Adopted Children and the Family Bed

Adopted children from China have needs for emotional support at night that may be more intense in some areas than our birth children. In some of these children it could even rise to the level of a post traumatic stress disorder with some fairly long term issues with night time sleeping. Many of these baby girls are abandoned at night, perhaps increasing their stress associated with peaceful night time sleep.

I have been a birth mother to three sons and have two daughters adopted from China at ages 9 months and 11 months. They both had quite different abandonment issues. My younger daughter was immediately taken into foster home care by the retired orphanage worker who found her at her abandonment site. She slept every night with the lady in her bed and lived what would be called a typical traditional Chinese village lifestyle, surrounded by family members. It took her a bit longer to “fall in love with me” than my older daughter since I was her third mother but she was a healthy baby and had no serious  night time issues once she got over her anger and fell in love with me . That process took about two and a half months and did involve some screaming in rage in the night and I walked her and held her in a rocking chair until she could fall back to sleep. We shared a family bed with her as an infant which was peaceful (except she is a bit of a thrasher!) and she transitioned easily to a bed downstairs with her sister as an older toddler.

My older daughter was a different story. She was in the orphanage after her abandonment and was given attention every few hours by the female nannies. She was described as active and wakeful at night. That was an understatement. The first night I had her in the hotel room in China she banged her head against my leg for hours since that is how she pacified herself to get to sleep. I honestly don’t remember how long the head banging continued but I think it subsided as she became physically well again. (She came to me with scabies and a fairly severe ear infection and was in treatment with a homeopathic physician almost every week for several months).   She remained, however, a light sleeper and had night terrors. Once she could walk, she would even get out of our bed and pull books off of the shelves. Eventually that subsided too. It also helped that I took her to regular sessions with a cranial osteopath which she screamed through but which seemed to help her a great deal. She graduated from a family bed to sleeping on a mattress by our bed once our younger daughter slept with us. Still she would often crawl back into bed with all of us. Since about age five, she and her sister have been downstairs in their own bedroom. They slept together in a queen size bed and then at age 7 we redid their room and they each had their own bed.

They are now ages 9 and 11 and I still read aloud at night to them and cuddle with each of them briefly before bed. I think that the family bed was essential to my older daughter’s recovery of normal childhood development and was a happy continuation of good development for my younger child. The only residual  nighttime effect that I notice in my older daughter now is that she is often reticent to sleep over at a friend’s house. She has done it, but she considers carefully whether or not she will stay overnight when invited by a friend. Her friends have been great about this and simply respect her decision whatever she wants to do.

For us the family bed was a familiar parenting style with our sons and youngest daughter but it was an essential therapy for my older daughter.
A friend from the Midwest

© 2023 Donna Simmons

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