t see it as one because they are what makes the other feel safe. My husband is at his wits end though.

    1. This is a totally understandable reaction to instability and trauma. You can allow this while you pursue therapy and support for each of them and for your family.

  17. We have my husband’s 3 boys, ages 8, 6 and 6 nearly every day after school and most of the days in the summer. Their mom has them all sleep in one queen while the spare room and the top twin bunk remains empty, (60% of their nights.) In our home, they have 3 beds. The boys are so accustomed to sleeping together, at times it is difficult to get them to sleep in their own beds on school nights in our home. (My husband and I noticed they are more rested for school when they sleep in their own bed.) If given the chance, often the oldest and the oldest twin choose to sleep together, while they say they hate it at Mom’s. However, it seems to be yet another way to single out the baby. He is only 6 minutes younger, but is light years apart from the other boys in terms of development and maturity. Because of this they pick on him, admit to teaming up against him with other children and will do anything to get away from him every chance they get. He is very clingy and will not attempt to much of anything alone. His lack of independence has been a struggle at school, as well as home. I am concerned that the bed sharing option is actually increasing his separation anxiety and is driving a wedge further between them. Do you think we should insist they ALL get to sleep together, or no one does? Or should bed sharing nights be left up to them?

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