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Infants and children should not sleep in their parent's bed: expert

Dr Raj Khillan, Melbourne based paediatrician

“The root cause of sleeplessness among children in our community is that culturally, we make our children sleep with us in our bed. In fact, children are made to sleep in between the two parents, which actually isn’t good for the child,” says Melbourne paediatrician Raj Khillan.

Speaking to SBS Punjabi about sleeplessness and bedwetting issues in children, Dr Raj Khillan said sleeplessness is a major problem especially in the Indian community because of the cultural conditioning that the infant must sleep with the parents in their bed. 

“The infant should not only sleep in its own cot, but preferably it should sleep in its own room,’ he said. 

“It is actually safer for the infants to sleep on their own, since there is no danger of the parents rolling over them.”

“Parents give excuses like – the child gets hungry and keeps waking up, so we have to feed him at night. But a child doesn’t need to be nursed every hour,” he added. 

Dr Khillan says a child’s sleeplessness can affect the entire family, that’s why parents must do everything to set the routine for the infant from an early age. 

“If a child wakes up 10-12 times during the night, then the parents’ sleep gets disrupted too, and they will be exhausted during the day. That won’t help anyone.” 

He says the Australian guidelines recommend that the infant should be sleeping in its own cot from the day the parents bring it home from the hospital. But he points out, some leeway can be made, taking customs and traditions into account. 

“Traditionally in our culture, we use the first 40 days after the birth of a baby to bond with it. I think soon after that, if parents can get the child sleeping in a cot, that would be a great start.” 

He spoke about sleep clinics and other ways to help parents overcome this issue. 

Talking about bedwetting, Dr Khillan said that usually by the age of 3-4 years, children should be able to have complete day-time bladder control, but if they don’t gain full control at night time by the age of 6, paediatric help should be sought. 

“But most importantly, never put your child down in public, if he or she wets the bed at night. This can have a very damaging effect on them. Parents should know that if the child is still wetting the bed at night, it’s not because the child is lazy, or naughty or being troublesome.” 

“The child only needs some training and there are many ways that professionals can assist. My advice to parents is, please should seek help and never criticise or insult your child for bedwetting,” he said.

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