Sleep Arrangements and Behavior of Bed-Sharing Families in the Home Setting

Sally A. Baddock, PhD, Barbara C. Galland, PhD, Barry J. Taylor, MBCh, FRACP and David P.G. Bolton, MRCP, PhD

PEDIATRICS Vol. 119 No. 1 January 2007, pp. e200-e207


OBJECTIVES. We aimed to provide a quantitative analysis of the sleep arrangements and behaviors of bed-sharing families to further understand the risks and benefits as well as the effects of infant age and room temperature on bed-sharing behaviors.

METHODS. Forty infants who regularly bed shared with ≥1 parent ≥5 hours per night were recruited. Overnight video of the family and physiological monitoring of the infant was conducted in infants’ homes. Infant sleep position, potential for exposure to expired air, head covering and uncovering, breastfeeding, movements, family sleep arrangements, responses to the infant, and interactions were logged.

RESULTS. All infants slept with their mother. Fathers were included in 18 studies and siblings in 4. Infants usually slept beside the mother, separated from the father/siblings (if present), facing the mother, with head at mothers’ breast level, touching, or with mother cradling. Median overnight breastfeeding duration was 40.5 minutes. Mothers commonly faced their infant, but infants were rarely in a position that potentially exposed them to maternal expired air. Fathers were seldom in contact with the infant during sleep. Of the 102 head-covering episodes observed in 22 infants, 80% were because of changes in adult sleep position. Sixty-eight percent of head uncovering was facilitated by the mother; half of these events were prompted by the infant. A 1°C increase in room temperature decreased infant head covering by 0.2 hours.

CONCLUSIONS. The mother-infant relationship is of prime importance during bed sharing, whether the father is present or not. The focus around breastfeeding often dictates the sleep position of the infant and mother, though room temperature may also influence this. In colder rooms infants tend to spend more time with their face covered by bedding. Frequent maternal interactions rely on the ability of the mother to arouse with little stimulation. Mothers, perhaps impaired by alcohol, smoking, or overtiredness, may not be able to respond appropriately.

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