Breastsleeping: An expert believes you should be co-sleeping with your baby.

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”.

Angelina Jolie has been open about sharing a bed with her children. Image via @angelinajolieofficial Instagram.

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.


As well, if parents are told, flat-out, that co-sleeping is wrong, they don’t learn how to do it safely. And it’s unsafe co-sleeping that causes so many co-sleeping deaths.

Kourtney Kardashian is another celebrity who often posts photos in bed with her children. Image via @kourtneykardash Instagram.

Earlier this week, in southern Illinois, police reported an alarming number of baby deaths due to co-sleeping: more than 100 in four years, just in that one region. In a lot of cases, parents were drunk or under the influence of drugs. In some cases, babies’ faces were pushed into pillows or soft mattresses.

It’s getting so bad that police are threatening to start laying criminal charges against parents whose babies are harmed after they’ve ignored warnings against co-sleeping.

Choosing to bring your baby into bed with you could be one of the biggest and scariest decisions you make as a parent. You might choose to do it right from the start. Or you might find yourself doing it, like a lot of parents, late one night, when your baby just won’t stop crying and you are utterly exhausted and can’t think of a single other thing to do. Either way, it needs to be done safely.

McKenna has this advice for mums who co-sleep: don’t ever let an older child sleep in the same bed as a baby, make sure there are no gaps between the mattress and the bed frame, don’t do it on a soft mattress or a waterbed, and don’t co-sleep with a premature baby.

Other things to keep in mind: no pillows near the baby, no heavy bedding or electric blankets, and never let a drunk or drug-affected adult sleep in the bed.

Did you co-sleep with your baby?