Many parents struggle with whether to let their children sleep in the same bed with them. For Ashley, 24, and her husband, Tim, 26, that struggle has turned into a major problem. Their two children, 4-year-old Jacob and 10-month-old Brendan, share their parents' bed nearly every night. “Sometimes it’s easier than hearing them cry,” Ashley says.
Jacob and Brendan sleep in between their parents, which occasionally makes it difficult for Ashley and Tim to even stay on the bed. “They toss, they turn, they smack me in the face, they snore,” Tim says.
Tim can't get a good night's sleep, because there are too many people in the bed. Oftentimes he retreats to the couch to get some shut-eye, however, he says, “The couch is not very comfortable.”
In addition to disrupting Ashley and Tim’s sleep habits, sharing the bed with their children has taken a toll on the couple's physical relationship. Tim admits, “There are very few intimate moments in our life right now. Not being intimate causes fights within the marriage.”
Ashley feels that co-sleeping is the right thing to do, and says that having her sons next to her at night makes her feel safe. But Tim wants his boys to sleep in their own beds. “I try to convince my wife several times a week that co-sleeping is not the right thing to do,” Tim says.
Dr. Jim explains that parents sharing a bed with their children is a normal practice for many families.
“I know many, many moms find that’s really the natural way for them to mother their young, young babies, just to sleep in the same bed as them,” Dr. Jim says. “And that’s how people have been doing it for centuries. For most of human history, moms have been sleeping with their babies.”
He notes that one benefit of co-sleeping is that it makes it easier to feed the baby. But after a certain age, parents should begin weaning their children out of their bed.
“There seems to be a window at about 6 months,” Dr. Jim says. “If you can start to wean them out of your bed at about 6 months, it will be easier. Now, did I do that with my kids? No. My kids were in our bed well after their second birthday -- but we had a big bed and it was fine. Did I spend some nights on the couch? Yes, I did. Did I miss out on a lot of sex? Yes, I did. But you’ve got to get a little creative: use the couch, use the kitchen table, use the backseat of the car!”
Dr. Jim’s Co-Sleeping Safety Tips
- Use a firm mattress. A soft, pillow-top mattress can cause the baby to have trouble breathing.
- Avoid waterbeds because the baby can get trapped between the bed and mattress.
- Keep pillows, covers and bedding away from the baby’s head.
- Don't sleep with your baby if you use alcohol, drugs, sedatives or smoke, because it increases your child's risk of injury.
- Avoid co-sleeping if parents are obese.
- Avoid placing the baby in between Mom and Dad, because Dad is not as sensitive to the baby’s presence in the bed. Have Mom in between Dad and baby.
- Have the baby sleep on his or her back. This reduces the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
Dr. Jim’s Tips to End Co-Sleeping
- Establish a routine bedtime ritual. Give your baby a bath, read a story, listen to some music and then everyone goes to bed. When you transition your children into sleeping in their own bed, use the same ritual.
- Divide and conquer. For parents with multiple children, have Mom take one child and Dad take another and help them go to sleep separately in their own beds.
- Reward good behavior. Instead of suddenly sending your child into his or her own room, take their mattress and put it at the foot of your bed and let them sleep there. When you do move the bed into your child's room, reward your child for falling asleep in his or her bed, possibly giving a better reward for spending the whole night in their own bed.
- Be consistent. Make rules and stick with them. Also, wake your child up at the same time every day. By waking up at the same time every morning, your child is more likely to be tired at the same time every night.
Alzheimer’s Care-Giving Advice
Alzheimer’s disease can be debilitating, not just for the person suffering from it, but for the loved ones who take care of them as well. Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Symptoms often begin to appear after age 60 and can make performing even the simplest of tasks difficult. It is the most common cause of dementia among the elderly.
Former University of Arkansas football coach Frank Broyles, whose wife, Barbara, died of Alzheimer’s, joins The Doctors to talk about the illness and how to be a caregiver for someone suffering from it.
