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          Where Should Your Child Sleep?

          July 13, 2005

          Dr. Phil does not support parents and children regularly sharing a bed, which is known as co-sleeping. In his view, having children in the parental bed can be very disruptive to a healthy adult relationship, and can also cause regressive behavior on the part of the child.

          If it’s difficult for your child to sleep alone, Dr. Phil suggests discussing the issue during daylight hours — not at bedtime. Establish rules, and make it clear that your bedroom is off limits for sleeping. Comfort your child by being available, but allow co-sleeping only on special circumstances (such as the occasional thunderstorm).

          Get kids excited about the independence of sleeping in their own room. Make a game out of it, giving them gold stars or rewards for making progress. Start a new habit of going into your child’s room and reading a bedtime story — but do not sleep there. To help a child overcome fear of the dark, Dr. Phil suggests buying a lamp dimmer, so that with “successive approximations” — not one big leap — the child will feel more comfortable and safe. It may be difficult at first, but in a short time, children will develop their own methods of soothing themselves and feel safe, secure and comfortable under their own covers.

          Still, Dr. Phil acknowledges that there are reputable sources on both sides of the debate:

          The Pros
          1) Babies sleep longer through the night (Dr. Sears)
          2) No nighttime separation anxiety (Dr. Sears, Dr. Phil)
          3) Easier to breast feed at night (Dr. Sears)
          4) Time to bond with baby (Dr. Sears, Dr. Phil)
          5) Studies show decreased chance of SIDS (Dr. Sears, James K. McKenna, PhD)

          The Cons
          1) Parents can roll over on baby (AAP; CPSC)
          2) Baby can fall off the bed (AAP; CPSC)
          3) Baby can fall between wall and headboard (American AAP; CPSC)
          4) Baby can suffocate in loose bedding (AAP; CPSC)
          5) May interfere with sex life and intimacy (Dr. Phil)
          6) Creates co-dependency (Dr. Schmitt M.D., Dr. Phil)
          7) Does not reduce chance of SIDS (AAP; CPSC)

          CPSC - The Consumer Product Safety Commission
          AAP - American Academy of Pediatrics

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