Neuroanthropology

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Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone

Posted by dlende on December 21, 2008

mother-and-childBy James J. McKenna Ph.D.
Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. Chair in Anthropology
Director, Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory
University of Notre Dame
Author of Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Cosleeping

Where a baby sleeps is not as simple as current medical discourse and recommendations against cosleeping in some western societies want it to be. And there is good reason why. I write here to explain why the pediatric recommendations on forms of cosleeping such as bedsharing will and should remain mixed. I will also address why the majority of new parents practice intermittent bedsharing despite governmental and medical warnings against it.

Definitions are important here. The term cosleeping refers to any situation in which a committed adult caregiver, usually the mother, sleeps within close enough proximity to her infant so that each, the mother and infant, can respond to each other’s sensory signals and cues. Room sharing is a form of cosleeping, always considered safe and always considered protective. But it is not the room itself that it is protective. It is what goes on between the mother (or father) and the infant that is. Medical authorities seem to forget this fact. This form of cosleeping is not controversial and is recommended by all.

Unfortunately, the terms cosleeping, bedsharing and a well-known dangerous form of cosleeping, couch or sofa cosleeping, are mostly used interchangeably by medical authorities, even though these terms need to be kept separate. It is absolutely wrong to say, for example, that “cosleeping is dangerous” when roomsharing is a form of cosleeping and this form of cosleeping (as at least three epidemiological studies show) reduce an infant’s chances of dying by one half.

Bedsharing is another form of cosleeping which can be made either safe or unsafe, but it is not intrinsically one nor the other. Couch or sofa cosleeping is, however, intrinsically dangerous as babies can and do all too easily get pushed against the back of the couch by the adult, or flipped face down in the pillows, to suffocate.

Often news stories talk about “another baby dying while cosleeping” but they fail to distinguish between what type of cosleeping was involved and, worse, what specific dangerous factor might have actually been responsible for the baby dying. A specific example is whether the infant was sleeping prone next to their parent, which is an independent risk factor for death regardless of where the infant was sleeping. Such reports inappropriately suggest that all types of cosleeping are the same, dangerous, and all the practices around cosleeping carry the same high risks, and that no cosleeping environment can be made safe.

Nothing can be further from the truth. This is akin to suggesting that because some parents drive drunk with their infants in their cars, unstrapped into car seats, and because some of these babies die in car accidents that nobody can drive with babies in their cars because obviously car transportation for infants is fatal. You see the point.

One of the most important reasons why bedsharing occurs, and the reason why simple declarations against it will not eradicate it, is because sleeping next to one’s baby is biologically appropriate, unlike placing infants prone to sleep or putting an infant in a room to sleep by itself. This is particularly so when bedsharing is associated with breast feeding.

When done safely, mother-infant cosleeping saves infants lives and contributes to infant and maternal health and well being. Merely having an infant sleeping in a room with a committed adult caregiver (cosleeping) reduces the chances of an infant dying from SIDS or from an accident by one half!

Research

In Japan where co-sleeping and breastfeeding (in the absence of maternal smoking) is the cultural norm, rates of the sudden infant death syndrome are the lowest in the world. For breastfeeding mothers, bedsharing makes breastfeeding much easier to manage and practically doubles the amount of breastfeeding sessions while permitting both mothers and infants to spend more time asleep. The increased exposure to mother’s antibodies which comes with more frequent nighttime breastfeeding can potentially, per any given infant, reduce infant illness. And because co-sleeping in the form of bedsharing makes breastfeeding easier for mothers, it encourages them to breastfeed for a greater number of months, according to Dr. Helen Ball’s studies at the University of Durham, therein potentially reducing the mothers chances of breast cancer. Indeed, the benefits of cosleeping helps explain why simply telling parents never to sleep with baby is like suggesting that nobody should eat fats and sugars since excessive fats and sugars lead to obesity and/or death from heart disease, diabetes or cancer. Obviously, there’s a whole lot more to the story.

As regards bedsharing, an expanded version of its function and effects on the infant’s biology helps us to understand not only why the bedsharing debate refuses to go away, but why the overwhelming majority of parents in the United States (over 50% according to the most recent national survey) now sleep in bed for part or all of the night with their babies.

That the highest rates of bedsharing worldwide occur alongside the lowest rates of infant mortality, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) rates, is a point worth returning to. It is an important beginning point for understanding the complexities involved in explaining why outcomes related to bedsharing (recall, one of many types of cosleeping) vary between being protective for some populations and dangerous for others. It suggests that whether or not babies should bedshare and what the outcome will be may depend on who is involved, under what condition it occurs, how it is practiced, and the quality of the relationship brought to the bed to share. This is not the answer some medical authorities are looking for, but it certainly resonates with parents, and it is substantiated by scores of studies.

Understanding Recommendations

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) SIDS Sub-Committee for whom I served (ad hoc) as an expert panel member recommended that babies should sleep close to their mothers in the same room but not in the same bed. While I celebrated this historic roomsharing recommendation, I disagreed with and worry about the ramifications of the unqualified recommendation against any and all bedsharing. Further, I worry about the message being given unfairly (if not immorally) to mothers; that is, no matter who you are, or what you do, your sleeping body is no more than an inert potential lethal weapon against which neither you nor your infant has any control. If this were true, none of us humans would be here today to have this discussion because the only reason why we survived is because our ancestral mothers slept alongside us and breastfed us through the night!

mckenna-sleeping-with-your-babyI am not alone in thinking this way. The Academy of Breast Feeding Medicine, the USA Breast Feeding Committee, the Breast Feeding section of the American Academy of Pediatrics, La Leche League International, UNICEF and WHO are all prestigious organizations who support bedsharing and which use the best and latest scientific information on what makes mothers and babies safe and healthy. Clearly, there is no scientific consensus.

What we do agree on, however, is what specific “factors” increase the chances of SIDS in a bedsharing environment, and what kinds of circumstances increase the chances of suffocation either from someone in the bed or from the bed furniture itself. For example, adults should not bedshare if inebriated or if desensitized by drugs, or overly exhausted, and other toddlers or children should never be in a bed with an infant. Moreover, since having smoked during a pregnancy diminishes the capacities of infants to arouse to protect their breathing, smoking mothers should have their infants sleep alongside them on a different surface but not in the same bed.

My own physiological studies suggest that breastfeeding mother-infant pairs exhibit increased sensitivities and responses to each other while sleeping, and those sensitivities offers the infant protection from overlay. However, if bottle feeding, infants should lie alongside the mother in a crib or bassinet, but not in the same bed. Prone or stomach sleeping especially on soft mattresses is always dangerous for infants and so is covering their heads with blankets, or laying them near or on top of pillows. Light blanketing is always best as is attention to any spaces or gaps in bed furniture which needs to be fixed as babies can slip into these spaces and quickly to become wedged and asphyxiate. My recommendation is, if routinely bedsharing, to strip the bed apart from its frame, pulling the mattress and box springs to the center of the room, therein avoiding dangerous spaces or gaps into which babies can slip to be injured or die.

