Why babies should never sleep alone: A review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bedsharing and breast feeding
James J. McKenna and Thomas McDade
PAEDIATRIC RESPIRATORY REVIEWS (2005) 6, 134–152
There has been much controversy over whether infants should co-sleep or bedshare with an adult caregiver and over whether such practises increase the risk of SIDS or fatal accident. However, despite opposition from medical authorities or the police, many western parents are increasingly adopting night-time infant caregiving patterns that include some co-sleeping, especially by those mothers who choose to breast feed. This review will show that the relationships between infant sleep patterns, infant sleeping arrangements and development both in the short and long term, whether having positive or negative outcomes, is anything but simple and the traditional habit of labelling one sleeping arrangement as being superior to another without an awareness of family, social and ethnic context is not only wrong but possibly harmful. We will show that there are many good reasons to insist that the definitions of different types of co-sleeping and bedsharing be recognised and distinguished. We will examine the conceptual issues related to the biological functions of mother–infant co-sleeping, bedsharing and what relationship each has to SIDS. At very least, we hope that the studies and data described in this paper, which show that co-sleeping at least in the form of roomsharing especially with an actively breast feeding mother saves lives, is a powerful reason why the simplistic, scientifically inaccurate and misleading statement ‘never sleep with your baby’ needs to be rescinded, wherever and whenever it is published.