Bed sharing encourages breastfeeding, study finds
The topic of sharing a bed with your baby is one that has been hotly debated over the years. But now a new study has found that mothers who bring their newborns into their bed are more likely to continue breastfeeding past six months.
Researchers at Durham University used 678 women at mid-pregnancy for their study, which was published in Acta Paediatrica. The subjects were questioned on topics such as whether the fear of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) put them off sharing a bed with their baby and therefore prevent them from breastfeeding for as long as they would like.
The women sent in weekly reports of their breastfeeding and bed sharing movements for 26 weeks following the birth of their baby.
These reports showed that 299 women, 44 per cent, either “rarely” or “never” bed-shared (defined as at least one hour of bed sharing per week).
Meanwhile, 28 per cent, or 192 women, bed-shared “intermittently” and 28 per cent or 187 did so “often”.
The most significant results from the study were that those women who bed-shared frequently were still breastfeeding at over six months, compared to those who rarely or never bed-shared.
“We previously found that mothers who bed-share were twice as likely to breastfeed their baby for at least six months than mothers who began breastfeeding but didn’t bed-share,” Professor Helen Ball of the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab in the Department of Anthropology said.
“In this paper we show that mothers with the strongest intent to breastfeed are the ones who sleep with their babies the most. These mothers therefore need information on how to make bed sharing while breastfeeding as safe as possible.
“Women with strong motivation to breastfeed frequently bed-share. Given the complex relationship between bed-sharing and SIDS appropriate guidance, balancing risk minimisation with support for breastfeeding mothers is crucial.”
The NHS recommends exclusively breastfeeding your baby up to six months of age, and continuing giving breast milk alongside other food after this age will contribute to healthy children going forward.
Breastfed babies have fewer chest and ear infections, as well as less chance of contracting diarrhoea and vomiting and less likelihood of becoming obese in later life, according to the NHS.