Family Bed
Dr. Phil speaks with guests who wonder if they're making extreme parenting mistakes.Though not an extreme parenting mistake, there is a huge controversy over co-sleeping. Mark and Margie's 16-month-old son, Bryce, sleeps with them in their bed every night. When they want to be intimate, they just wait until Bryce is asleep, and then they move him to one side of the bed. Margie thinks having their son with them is a natural thing to do, but Mark disagrees.


"I struggled with it," says Mark, "having my child present while my wife and I are making love. My wife has promised that two years is the limit that Bryce will be spending time in our bed, and I plan to hold her to that. I want my wife back on a full-time basis."


Margie doesn't see a problem. "I don't think it's inconvenient at all," she says. "We get to be together and we also have our son with us ... Just last week, I woke up to him planting a kiss right on my lips, and he had his arms around me, and that is just so cool to me. The thought of putting him in his crib and having him cry it out " no way am I going to do that."
"I don't see what the big deal is," says Margie. "I think that when he gets a little older, we'll definitely have to put him in his crib, but right now, it is a good parent, emotional, physical bond that we have with our son."


When Dr. Phil asks Mark what his objection is, he says there is more than one. "I don't believe that he needs to wake up " and even at this age " he doesn't need to wake up and see us together. It disrupts our sleep, and I'm just not comfortable with it," he says.


"You think that it interferes with the intimacy and bonding with you two?" asks Dr. Phil.


Mark agrees, explaining that he looks forward to spending time with his wife at the end of the day, and having Bryce in bed with them cuts into that time.


Margie says the two of them still have that time together. She also says that Bryce is too young to understand what is going on even if he does wake up and see them being intimate.

Dr. Phil explains that there are varying opinions on this subject and there is nothing perverse, bizarre or unusual about having an infant child sleep with his/her parents. Still, Dr. Phil does not recommend it. "I've said before, I don't think it's a good idea to have children in your bed with you every night. It's not a good idea for the marriage. I think it can be very disruptive to the relationship with the husband and the wife, and it is here. You can't deny that it is here, from your husband's point of view."


Dr. Phil continues: "The truth is, there is considerable research that argues against what is called co-sleeping. The American Pediatric Association really recommends against it. There have been hundreds of deaths over the last eight or 10 years from smothering, rolling over on top of the child, problems with that sort of thing. That usually happens when they're very, very young, so you're through that window at this point. But for all of that research, there are a whole lot of people whom I have a lot of respect for, who think it's a fine idea."

Dr. Phil gets to the heart of their problem: "Can we agree this is a 'when' instead of an 'if' question? The question is when you're going to move him out of your bed, not if."


"Absolutely," agrees Margie, who says they're going to move him to his own bed when he's around 2. Since that's eight months away, Dr. Phil asks if they can come to some compromises before then. Perhaps they can wait until he's asleep, and then move him to his own crib? Or maybe they can move his crib into their bedroom?


Margie agrees, saying they have discussed moving the crib into their bedroom. The problem is, when they put him in his own crib, he wakes up within an hour, and then they have to start the process all over again.


"And he might do that for a while," says Dr. Phil. "At this point, as each week and month goes by, having sex in the presence of a child gets to be a bad idea." But in the meantime, they should negotiate a compromise, because Mark's other kids were co-sleepers, and now they have trouble sleeping by themselves. "So he's seen this can have an aftermath of dependency, or lack of independence ... so he has a legitimate position. You guys are a couple and the greatest gift you can give that child is to take care of your marriage."