“We were in shock [when Barbara was first diagnosed],” Coach Broyles says. “We didn’t know anything about the disease and we went into it without any preparation, [it was just] trial and error. When you’re losing your memory, you’re losing your judgment, you’re losing your reasoning and you’re losing your language, you’re dealing with a person [who] you’ve got to help feel safe.
“There are a lot of hardships, physical ones, sacrifices you make,” he adds. “But let me tell you, we were going to be positive. We were going to make it the best of times. We were going to love her and take care of her every minute until she died, and we did that. My family came together.
“I was a pretty passionate football coach, but I’m just as passionate about Alzheimer’s and trying to help the caregivers be prepared,” Coach Broyles continues. “If you’re not prepared, you can’t do a good job.”
To help prepare Alzheimer’s caregivers, Coach Broyles wrote a book, Coach Broyles’ Playbook for Alzheimer’s Caregivers: A Practical Tips Guide .
“What we want to do with an Alzheimer’s patient is keep them happy,” Coach Broyles says. “It’s a social treatment, not a medical one. We don’t do anything medical, it’s all social. And so we have to be innovative. We have to change from day to day, because they are losing their mind, and so you make creative decisions to keep them happy.”
Dr. Zaven Khachaturian, president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, explains that since people are living longer, the rate of Alzheimer’s is increasing.
“We are facing a healthcare tsunami with 78 million baby boomers who are going to live beyond age 90 and 100,” Dr. Khachaturian says. “The prevalence goes up with age, so if the current life expectancy of baby boomers continues, 60 to 70 percent of current baby boomers probably already have the disease.
“The good news is we are making rather rapid progress in understanding the disease, developing treatments,” he continues. “We’re even beginning to formulate a national strategic plan to prevent the disease by 2020.”
Ask Our Doctors
Before I started taking birth control, my sex drive was through the roof. Now it’s GONE! Is the birth control to blame, and how can I get my groove back?
-- Mary, from Bancroft, Idaho
“Actually, birth control pills can sometimes decrease libido,” Dr. Lisa says. “Some of the progesterones can have some of that male, testosterone-like extra oomph there. So I would say to talk to your doctor, always tell them, because we have different tricks up our sleeves as far as birth-control pills.”
Should you finish your antibiotics even if you already feel better? I have four pills left in my prescription bottle. Should I finish them?
-- Veronica, from Albany, New York
“I have to answer this in two parts,” Dr. Travis says. “Number one, antibiotics are way over prescribed. So ask your doctor, first and foremost, ‘Are these necessary for me?’ because they aren’t without problems. But, if your doctor does say, ‘Yes, you need antibiotics,’ finish the entire prescription. If you’re feeling better, still finish it, because otherwise, the bad bacteria can comeback to haunt you.”
I can’t get my 10-month-old baby to sleep through the night. Is there anything I can do? I am at my wit’s end. Please HELP!
-- Katie, from Haw River, North Carolina
“Most babies of this age are waking up pretty much just to eat,” Dr. Jim says. “The first step is to take that first waking and try to get them back to sleep without feeding them. Rock them, pat them, carry them around, get them back to sleep without feeding. Just keep doing that and you’ll eventually eliminate that first feeding and then they’ll stop waking up for that first time. Then you work on the second and the third waking. Sometimes within just a few weeks of doing that, they’ll be sleeping through the night.”
I’d like to have a facelift, but I’m afraid to go under the knife. How safe of a procedure is it and how long is the recovery time?
-- Debbie, from Los Angeles, California
“It’s surgery, and it’s a tradeoff,” Dr. Ordon says. “You have to go through incisions. There are permanent scars on your face. You have to go through a recovery period, but there’s not much discomfort. But facelifts are done all the time, and I’ve been doing facelifts for 28 years now, thousands of facelifts. The tradeoff of doing the procedure and what you can get from the procedure is a good thing to do, and most patients are happy they did it.”