But, again, disagreement remains over how best to use this information. Certain medical groups, including some members of the American Academy of Pediatrics (though not necessarily the majority), argue that bedsharing should be eliminated altogether. Others, myself included, prefer to support the practice when it can be done safely amongst breastfeeding mothers. Some professionals believe that it can never be made safe but there is no evidence that this is true.

More importantly, parents just don’t believe it! Making sure that parents are in a position to make informed choices therein reflecting their own infant’s needs, family goals, and nurturing and infant care preferences seems to me to be fundamental.

Our Biological Imperatives

My support of bedsharing when practiced safely stems from my research knowledge of how and why it occurs, what it means to mothers, and how it functions biologically. Like human taste buds which reward us for eating what’s overwhelmingly critical for survival i.e. fats and sugars, a consideration of human infant and parental biology and psychology reveal the existence of powerful physiological and social factors that promote maternal motivations to cosleep and explain parental needs to touch and sleep close to baby.

The low calorie composition of human breast milk (exquisitely adjusted for the human infants’ undeveloped gut) requires frequent nighttime feeds, and, hence, helps explain how and why a cultural shift toward increased cosleeping behavior is underway. Approximately 73% of US mothers leave the hospital breast feeding and even amongst mothers who never intended to bedshare soon discover how much easier breast feeding is and how much more satisfied they feel with baby sleeping alongside often in their bed.

But it’s not just breastfeeding that promotes bedsharing. Infants usually have something to say about it too! And for some reason they remain unimpressed with declarations as to how dangerous sleeping next to mother can be. Instead, irrepressible (ancient) neurologically-based infant responses to maternal smells, movements and touch altogether reduce infant crying while positively regulating infant breathing, body temperature, absorption of calories, stress hormone levels, immune status, and oxygenation. In short, and as mentioned above, cosleeping (whether on the same surface or not) facilitates positive clinical changes including more infant sleep and seems to make, well, babies happy. In other words, unless practiced dangerously, sleeping next to mother is good for infants. The reason why it occurs is because… it is supposed to.

Recall that despite dramatic cultural and technological changes in the industrialized west, human infants are still born the most neurologically immature primate of all, with only 25% of their brain volume. This represents a uniquely human characteristic that could only develop biologically (indeed, is only possible) alongside mother’s continuous contact and proximity—as mothers body proves still to be the only environment to which the infant is truly adapted, for which even modern western technology has yet to produce a substitute.

Even here in whatever-city-USA, nothing a baby can or cannot do makes sense except in light of the mother’s body, a biological reality apparently dismissed by those that argue against any and all bedsharing and what they call cosleeping, but which likely explains why most crib-using parents at some point feel the need to bring their babies to bed with them —findings that our mother-baby sleep laboratory here at Notre Dame has helped document scientifically. Given a choice, it seems human babies strongly prefer their mother’s body to solitary contact with inert cotton-lined mattresses. In turn, mothers seem to notice and succumb to their infant’s preferences.

There is no doubt that bedsharing should be avoided in particular circumstances and can be practiced dangerously. While each single bedsharing death is tragic, such deaths are no more indictments about any and all bedsharing than are the three hundred thousand plus deaths or more of babies in cribs an indictment that crib sleeping is deadly and should be eliminated. Just as unsafe cribs and unsafe ways to use cribs can be eliminated so, too, can parents be educated to minimize bedsharing risks.

Moving Beyond Judgments to Understanding

We still do not know what causes SIDS. But fortunately the primary factors that increase risk are now widely known i.e. placing an infant prone (face down) for sleep, using soft mattresses, maternal smoking, overwrapping babies or blocking air movement around their faces. In combination with bedsharing, where more vital normal defensive infant responses and may be more important to an infant (like the ability to arouse to bat a blanket which momentarily falls to cover the infants face when its parent moves or turns) these risks become exaggerated especially amongst unhealthy infants. When infants die in these obviously unsafe conditions, it is here where social biases and the sheer levels of ignorance associated with actually explaining the death become apparent. A death itself in a bedsharing environment does not automatically suggest, as many legal and medical authorities assert, that it was the bedsharing, or worse, suffocation that killed the infant. Infants in bedsharirng environments, like babies in cribs, can still die of SIDS.

It is a shame and certainly inappropriate that, for example, the head pathologists of the state of Indiana recommends that other pathologists assume SIDS as a likely cause of death when babies die in cribs but to assume asphyxiation if a baby dies in an adult bed or has a history of “cosleeping”. By assuming before any facts are known from the pathologist’s death scene and toxicological report that any bedsharing baby was a victim of an accidental suffocation rather than from some congenital or natural cause, including SIDS unrelated to bedsharing, medical authorities not only commit a form of scientific fraud but they victimize the doomed infant’s parents for a third time. The first occurs when their baby dies, the second occurs when health professionals interviewed for news stories (which commonly occurs) imply that when a baby dies in a bed with an adult it must be due to suffocation (or a SIDS induced by bedsharing). The third time the parents are victimized is when still without any evidence medical or police authorities suggest that their baby’s death was “preventable,” that their baby would still be alive if only the parents had not bedshared. This conclusion is based not on the facts of the tragedy but on unfair and fallacious stereotypes about bedsharing.

Indeed, no legitimate SIDS researcher nor forensic pathologist should render a judgment that a baby was suffocated without an extensive toxiological report and death scene investigation including information from the mother concerning what her thoughts are on what might or could have happened.

Whether involving cribs or adult beds, risky sleep practices leading to infant deaths are more likely to occur when parents lack access to safety information, or if they are judged to be irresponsible should they choose to follow their own and their infants’ biological predilections to bedshare, or if public health messages are held back on brochures and replaced by simplistic and inappropriate warnings saying “just never do it.” Such recommendations misrepresent the true function and biological significance of the behaviors, and the critical extent to which dangerous practices can be modified, and they dismiss the valid reasons why people engage in the behavior in the first place.

For More Information:
A Popular Parenting Book
Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Cosleepingby James J.McKenna (2007). Platypus Press.

The Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper- a bassinet/crib which Dr. McKenna has recommended as one way to enjoy close proximity with a baby for parents who are concerned about bed-sharing

The Scientific Perspective
McKenna, J., Ball H., Gettler L., Mother-infant Cosleeping, Breastfeeding and SIDS: What Biological Anthropologists Have Learned About Normal Infant Sleep and Pediatric Sleep Medicine. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 50:133-161 (2007)

McKenna, J., McDade, T., Why Babies Should Never Sleep Alone: A Review of the Co-Sleeping Controversy in Relation to SIDS, Bedsharing and Breastfeeding (pdf). Paediatric Respiratory Reviews 6:134-152 (2005)

284 Responses to “Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone”

  1. Clare said

    I am curious to know whether in the co-sleeping debate how much attention has been paid to 1) the kinds of beds and sleeping environments that exist cross-culturally and 2) the nature of nighttime sleep across cultures. For example, in my own ethnographic experience in India (not studying co-sleeping, I’m sorry to say) people didn’t conk out cold for several hours at a time at night, but were up and down the whole night through, and then napped on and off throughout the day. What bearing does any of this have, if any, on patterns of co-sleeping (or indeed differences in beds and bedding)?

