New Moms

Should You Share a Bed With Baby?

| by Toni Brayer MD

I've watched the pendulum swing back and forth on the wisdom of mom sharing her bed with a baby.  The American Pediatric Society has come out against the practice, because of a higher incidence of Sudden Infant Death. But nearly half of all British moms sleep at times with their baby and 1/5 share a bed regularly during the first year.

According to a British study published in Pediatrics, the value of breast-feeding should be considered before advising mothers not to share beds with their infants. The results showed that mothers who shared a bed with their newborns were better educated and of a higher socioeconomic status, and that those whose children routinely slept in their beds during the first 15 months of life reported a significantly greater incidence of breast-feeding.

"Both cross-sectional epidemiological and sleep laboratory studies showed close links between the frequency and duration of breastfeeding and the practice of bed sharing," writes Peter Blair, PhD, Community-Based Medicine and Social Medicine, University of Bristol, United Kingdom, the author of the study.

This study mentioned that women who bed share with infants were more highly educated and, thus, are more likely to follow other infant safety guidelines.  Unsafe infant care practices are sleeping on sofas, bed sharing after use of alcohol or drugs and bed sharing by parents who smoke.

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I can still remember my two children as newborns and how wonderful it was to bring them into bed with me throughout the night to breast feed. It made no sense to get up in a chair and one of the advantages of breast feeding is that you don't need to get up and warm bottles. As the babies get older, however, they squirm around too much, and getting a good night's sleep is pretty hard.

The "family bed" is a practice in most parts of the world and this study shows why it might be preferable for new moms.