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Bed Sharing With Babies: What is the Hype About?

Learn the key issues about bed sharing with babies.

Babies expect touch and physical closeness with caregivers. In fact, it is vital for their health and well-being. Hence they are upset when adults put them down or leave them alone. It doesn't feel right and it's not good for them.

Ever since humans came into existence babies have been carried, held, cuddled and kept close. All over the world and through time. Even at night.

At night--what?! You mean bed sharing? But isn't that bad? Aren't researchers showing how bad bed sharing is for babies? They could die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, couldn't they? Isn't it bad to bed share?

Wrong. You'll have to educate yourself about bed sharing with infants as the reports and some research is misleading. Here are safe guidelines for bed sharing and co-sleeping with infants.

There is a lot of hype from researchers who present only part of the data such as this recent study.

Here is an excellent analysis of what the bottom line is on bedsharing from UNICEF, in light of the recent article.

Here are three things to know about bed sharing and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome:

  1. Infants under age five months have a higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
  2. If done improperly, bed sharing can be risky for young infants.
  3. Bed sharing can be done safely no matter the age of the infant.

Here is our recent white paper on SIDS and bed sharing with a critique of the recent research and what is important to know about bed sharing.

The bottom line is to be wise and attentive to the baby's needs and safety. Be mindful.

NOTE on BASIC ASSUMPTIONS: When I write about parenting, I assume the importance of the evolved developmental niche (EDN) for raising human infants (which initially arose over 30 million years ago with the emergence of the social mammals and has been slightly altered among human groups based on anthropological research).

The EDN is the baseline I use for determining what fosters optimal human health, wellbeing and compassionate morality. The niche includes at least the following: infant-initiated breastfeeding for several years, nearly constant touch, responsiveness to needs so the young child does not get distressed, playful companionship, multiple adult caregivers, positive social support, and natural childbirth.

All these characteristics are linked to health in mammalian and human studies (for reviews, see Narvaez, Panksepp, Schore & Gleason, 2013; Narvaez, Valentino, Fuentes, McKenna & Gray, 2014; Narvaez, 2014) Thus, shifts away from the EDN baseline are risky. My comments and posts stem from these basic assumptions.

Posts in Sleep Series:

Baby Sleep Training: Mistakes “Experts” and Parents Make

'Let Crying Babes Lie'? So Wrong

Simple Ways to Calm a Crying Baby

Normal, Human Infant Sleep: Feeding Method and Development

Normal Infant Sleep: Changing Patterns

Normal Parent Behaviors and Why They Won’t Hurt Your Child

Normal Infant Sleep: Night Nursing's Importance

More Normal Parenting for Sleep

Understanding and Helping Toddler Sleep

Understanding and Helping Toddler Sleep-Tiredness?

Understanding and Helping Toddler Sleep--Preparing Success

SIDS: Risks and Realities

Bed Sharing With Babies: What is the Hype About?

Bedsharing or Co-Sleeping Can Save Babies' Lives

Also, check out: Dangers of "Crying it Out"