    • Jasmine said

      This article muddies the waters on the topic. There are some seriously unsafe co-sleeping situations. There are co-sleeping arrangements that are 100% safe. There are some that are terrible concepts. To make the assumption (both in the article and in some of the comments throughout) that infant death is only related to intoxication or extreme fatigue is unfair to the parent or parents whose child has died in a co-sleeping situation. To insinuate that a “cover-up” was involved in deaths attributed to co-sleeping is an extremely biased, inflammatory statement. Parents can, and unwittingly do, neglect their child while co-sleeping with them. It happens. Similarly, parents can and unwittingly do, neglect their child whent he chidl is sleepign in another room.

      Parents should know that they can love and cherish their child without co-sleeping with them. The implication from this article (and the comments below) that parents who co-sleep are either “more-Mammalian” or care more for their child than non co-sleeping parents is unfair. The options as presented are to: 1) co-sleep and love your child, or 2) not love your child and put them at risk for death.

      I also don’t think it would be fair of me to post the few stories I have heard about in my community (one was very close to me) where a child died in a co-sleeping arrangement. I do think it is fair, however, to point out the general concept of the unsafe aspects of one form of co-sleeping: bed-sharing. As mentioned, there are specific unsafe aspects to bed-sharing including intoxication, excessive bedding, and over-tired parents. One aspect not mentioned was Delta and REM sleep. Parents do not and will not know whether or not they are the type of parent who will wake up from a deep sleep or dream sleep when (and if) their child has an issue or if the parent has rolled over on top of the child. There is always a first time for the parent to find out. Hooray if the parent wakes up and realizes what is happening in time to stop. Unfortunately, if that first time a parent rolls over onto the child, the parent does not wake up from dream or deep sleep, how does that death get reported? Will the authorities and the supporters of bed-sharing assume the parent was over-tired (fatigued?)

      As such, bed-sharing should be discluded from co-sleeping. Co-sleeping would be better represented if bed-sharing was not included. Room-sharing is 100% safe and should be the form that is espoused. There are comments below from people who live in Costa Rica and India (and other places, I’m sure). In the United States, it is normal accepted practice for people to sleep either alone or with their partner. There are many reasons for this, just as there are many reasons that people in other nations tend to share beds amongst two or more non-romantic people. The point is that in the US, it is normal and accepted that children sleep in their own bed. The question for parents is whether or not they want their child to be part of the mainstream group, or if they are willing to have their children experience the fringe group. In the US, good or bad, bed-sharing is part of the fringe group. There is an effect to being part of an outlying group, and parents should realize teh effect this may have on their child. There are certainly benefits to bed-sharing, but a better article would have presented a less-biased approach to the topic.

      • tina said

        LOL. I guess a less biased approach would be one that castigates “fringe group” habits? I’m curious what you consider to be the “effect of being part of an outlying group”? Maybe only mainstream behaviour should be legal? Would that work with your constition? Prosecute those fringe freaks!!

      • K said

        Sharing a room is NOT cosleeping. Clarify your terms and re-read the evidence.

      • emmegebe said

        Jasmine, I don’t think you read the article very carefully.

        You write, “This article muddies the waters on the topic. There are some seriously unsafe co-sleeping situations. There are co-sleeping arrangements that are 100% safe. There are some that are terrible concepts.” Um, right, that’s exactly what the article spends a lot of words explaining. Dr. McKenna urges people to not lump all forms of co-sleeping together, but instead to clearly define bed-sharing vs. room-sharing vs. other sleeping arrangements (couch, chair, solitary).

        You say, “To make the assumption (both in the article and in some of the comments throughout) that infant death is only related to intoxication or extreme fatigue is unfair to the parent or parents whose child has died in a co-sleeping situation.”

        But Dr. McKenna does not assume this. He says, “Infants in bedsharing environments, like babies in cribs, can still die of SIDS.” He is making the point that authorities should never assume the opposite, that any bed-sharing death is automatically suffocation (and therefore the parents’ fault). If a SIDS death occurs in a crib the parents are considered mostly blameless, whereas if a SIDS death occurs during bed-sharing, pathologists are told to automatically consider it suffocation, and parents are blamed. Dr. McKenna is saying that the authorities need to have open minds regarding how/where SIDS can occur, as well as knowledge of the variables that make co-sleeping safe/unsafe.

        You note that bed-sharing and room-sharing should be differentiated. Dr. McKenna makes exactly the same point. He is urging people to use clear definitions and look at every situation individually precisely so that parents are not wrongly blamed and so that we can all have a better understanding of how to keep the most babies alive at night.

        You say, “In the US, good or bad, bed-sharing is part of the fringe group.” You may have skimmed over the part of the article where it says that more than 50% of parents in the US co-sleep at least sometimes / part of the night. When the majority of families do it, it’s not a “fringe” behavior.

        You say, “Parents do not and will not know whether or not they are the type of parent who will wake up from a deep sleep or dream sleep when (and if) their child has an issue or if the parent has rolled over on top of the child.” Sleep-lab research by Dr. McKenna and others has shown that breastfeeding mothers are exquisitely tuned in to their babies’ sleep behavior, even when they pass through the deepest levels of sleep. Mothers’ and babies’ sleep cycles are actually synchronized during co-sleeping so that the mother is already entering a more wakeful stage at the same time her baby is. Mothers almost universally assume a protective sleep position: side-lying, facing the baby, bottom arm extended out past the baby’s head. From this position it would be very difficult to roll onto the baby without rousing (the mother’s arm would be pinned).

        Have you ever had a cat or a dog sleep on your bed? How about something inanimate, like a small cylindrical bolster pillow? Have you ever rolled over on one of these things and not stirred? A baby has natural defenses and would wiggle and squawk just like a cat or dog would if something happened. And even if it didn’t, the adult would surely stir if an odd-shaped, firm item were under them. People sew tennis balls onto the back of sleepwear to prevent snoring, because having something small and hard under you makes it impossible to sleep on your back.

        How many adults do you know who fall out of their beds at night (when sober and otherwise well)? Just as we know where the edge of the bed is in our deepest sleep, adults who bed-share know where the baby is. This is true even for heavy sleepers, even for large people. If someone has a problem with falling off the edge of the bed when sleeping alone, then they are not a good candidate for bed-sharing. (But they can still room-share.)

