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Bed-sharing and co-sleeping: Research overview

Ball, H.L.

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This review examines the issue of babies sleeping with their parents. Beginning with an anthropological perspective, the biological underpinnings of parent-baby sleep contact are explored, as are crosscultural practices. The relationship between baby sleeping and feeding practices in the UK is considered along with the safety aspects of bed-sharing. Key points: • Parent-baby sleep contact is a predictable human behaviour based on our species’ evolutionary biology; • Bed-sharing is a common method of night-time care employed by around half of all UK parents in their baby’s first month of life; • Bed-sharing and breastfeeding are strongly related and sleeping in close proximity to their baby helps mothers to breastfeed; • Epidemiological data show that bed-sharing is associated with an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) for babies whose parents are smokers, consume alcohol or drugs, or who sleep with their baby on a sofa; • Research into the benefits and hazards of bed-sharing should consider WHO is bed-sharing; the circumstances under which bedsharing is taking place (WHERE and HOW), and the way in which bed-sharing is conducted (WHAT). • There is no simple message about bed-sharing that will fit the needs of all families. Parents should be encouraged to weigh up the risks and benefits that pertain to their individual circumstances and make an informed choice about what is best for them and their baby.


Ball, H. (2009). Bed-sharing and co-sleeping: Research overview. New digest, 48, 22-27

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Oct 1, 2009
Deposit Date Apr 7, 2010
Publicly Available Date Jun 14, 2010
Journal New digest.
Print ISSN 1476-4806
Publisher National Childbirth Trust
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 48
Pages 22-27
Publisher URL


Published Journal Article (67 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© 2010 NCT. NCT maintains copyright on this research overview. Ball, Helen L. (2009) 'Bed-sharing and co-sleeping : research overview.', New Digest, 48 . pp. 22-27.

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