Should You Co-Sleep With Baby? Yes and No, Says Study

ByKylie McConville
Mar 2020
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The latest study published in the JAMA Pediatrics found that though bed-sharing with baby makes breastfeeding easier for moms,  co-sleeping could also raise baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be put to sleep nearby to their parents (such as in crib or bassinet in the same room) — but not in the same bed, in an effort to reduce the risk of SIDS. The AAP reports that nearly 2,500 babies die from SIDS each year in the United States.

But the latest research, led by Dr. Fern Hauck from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, focused on the low rates of US breastfeeding. In a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers found that only one in six US babies are breastfed exclusively for six months. So, Hauck and her colleagues looked at data from a large infant feeding study and focused on 1,800 mothers who were breastfeeding when their baby was two weeks old. Researchers surveyed the women 10 times during their infant’s first year and were asked questions that included whether or not they were still breastfeeding and if no, when they stopped nursing. They also asked women at seven different points during the study whether they were sharing a bed with baby.

Hauck and her team found that nearly 42 percent of new moms were bed-sharing at two weeks postpartum and just 27 percent were still bed-sharing at one year postpartum. The average duration among the new moms was that they breastfed for roughly seven months and for moms who were breastfeeding, the average was only 10 weeks of exclusively nursing.

For new moms that were co-sleeping, researchers followed up with further surveys to surmise just why the sleep sharing routine worked for them and not other moms. They noted that women who were bed-sharing with baby tended to breastfeed for longer. At a year postpartum, more than half were still breastfeeding and bed-sharing. Comparatively, for women who reported never sleeping with their baby, just half were still breastfeeding at 30 weeks postpartum.

So, why were some moms reporting that they continued to nurse? It could be convenience. Hauck told Reuters Health, “You can understand this in terms of convenience for moms. The baby is lying in bed with them, they don’t have to get up and get the baby in and out of the crib or bassinet.”

But is bed-sharing with baby safe? Yes… and no. “My bottom line,” Hauck said, “is that yes, we now see with more evidence that breastfeeding is supported by bed-sharing, however we don’t recommend it, because the risk of SIDS and sudden death is still there.”

The American Association of Pediatrics advises against bed sharing because studies show it increases risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If you do sleep share, the AAP cautions against doing so when you’ve been drinking or are “excessively tired”… ruling out, oh, every single night for most new parents. The AAP does recommend, though, keeping baby in your bedroom (but in a separate crib or bassinet) for the first few months. Close proximity has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. If even a crib on the other side of the room seems too far, try a co-sleeper, which is a three-sided crib that attaches right to your bed for easy access. And it’s not just the AAP that recommends against the sleep sharing routine. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also warns parents not to place their infants to sleep in adult beds, due to the fact that the practice puts babies at risk of suffocation and strangulation.

However, US parents who do co-sleep feel that it strengthens their bonds with baby and is a natural way to breastfeed throughout the night.

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