        You accuse this article of being biased, but it seems to me that you read it with a closed mind and missed many of the main points. Ask yourself whether you are truly being fair and balanced with your own opinions about bed-sharing and co-sleeping.

      • Andrea said

        Given my perspective on mainstream US culture, I’d be more than happy to lump myself and my children into the fringe group. In fact, I’d be downright embarassed to be considered part of the mainstream culture.

        However, let’s look at that argument: drop your values and your beliefs so you’ll fit in with everyone else. I’d die before sending my child that message. I believe in doing what I think is right, regardless of whether I’ll be looked upon differently. I’d rather be different and true to myself than lumped up with everyone else while silencing my inner voice.

      • Sada said

        @Jasmine: You say, “The point is that in the US, it is normal and accepted that children sleep in their own bed.”

        Actually, it was not until recently that shared beds (sometimes for every member of a family and guests as well) went out of favor in the United States. For some interesting reading into American customs as late as 1846, do a little bit of research into “bundling boards.” Having a bed for every family member was/is a sign of wealth, not something to do with normal accepted custom or safety and health. Your entire rant reveals a typically naive “Modern American” viewpoint that assumes that just because “this is how we do it *now*” (and it is what the “experts” currently promote as the best way) that it’s the only and best way to do something. Don’t blood-letting, leeches, and “twilight sleep” for childbirth ring any bells for you?

      • EyeRoll said

        Seriously, what a rant! Co-sleeping (aka bedsharing) parents in America are NOT the fringe anymore. And it’s sad the leaving kid to cry it out in a crib is the “norm.” There are studies suggesting brain damage as a side effect to the typical, lazy and selfish American parents who make no effort to do what is NORMAL and NATURAL. Babies are meant to be with their mothers. Breasts are made for feeding babies. Most Americans are too lazy to deal with the sacrifices breastfeeding requires. Americans listen to stupid doctors for parenting advice instead of their own intuition as parents…our country is SO effed up in the parenting/nurturing/bonding category…but somehow we still wonder why Americans as a whole are so angry? Methinks DUH!

      • Kayla said

        wow, i cant believe how narrow minded you are. i have twin four year old boys and i wish i wuld have been able to bed share with them as babies! unfortunatly i didnt have great support from their father, but they had each other in the same bed, thankfully. I beleive that did make it easier for them to be in a seperate bed from me. I was young and dumb and spent my nights and days worring myself sick about them being in the other room away from me!! I hated it!
        When i finally had my daughter i decided against putting her in the other room. Since i was breast feeding i let her sleep with me in bed. The difference between her and the boys was insane. I have actually been getting way more sleep and i feel so good physically wen we wake up in the morning!! i never have any worries about myself or my husband hurting her!! I feel so much safer with her in there with us since, unlike the boys, she has no one to be with her in a different room! imagine how u wuld feel!!! She finally made her own decision to stop nursing since she eats so much and i cant make enough to feed her. But at almost 4 months old we have transitioned her to the bassinet next to the bed and its was so easy i almost died! Shes happy and her and i have a special bond i beleive soley because i decided to co-sleep in bed with her! I belive that artical was one of the best things ive read mainly because it gave me some releif that what i was doing was ok and VERY RIGHT!
        I stongly urge you to reread that artical since you seem to be slightly misguided!

      • You’re wrong. The math doesn’t show what your prejudices want it to. Bed Sharing can be absolutely safe – going to be drunk or intoxicated with your baby isn’t. The driving analogy is a good one – you can make anything unsafe if you do it irresponsibly.

        The benefits of bed-sharing are much deeper than just being in the same room – they aren’t the same thing at all.

      • Michelle said

        Jasmine, reread the article. I don’t think you were paying attention.This article does not “muddie” the facts, in fact it covers both sides quite well. It states that you have to look at all the factors. Not everyone can safely sleep with an infant. You need to reread this article. It does not “promote” bedsharing. Parents need to decide what is best and safe for them. You feel like this article makes you a “bad” parent for not bedsharing, then you must have guilt issues about your overall parenting. The whole crib “thing” to have your baby sleep in another room is not “natural”. Animals do not put their babies in a seperate rooms. But we do have people who are heavy sleepers and if you do not know this about yourself by the time you have a baby, that is pretty sad.
        Also, when you are nursing, especially in the first few months, babies nurse constantly. I hear the statement alll the time that a mother “does not make enough milk for their baby because they always seem hungry. Signs that a baby is not actually getting enough would be not enough wet diapers, fussiness and not being able to sleep. You should be tested by a doctor to determine “if” you truly are not lactating enough. You also have to eat and drink enough to keep your milk flowing. I have a friend who starting fasting in the morning and her milk did dry up. You cannot diet or fast while nursing without causing a disruption.

      • Catherine said

        Bed sharing, known as the family bed, was the norm in the U.S. until a bed manufacturer decided it’s much more profitable to convince parents that there is something wrong with the family bed: And parents began buying bassinets, cribs, and twin beds. So the myth of the evil family bed continues.

        I slept with my infants every night. I placed their little right ear over my hart. While they were too young to lift their heads, they cried when they were hungry. When they could lift their head the they would rout around for a breast to feed from. My husband was in wounder by the fact that I didn’t move a muscle while the baby and I were sleeping.

        Infants sleeping on the ground beside their parents would have died of exposure. It was critical for mothers to share their body heat with their infants.
        These instincts of mother and child allowed the human race to flourish.

      • Jodi said

        Raise your hand if you think Jasmine is feeling guilty about not bed-sharing…

      • BW said

        @ EyeRoll…..I never felt my breastfeeding was a sacrifice. I enjoyed it! It was an honor to provide that nourishment for my child. Unfortunately there are mothers who for whatever reason (work, health, etc.) can not provide that for their child. To assume they are lazy for doing so is narrow minded. My son has never been left to “cry it out” whether he was in his room, in my room or in my bed. He is well rounded when it comes to sleeping arrangements.

      • jody said

        You are suggesting that parents should go with whatever the mainstream approach is simply to avoid the suffering their child would surely endure if they were part of the “fringe” group. What horrible side effects of being part of the fringe group are you alluding to- being different, making positive change in the world, being creative, living a life of making decisions based on personal beliefs and experiences? Yikes those are scary things that happen to kids with “fringe” parents! The article mentions a recent national survey finding that more than 50% of parents have their baby in bed with them for part of the night……..how are bed sharing parents the fringe group?

      • Sunny said

        For all those parents who might be frightened by comments like this about the impact on your baby of being part of a ‘fringe group’, I have a 17 and 21 year old who co-slept and are very healthy emotionally and physically, and are definitely mainstream. One is in 3rd year of university and no one ever asks if she co-slept! Be safe and take care of your babies and toddlers as you know best.

