As an attachment parenting advocate, I am very fond when people tell me that they are co-sleeping with their babies and small children. Parents say it makes them happy to hear peaceful breath of their kids and to be sure that they are all right. I couldn't agree more. At one point, though, many people start asking the question: when should we transition our child to his own bed?
This question is dubious. Attachment parenting philosophy is centered on the child's needs. The child gives cues to the parent when something is needed. The same is true in the case of sleeping. Now, nobody is saying that if parents are ready for the child to move on, they don't have any influence on what will happen and when. For example, if the child will have his own bedroom, it might be plausible for the mother to put a bed in that room, put all the toys and clothes there. Then parents can have an advertising campaign, saying to the child: "When you want to, you can sleep in your own bed. All your toys are there and you are welcome to leave us any time you please". It is important to remember to always let the child know that he is always loved and respected and can make any choice that he is comfortable with. The transition from co-sleeping to sleeping alone has to be done gradually and without any coercion, in line with the attachment parenting philosophy.
Most importantly, the transition has to happen when the time is right for the parents as well. After all, they know their child best, not child care experts, doctors or social workers, who may have been raised a different way. Many people have fears about co-sleeping to begin with, so that fear will translate into advice that sounds like, "Stop co-sleeping immediately, just pull the band-aid off before it's too late and your child is spoiled". Old school doctors still insist on this. When you are confronted with this kind of logic, especially from a doctor, ask them this: "Do you believe that humans are mammals?", and then argue that no other mammal has any doubts that a small child should stay close to parents for protection, sense of security, love and warmth.