We’ve been hearing it for years. Warning after warning against letting your baby sleep in your bed. Every time there’s another awful, awful story in the news about a baby being found dead in their parents’ bed, we all shudder. Those poor parents.
But one US researcher is pushing for a return to what he calls “breastsleeping”: babies sharing a bed with mums to make it easier for them to breastfeed during the night. Professor James McKenna, the director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, calls this “humankind’s oldest sleeping arrangement and feeding method”.
Anyone who has co-slept will totally understand what he means. It makes night-time breastfeeding simple. Your baby wakes up and wants a feed? Here, have a nipple. You don’t have to get out of bed. That’s a huge thing for a tired new mum.
“It is odd to think that on one hand the AAP [American Academy Of Pediatrics] recommends six months to a year of breastfeeding,” McKenna says. “And on the other hand they are trying to take away the very thing that makes many women achieve this goal: bedsharing.”
The AAP is a big promoter of breastfeeding, saying it reduces the risk of obesity, SIDS and gastrointestinal infections. In fact, they believe 900 babies’ lives could be saved in the US every year if 90 per cent of mothers breastfed exclusively for six months.
At the same time, the AAP is very much against co-sleeping. They say it’s the biggest risk factor for sleep-related baby deaths.
As McKenna points out, the problem with telling parents not to bring their babies into bed is that mums then get up and breastfeed their babies in other places, like rocking chairs, recliners and couches. Falling asleep while feeding a baby in one of these places is way riskier than falling asleep feeding a baby in bed.