    • Jen said

      Love the article and hate the comment ”This article muddies the waters on the topic” and saying that any co-sleeping is a death sentence. From my personal experience, if my 2 days old child wasn’t asleep next to me but in the cot I would never have noticed that she turned blue and stopped breathing because she never made a sound. And sleeping next to me saved her life!

    • Expert Parenting Adviser said

      The co sleeping debate is being hottest controversial topic for many years, but I would say that it indeed have harms but the simple way to ease the dangers of co sleeping is to use cosleeper in the bed, which will make co sleeping with baby, a safe and secure affair and off course, memorable moments.

  2. This is more of a “western fad”. I come from India and in India, baby cannot sleep anywhere else but besides his mother and father. I myself have a son who is 3 years old and still sleeps between myself and my wife. I must admit, we did try to make him sleep slightly away (in the same room) but none of the three could take it easily.

    Considering safety, how can a “true mother / father” cause death of a child while sleeping? Millions of babies sleep with their parents in my country, and still havent heard of many (rather any) case where the baby was harmed due to this. As parents you are constantly aware of the fact that your child is sleeping besides you are take atmost care even in your sleep!! I can talk about it as i practice it for past three years. We are expecting our second child, and i am pretty sure, he/she will sleep by our side!!

    • Kaylee said

      wow. you are wrong. I am a coroner, and I have seen MANY cases where the cause of death is related to co sharing of a bed. The fact that you are saying no cases is scary. Co sleeping in the same bed is like driving with a baby on your lap. Maybe you won’t crash, but why would you put your baby in danger in the first place??

      • Linda said

        To the “Coroner” who posted that they had seen “many, many cases where death is related to cosleeping” is also misleading. We KNOW that cosleeping with your child when under the influence of drugs / alcohol / sedative medication is dangerous. How “many” cases have you seen where the parents were dry, sober and well? STOP trying to scare people by the use of extreme drama. How the hell did we get 7 billion people on the planet, when most of them are born without ANY medical intervention, and co-sleep with their parents!

      • All my kids have slept in my bed, and I can vouch for parents being aware of the baby even while asleep.

      • Thao said

        And as an ‘experienced’ coroner, how many babies did you find died while alone in their cots? Why was it that SIDS previously went by the term ‘cot death’? And not ‘bed sharing death’? The rate of cot death or whatever you want to call it is the highest in the west…where funnily enough babies are generally left alone at night. And at the peak of the epidemic the then current western recommendation was to sleep a baby alone and on its tummy. I know, my little sister nearly suffocated because if this! And many babies around the (western) world were lost as a result. People need to question what the self appointed authorities (and coroners) are recommending because it’s not always right. At one point in time doctors insists babies be fed formula because it was touted as being better than breast milk….and like sheep most of us believed them!!
        In countries like Japan where almost all babies sleep with their parents the rate of SIDS is the lowest in the world.
        I think rather than mention only the babies that died while bed sharing how about giving us more information on the circumstances of these bed sharing deaths….did it involve drugs, alcohol…?? Could it be these things and not cosleeping itself that caused the deaths??
        Most people on here would agree that there is no safer and more appropriate sleeping place for a baby than with its loving mother. Thank you Dr McKenna for all your insightful informative and invaluable research.

      • Happy mommy said

        To the Coroner, you also scare me by comparing cosleeping to driving with your kid in your lap. That example is flat out outrageous. read the article please. I have a 4 year old and a 8 month old, they both co slept with my husband and me. As I read in many of the comments the parents, specially a mother that is breastfeeding, are very aware of their babies in the bed. It is almost impossible to roll over a baby when you take a protective position next to your baby. I always feel when my baby shifts positions or starts feeding. Both my babies slept through the night, never had colicky or fuzzy babies, they have been the happier little ones ever. I am glad i followed my mommy instincts, my culture, happy that I have a supportive husband and that I did not succumb to “peer pressure” and did not follow the “mainstream”

    • Julie said

      Great to hear a father’s perspective, I also agree – I was always aware of my babies in bed next to me. I slept on my side with my arm out and always woke moments before the baby began stirring before another feed. These days I wake when my youngest wants to go to the toilet, which isn’t every night – she can go weeks without needing to get up. I hadn’t planned to bed-share, but listened to my intuition in the early days and read up on the subject.

    • puzzler25 said

      That is great! How big is your bed? There is not room for my husband and I to sleep in our bed, much less add a baby. I don’t know how many times, I have woken up to almost falling off the bed, because he moves further and further over, and if I am on the edge of the bed, baby is on the floor crying. Yet he says that he is on the edge of the bed as well. What about the height of the bed? Ours is a couple of feet off the floor and we cannot put it on the floor (under the bed storage) I know in Africa, they sleep on mats on the floor often times. There is no concern for baby falling off. I actually would prefer my own bed. I struggle to fall asleep unless I am alone. My 3 children ALL slept alone from the beginning. I even put them down to sleep awake, then just patted them for a few minutes. They sleep well. My neighbor sleeps with her son and he is very difficult to go to sleep. Her daughter is the same way, and she co-slept as well. They just struggle to fall asleep.

      As parents, we are all faced with different decisions. What I chose to do worked for me and my family. We too followed our instincts. Our instincts said that every person NEEDS their own space to sleep. Our instincts said that formula feeding was better than the stress caused by doctors who insisted that the baby wasn’t gaining well enough. Our instincts said that just because someone chose something different than we did, does not make them or us bad parents. When we hear our child cry in the middle of the night, or if the are coughing in their sleep, or even if they sound like they are restless, we go in and check on them. We sometimes even check on them just because. Or maybe I am up doing laundry and I put clothes away while they sleep!

  3. Kati Laine said

    I think this is partially because in some Western cultures, it was half-acceptable if not legal to let unwanted or sickly infants die from either malnutrition or intentional suffocation. Often this was labeled as “unintentional suffocation while sharing parents’ bed”. This happened a lot especially during the 18th and 19th Century, when birth control was still nonexistent or unavailable and parents with poor circumstances could not support their lot of children. While it was mostly a product of industrialization, the infant murder existed in some form or another in all Western cultures already from the beginning of Christianization, when it was no longer legal to end an unwanted child’s life right after birth.

    The misconception of unintentional suffocation still exists, partially because so many “unexplained” or hushed-up deaths were labelled under that nomiker in the church books. It does happen, rarely, but mostly the parents have been either intoxicated, drugged or there has been too many bed clothing and pillows.

    I have been co-sleeping with my baby, sharing the bed with my husband and I have to admit I was initially very worried about the matter. As time went on, I learned to trust my instincts and to this day the 9-month-old child often sleeps under my blanket, cosily. I have never actually placed any part of my body over the baby or hurt her – my husband was more worried, but now has also learned to be aware of her. It gets more complicated in a way when the baby starts to move on her own and may not stay in one place, but then again at that point she is also capable of moving potential breath-constricting clothing items away from her face as well.

