We have two sons, one aged four and the other 17 months. The elder boy, although independent when we are not around (for example, at nursery school or with another family member), still wants to be close to us when he is at home.
He was always a bad sleeper and, since learning to climb out of his cot at the age of two, mostly slept with us. In many ways, it was easier, especially when I was pregnant and therefore more tired than usual. When our younger boy was born, I slept with him every night, as I breastfed him until he was a year old. He is also a bad sleeper so now, generally, one of us stays in his bedroom and sleeps with him while the other sleeps with our four-year-old.
Although it isn't brilliant, this system mostly works for us and enables us to get some sleep, albeit interrupted. But I worry that I may be prolonging our elder son's clinginess and setting ourselves up for the same thing with his brother.
Also, my partner and I are rarely able to go out together as at least one child wakes in the evenings. Our elder son sleeps at his grandma's house two or three times a year. He gets very upset beforehand and begs one of us to stay over with him, but after we have left him, he is fine and actually sleeps through the night.
We have always put our children first, but I do get twinges of jealousy when I hear of friends booking holidays without their children, or going away for a weekend. Also, I don't feel as if I have encouraged a behavioural difficulty (despite what some television shows would say), and our elder son is a polite, thoughtful, articulate and happy child. Maybe, though, we are not helping him to become more independent? And how come other children don't do this all the time?
L, via email
Many do. When your children start school and you get to know other parents, you will find that almost all of them have children who come into bed with them at some point (if they are honest about it). I co-ran a parenting board for eight years and heard the stories of thousands of parents over that time, and most played musical beds, had to lie down with their children while they fell asleep etc. My children (aged four and nine) now mostly sleep through for 10 to 12 hours a night but a) they share a room (something for you to consider in time) and b) this wasn't always the case. Sure, some children are all-night sleepers, but they are in the minority.
Until they are about six, children's sleep cycles are shorter than those of adults – about 60 minutes rather than 90 to 100 minutes. This means they have more opportunities for waking up as they transition from one cycle to another.
It is natural for babies and children to want to sleep with their parents, or very close to them. It is a primal response. Look at young dependent mammals – they all sleep next to their parents/mother. You address your children's needs during the daytime, don't you, so why should that change at night?
It is not silly or "making a rod for your own back" to respond to them or comfort them. You are right: addressing their needs makes them more confident, less clingy and not the other way around as some parenting books would like you to believe.
As I have said before, the majority of parenting worries are about what will happen, not what is actually happening. So your worry is that this is the way it will always be and you are messing up their sleep and your lives. You aren't. Your boys will not want to sleep in your bed for ever. I promise. And you know what? You will miss the closeness, so make the most of it.
The other issue is going out with your partner or having holidays or weekends away. I agree that keeping at least half an eye on your relationship is important too. Early parenthood is hard enough and it helps if the parents get on. If you want to go out and find babysitters you are all happy with, then do. Children often act differently when their parents aren't there (as you have seen).
If you really wanted to go on holiday, you could do that too. But if you are not ready yet, and it doesn't sound as if you are, I think you just need to know that it will be possible again one day and then don't worry, either. All of that will come. No phase lasts for ever.
Lastly, be careful of whose views you invite. While some people offer comfort and constructive advice, others like to plant little sticks of dynamite in any crevice of insecurity you show.
Further reading: cosleeping.nd.edu, especially the FAQ section.
Your problems solved
Contact Annalisa Barbieri, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU or email email@example.com. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
Follow Annalisa on Twitter @AnnalisaB