Brandon and Meagan Deal never dreamed they would be co-sleeping with their 12-year-old daughter, McKenzi.
“It started back when McKenzi was a baby. She had low birthweight and we wanted to keep a close eye on her,” Brandon, 32, tells TODAY.com. “And then it just sort of stuck."
Recently, Brandon shared a TikTok video about his family’s sleeping arrangements.
In the now-viral clip, Brandon, who lives in Alabama, explains that he shares a king size bed with his wife, Meagan, and their 6-year-old daughter, Sarah. McKenzi has a twin size bed pushed right up against theirs.
After giving followers a tour of their shared bedroom, Brandon asks McKenzi why she likes bunking with her Mom and Dad.
“I don’t know,” the sixth grader replies. “It’s a little safer.”
McKenzi is deaf and removes her cochlear implant at night.
“At that point, she can’t hear anything and it’s an eerie feeling for her,” Brandon says, while chatting with TODAY.com. “Sometimes she’ll wake up and check to make sure we’re there.”
"We have a fire alarm for deaf people but what if it didn't work? I would never forgive myself," Meagan says. "I don't make McKenzi sleep in our room, but I'm definitely not going to force her out."
Getting alone time is not an issue for Brandon and Meagan, who note that their girls are typically fast asleep by 8 p.m.
“That’s like four hours before we go to bed, right? And we have the whole rest of the house. It’s not as if we’re a one room house,” Brandon says.
Brandon’s TikTok video has racked up thousands of comments.
"Co sleeping on and off through childhood years, both kids managed to go off to college successfully on their own thousands of miles away," one person wrote.
Several pointed out that co-sleeping is common in many countries and very natural. But not everyone sees it that way.
“We’ve heard it all — you know, ‘You’re screwing her up. She's going to have horrible separation anxiety. She’ll never be independent. Brandon says. “McKenzi is extremely independent.”
According to Liz Nissim-Matheis, a clinical psychologist in New Jersey, it’s best to end co-sleeping when a person reaches puberty, or at around 11.
“Once we get into that territory of bodies changing, that’s when you really want to take a step back and say, ‘What is going on here? How can we work through this anxiety." Nissim-Matheis tells TODAY.com. “Ultimately, you want to promote our child’s ability to self soothe and to eventually live independently."
But you want to do what works for your family, Nissim-Matheis says.
“This is a hot topic right now, and I think the pendulum swings in a lot of different directions,” Nissim-Matheis notes. “You’ll see one study where it’s like, ‘Your kids have to be in their own bed,’ and then a few months later, they’ll release guidelines about how we all want to be sleeping in the same bed.”
Dr. Rebecca Fisk, a pediatrician at Lenox Hill Hospital at Northwell Health in New York City, warns that babies under the age of 12 months should absolutely not co-sleep as bed-sharing increases the risk of suffocation and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
“Co-sleeping is a personal decision, not a medical decision. It’s important that people determine what their kids need,” Fisk tells TODAY.com. “However, once we get beyond the prepubertal age, I usually use that as my line in the sand. That’s when there needs to be the delineation of child room, parent room.”
Last year, actor Alicia Silverstone revealed that she and her then 11-year-old son, Bear, were sharing a bed.
“Bear and I still sleep together,” Silverstone said during a chat on “The Ellen Fisher Podcast.”
“I’ll be in trouble for saying that, but I really don’t care,” she added.
In 2020, the “Clueless” star told TODAY that she and Bear “wake up and snuggle for two to three hours laughing and talking. Then we’ll go make pancakes.”