    I think co-sleeping is a good and natural way to get a better night’s sleep for the parents, as the baby wakes less often and sleeps more tightly, feeling more secure. At other times, she sleeps in her own cot and I get to stretch a little more. Those nights are not so peaceful, though the cot is only 1,5 meters away from my side of the double bed. I didn’t breastfeed for long because of medical reasons and was very sorry about that, but bottlefeeding didn’t lessen my feel of security with co-sleeping. It’s more about the instinct than the milk, isn’t it?

  4. Beena said

    I support co sleeping. I am a mother of four. I do not have a medical degree at all.

    How many parents touch their children? A hug or simply moisturizing your child is so powerful. Touch has healing properties. I was wary when my now 9 year old was born. My husband was comfortable with co sleeping. I was scared. She was so small and fragile. But when you nurse, sleep is a luxury. So whenever I could sleep I would and nursing her in my bed was extremely convenient. When a child is in a crib a bit away, you are not as sensitive to the childs movements. When a child is right next to you, you feel that child’s every movement. And I do not know about other mothers, but my kids especially early on, only gave me at most 4 hours without needing to nurse again. You become so aware of them. Co sleeping allows the mother to nurse comfortably. The child is snug and cozy. My kids even have had blankets on them and I have never had any choking issue. You are aware of them.. just as they are aware of you. Rooting is a reflex that a baby just born has. I think in cases where suffocation has occurred and the parents were in the same bed.. there are other reasons as well. When you co sleep, a mother will also nurse for a longer period of time. I do not know about anyone else.. but is it not weird that we are so quick to feed our children cow milk. Do our kids look like cows? Nursing a child for a longer period definitely has benefits in terms of health and even in terms of intelligence. My older two kids are both considered gifted. My younger two have not yet been tested. Who does not want the best for their child? Co sleeping is the best.. and if you can.. every child deserves at least that.

    • frenchie said

      Hello Beena,
      I know it has been a while since your posting, but I am hopeful you will be notified. I am a newish mum, my baby is 9 months old, and I have been co-sleeping from day dot. It has been a fabulous experience, and I enjoy a great bond with her. I do not know other people who co-sleep, although they are likely to be around. I would love to hear about your family experience about the transition from family bed to when your children’s went to their own bedroom. It is something I am completely in the dark about. Did it need negotiation, did it occur quite naturally? Thank you.

      • MegansMomma said

        I’m not sure if you are still looking for advice, but I have experience with it… My 8yr old stayed in the bed with me(and hubby) since day 1, when I got pregnant with my second when he was 16 mths old, we set up his room with a toddler bed(he could get out of his playpen since 9 mths un-assisted,and never had a crib)so we made sure it was fun and playful and gave him that option, we also set up a separate cot beside out bed, so he could be with us still(I was not comfortable being pregnant with a toddler and hubby in bed then,knowing I would have a baby soon)since I was pregnant I was able to talk about it to him and explain why he was going to have to one day move to his own bed(in our room or his) by the time I had the baby he was starting the nights in his own bed and if he woke up he would come into his cot beside our bed… I let him continue like that as long as he wanted, it took time but I did not push him at all, same with breast feeding I let him make the choice… when I left my hubby(now ex)the boys were both big enough(2 and 4yrs) for me to be comfortable with them both in bed with me, and I was still nursing my younger one until he was around 3.5yrs old, so we just had a big bed with us all piled in, I miss those days so much:( so how did I finally get them both out of my bed? by getting pregnant again:P lol but they have both had their own beds for more then 2yrs available to them, and they had many times slept in them… But I am currently thinking of getting a bigger bed so when my 5.5mth old is a bit bigger the boys can come in with us again if they want(on occasion I wake up to find one or the other in bed with me and the baby and I love it;) I know it might sound like I have taken on a lot to keep them all with me for so long, but in reality the time has went by far too fast, and the memories of those nights I love and cherish them now… what works for me might not work for others, I have heard of so many safe and wonderful co-sleeping(or sharing) ways that family’s have came up with, what works for some wont work for others, so it is best to look into it to find the best way that works for your family:) drmamma.org has some wonderful tips and suggestions… if you want t talk more, feel free to respond I would be glad to help in anyway I can:)

      • SophiasMomma said

        I just have to say, I was open to bed-sharing, co-sleeping with our daughter. She was premature so she needed her momma a lot! I had a bassinet for her to sleep in that was only 3 inches from my side, but more often than not she was in my bed with me happily nursing away!

        I wanted to get her into her OWN bed some where around her first birthday or so, but I was a wimp and she would start in her own same bassinet, well, playpen, and then come to bed with me in the middle of the night for nursing. I had her taking her naps in her playpen at 15 months old, before then she HAD to be with momma to sleep. I know, wimp! My husband had to travel for work and would be gone a long time, so he sent me to my mom and dad. We shared a bed then. Finally at 2 years old, she had her own crib for naps! She LOVED it! She was STILL nursing and would still come to bed with me during the night. ONCE my husband came home from his job, he wanted her to sleep with us, STILL and again. BUT, once we got home, she decided she liked her own bed. We tried to keep her with us, but she just would flip and flop and whine and whimper and toss and turn and roll around. So, for the first 2-3 weeks of him being home, NO ONE got ANY sleep, not even her! FINALLY, he was very sad to tell me, take her to her bed. She slept for 12 hours straight that first night and now she doesn’t sleep with us at all, even if she wakes and wants to nurse. I KNOW WIMP! She will be 3 in May and she still has momma’s milk, whenever she wants it.

        It does just happen. They grow to a point that they no longer want to sleep with you and then that is it, no matter how you wish they would, just for old times sake. Now the ONLY time we get to sleep with her is if she is sick or comes to bed to nurse in the middle of the night and then stays, for a while. In the span of a lifetime, in light of eternity, those years she slept with us, was nothing more than a breath! Just a moment. Cherish and treasure those days and nights and moments. Don’t hurry them away. One day they will be gone and you will wish they had stayed just a little longer.
        I pray for another baby to nurse for forever and to sleep next to me for as long as I can get them to! It truly is only for a breath of a moment.

      • christen said

        Great response, sophiasmomma. :) my son is 3 year and 4 months, still nursing and sleeping with us. I love it and recognize one day he will want his privacy. I’m taking what I can get….

    • Michelle said

      I bedshare and nurse my 1 year old. Well, we bedshare like Sophiasmomma does – during the nursing sessions. She wants so much room to move that even when she sleeps in my bed, she rolls off into her own (our mattresses are on the floor, right next to each other) or onto the floor! Since I’m right there next to her, I still consider it bed sharing (I could easily wind up on her bed if I chose).

