Why One Researcher Thinks Mothers And Infants Should Share Beds

Guidelines on co-sleeping from the American Academy of Pediatrics and National Institute of Health are pretty clear: babies should sleep alone, on their backs, and far from any suffocation hazards like blankets, pillows or toys. According to the AAP, co-sleeping is the biggest risk factor for sleep-related infant death, or the unexpected death of a baby younger than a year old.

But James McKenna, director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, takes issue with this orthodoxy.

In a peer-reviewed report published in Acta Paediatrica, McKenna argues that we should return to “breastsleeping,” the act of combining breastfeeding with infant sleep, a co-sleeping model that mothers around the world have been practicing for thousands of years.

“It may be 2015, and we may live in an urban, industrial setting, but this breastsleeping system has been humankind’s oldest sleeping arrangement and feeding method,” McKenna told The Huffington Post.

Primarily, McKenna’s pro-bedsharing stance revolves around the importance of accessible and easy breastfeeding. Sharing a bed increases the number of times a mother will breastfeed her child during the night. According to previous research by McKenna that was published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, mother-infant pairs who shared a bed had twice the number of breastfeeding sessions during the night as those who slept apart.

“It is odd to think that on one hand the AAP recommends six months to a year of breastfeeding,” McKenna said. “And on the other hand they are trying to take away the very thing that makes many women achieve this goal: bedsharing.”

One of the other problems with the AAP’s hardline stance, according to McKenna, is that it frames bedsharing as a black-and-white issue and doesn’t leave any room for women —> Read More