      I LOVE co-sleeping with her, whether it’s classified as bed-sharing or room-sharing. I can sleep better (& I am one HEAVY sleeper!). By the way, I would like to point out that there IS a way for someone to know if they’d wake from a deep sleep – have siblings! I woke when my sis was rolling off me – we had fallen asleep in the recliner – and just before she hit the tile floor, I grabbed her, re-settled her, & off to blissful sleep we went. I was 15, she was around 6 months old. This is how I knew I wouldn’t suffocate my kids merely by sleeping with them.

      So back to the point…I love it, & so does my daughter. And starting with my 1 year old (my daughter), I will allow them to sleep with me for as long as they want…in my bed or in their own bed in my room. It truly does facilitate a bond like no other. No, I won’t consider a crib for them. But if they prefer their own room, they can have that.

      I know it’s been awhile since you commented, but if you want to talk, send me an email: mthartwig84@yahoo.com

    • motherwitdoula said

      I hope this doesn’t scare the hell out of any parents out there considering co-sleeping with their children, but I have a 13 year old who still sleeps in the same room as me. He slept in the same bed with me for about 7 years. He has always had sleep issues and just sleeps better in the same room with me. At this point we are all wanting him to sleep on his own (himself included!), but whenever we try him sleeping by himself he gets terrible insomnia. He sleeps fine with friends, so it’s not ME that he needs, just another person. His older brother isn’t willing to share a room with him.

  5. M. S. said

    I could not agree more with this article. It is obviously the “biologically appropriate” and most natural thing to do. My husband and I had our daughter in bed with us until she was 2 and a bit and made an easy transition to her own bed when she was ready.

  6. Kylie said

    I slept with my son in my bed and it made his babyhood ridiculously easy with me. When he woke in the night he had no need to cry. He would just say, “Uh..uh..uh” and that tiny sound would awake me just a little. I would put my breast into his mouth and fall back asleep. This would happen several times during the night, but it disturbed me so little I barely remembered in the morning. I would feel fully rested, while at the same time I’d been able to respond to all his little cues effortlessly during the night. (My baby and I slept on our sides facing each other, and I would flip over and put him on the other side next time he woke so that he could nurse from the other breast) When other mothers would discuss how many times they’d gotten up during the night, and how tired they were I didn’t really relate because my son’s requests for nourishment were so quiet. I just used good quality nappies and didn’t change him till morning. I definitely co-sleeping is the way to go!

  7. Adriana Barrantes said

    I come from Costa Rica. I am a supported of co-sleeping. I didnt want to do it at first since here people believes due to the studies that “have come from the US”, that it is dangerous and it is bad for your marriage. I did believe those stupid things at first, but when my baby was born and I realized it felt natural and around her 4months of life i permanently moved her to my bed. Now she is 2 and sleeps with us and we have discussed it many times: it feels right for her and for us, it is comfortable and has not changed our relationship and hubby and wife. Nature cannot be wrong, our guts cannot be wrong: hundreds of years of evolution cannot be wrong: it feels good because is natural to do so.

    You have no idea how many *rolled eyes* and staring I get when I say she sleeps with us, but they can do whatever they want with their children: so I will do what i believe is right with mine :)

    • O said

      So true, just go with your feelings! I have 4 year old and 3 months old, they both co- sleep with me. When they will not need mommy then they will be ready to have their own bed and their own room! Why should I force my daughter to get out from me?? Why should I make her cry when she would wake up night time because she scared of the dark and nobody is next to her? I remember my childhood, when my dad had to work night time sometimes and my mom would allow me to co-sleep with her_that’s was my best times ever and most favorites moments of my life:I was next to the person, where I knew I was safe!

  8. Adriana Barrantes said

    OMG! Beena you are so right on everything you said!!! Specially: “Do our kids look like cows? ”

    I still breastfeed my daughter and people try to punish me for it, they tell me all the time: “your milk does not provide anything good to her right now, so why dont you give her cow milk?”, even a DOCTOR said this to me (note that i stood up and left, if a doctor is stupid enough to say that giving someone cow milk is better than HUMAN milk will not ever touch me). For some reason people think formula or cow milk is better than NATURAL HUMAN milk! I mean: what better than something made specifically for humans? Do we feed our cows with pig milk? Is just plain weird…

    • Tracy said

      I totally laughed out loud Adriana reading your post. I so agree. I still breastfeed my son and he is a little over 3. I get punished for it too but I stand my ground.

    • Mary Rollins said

      You are so right. Look at the butterfat content in cow’s milk. It is designed to support a calf in growing into a very large and heavy animal.
      Human milk will be adjusted by the body to what the infant needs. A preemie, breast fed, will receive the exact nutrients required for their gestational age. The body is an amazing machine!
      I had my daughter in my bed for 2 years. When she was 3 months old, in the night, she developed a temp of 103F. I knew, awoke, and was there to support her through a febrile seizure. I would never have been aware were she in her own bed.
      Blessings on those who chose to co-sleep or bed share!

    • Christy said

      A relative tried to tell me the same thing recently, that there is nothing (nutritional) in my milk anymore! This is preposterous! Why on earth would anyone support giving cow’s milk to a child, but not his own mother’s milk?

      Anyway, back to the subject, we co-sleep in the same bed. The youngest is always there, and half the time, the older ones are, too. There is not enough room for all of us, but they sneak in sometimes at night, and then we wake up to a mass of arms and legs. LOL! The kids also often snuggle together while sleeping.

      Of course, it is a biological need for babies to sleep with mom and nurse at will. Our American baby care culture is disgusting with how parents are encouraged to separate themselves from baby. Poor, pathetic babies wailing alone, desperate for their mom who never comes. Drmomma.org has many excellent articles on this subject.

    • Deanna said

      I totally agree too. I, at the age of 40, would NEVER dream of drinking a glass of milk, it tastes revolting. I will not be feeding it to my 6month old. I live in New Zealand and we are quite a dairy nation and the dairy company’s advertising tells you to drink milk. It is a gimick. It is about the money. We do not need it – especially if we have a well balanced diet. There is lots of evidence out there saying that babies should not drink cow’s milk. Mother’s milk has been made especially for their child and changes as they grow. The mother’s body knows what it is doing.

  9. onelittlesleep said

    Almost every other mammal in the world sleeps with their young, why would human beings be so different? I never heard the word cosleeping before I have my child, but after he was born, I knew that he needed to sleep near me, by instinct. Why would I place my young, who cannot yet regulate his temperature properly (or his sleeping heartrate and breathing, as it turns out) in another bed, or even in another room? It seems so obvious to me that a baby needs to be near their mother/parents when they are in their most vulnerable state.

    Also, cosleeping seems to fine-tune your instincts as a parent. I realized this after a few weeks of sleeping next to my infant son. I would wake up to feed him before he cried to be fed, even though he never fed on a schedule. There was never a circumstance where I even got close to rolling over on him, as I was always aware of him, even in my sleep. My husband developed these instincts too. One night, I got up to go to the bathroom and I heard a grunt from the bedroom and my husband calling for me. I came in and found him holding our still sleeping son. My son had rolled towards my side of the bed while I was up and had almost fallen off the mattress. My husband had, in his sleep, grabbed him just before he rolled off.

    This taught us to put the mattress on the floor, but it also was an eye-opener for both of us, on the intensity of our bond with our son and of just how natural parental instincts are.

    Cosleeping, done safely, is beneficial for the whole family.

  10. ashwini khadilkar said

    Hi, i also co sleep with my daughter, and two small daschunds.
    The dogs bury their heads in the covers and i often used to worry about them choking!! My daughter used to rest her head on my hand when she was very young. It made her secure. and when she woke up she would tell me all her dreams. Bonding like that is priceless. Also, when i lost my husband suddenly to heart attack, it helped both of use to co sleep and soothed my anxiety to an extent. it works both ways. even for parents. Now she is 10 and slowly thinking on having her own bed and room, i am all for it. we havent asked the dogs yet!

  11. rambleicious said

    I haven’t got children of my own, but if I did, I think co-sleeping would be a great way to really bond with and respond to my child. My only worry would be that as the child got older that they wouldn’t be able to sleep on their own easily or well.

    I like the idea of co-sleeping, but once they are older it might be nice to have some grown up time with my husband at night and that’s not something my child needs to see!

    • Mary G. said

      Not to worry.. unlike parents, the children sleep VERY heavily. My hubby and I never woke our daughter, and even if she did, it’s DARK, so nothing to “see”. It’s a good thing for children to see (or hear) their parents saying “I love you” in the dark.

      • O said

        When kids will feel enough secure and grown up and they will kill this need to be next to mommy, than, without any crying and forcing they will make their way to their own bed and room.

    • happy mama said

      sigh. there are so many places to have “grown up time” besides a bed! To us, bed is for sleep.

  12. [...] a new baby, or are just confused about everything you’ve heard about co-sleeping, check out this article.  I have always put my babies to bed in their own bed, but often, they spend more than half the [...]

  13. i-can-has-ram said

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    • gregdowney said

      do we NEED excess html snow flurries?! do we NEED bogus electronic snow flurries!? oh, come on people. We’re the most staid blue-gray format that you can get. we couldn’t be more square if we had an excess html-code pocket protectors on our website. I can’t figure out how to change or respond to my own facebook account. and I live in Australia now, where Christmas time is prime surfing and barbecue weather. So can you please let me have the little, tiny victory, the moment of carnivalesque madcap-ness that is the html snow flurry!?

      besides, I don’t think I could figure out HOW to turn it off…

      btw. happy 200K visit all friends, colleagues and occasional visitors to Neuroanthropology. We’re thrilled to have reached this milestone in our first year, with a title that at least one of our colleagues (one of the ones who likes us) actually called ‘deplorable.’ Thanks very much for making us one of your stops on the Internets.

      Hope you are all having a great holiday season. I know that I’m sure enjoying the boogie board that Santa brought, even though I still kind of stink at timing waves. (okay, now I’m rubbing it in…)

  14. Kellyg said

    As babies, have any of you co-slept with your parents? I don’t see anything wrong with a child sleeping in their own bed. That is how I was reared, and I turned out fine. I have a very stable relationship with my parents. I probably will not sleep with my baby when I have children.

    • racheleeioh said

      I slept w/ my parents as a babe. When I had my own daughter I at first listened to the “experts” (who change their opinion on what is safe constantly and act as though it is the law) and tried to have my daughter in a crib in the same room. It was miserable dragging myself out of my bed to feed her, and she was always cold, though wearing a sleeper and one of those pouches (forget the name…). I mentioned to my mom that I was exhausted from getting up to feed her in the rocking chair and she said, “Why don’t you just bring her into bed w/ you?” It was AWESOME! My little babe was so much happier, as was I. And neither my husband our myself ever harmed her. Once I started to lay my arm on her in my sleep, and immediately I woke.
      Following your instincts makes you feel connected to your true self and totally alive. Don’t hand your parenting over to fallible fear-mongering men. Do they really know so much more than biology and the cultural norm for the rest of the world? The medical community’s track record is pretty shabby…

    • Amy in Oz said

      That is how I was reared, and I turned out fine.

      I didn’t sleep in my parents bed unless it was after a nightmare. But i find that argument very superficial and lacking logical reasoning. 25 years ago, my in-laws used to transport their children in a bassinet with a net over it, strapped to the back seat of the car. They were seen as super safety conscious and over the top for doing that. None of their 4 children were ever injured, that is how they were reared, and they turned out fine. That doesn’t mean I would ever do that because the knowledge we have now (in car restraints, infant sleep and many other areas) shows that there is a safer way of doing things. According to the sleep-lab research, co-sleeping is biologically appropriate for infants who are breastfed.

      Isn’t biology more important than mere cultural preference??

    • Kasie said

      Yes I coslept with my parents. I didn’t leave the bed until I was 8. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of us cuddling in bed.

    • happy mama said

      As a child, I wanted nothing more than to sleep with my parents, it felt so safe and right to be tucked in with them. However my father (who wasn’t really into being a father) decided he didn’t want me there and put a lock on their door. One of my very earliest memories, so vivid, is waking up in the night cold and alone. I tried to go into my parents room and bed, but I found the door locked on me. No one would answer my sobs. I was devastated.

      Despite that, until I had a child of my own I just assumed that I, too, would have them sleep separately I guess that is kind of what is just out there in mainstream culture (but, really, so many people co-sleep!) Also, I didn’t really think about it too much. But it must be said that….it is very different when you actually do have a child. All your assumptions on how things will be will most likely fly right out the window!! For me, I found that every instinct I had told me to keep my baby close to me.

      And I did. And I truly believe that we are better for it. My daughter is now 3 years old, and we still happily share our bed. It is the most marvelous thing, to hear her laugh in her sleep. And now, she will wake in the morning and tell me her dreams. It’s amazing to share this. I truly believe that because we co-sleep, she has a strong foundation and is a confident, secure, caring, and happy child. I know full well that she will grow up and away from me. We will not share our sleep together forever. I will only have these days for a short amount of time. I am savouring these times together while they are here with me.

      • Expecting said

        perhaps your father wanted the bed for he and your mother. married couples do have sex and it would be very disturbing to have you there watching…

      • zayniya said

        For the person that said the parents needed privacy to have relations, shame on them for being able to continue while listening to their child cry outside the door, that is just insane and there are other place in a home to be alone.

    • Kalimama said

      “I turned out fine…”

      Oh, how I hate this phrase. It implies that as long as there is survival and no consistent result of homicidal mania, you did exactly what you should have. Children have been raised by wolves and wild dogs and had this result.

      My goal in raising my children is this: THRIVE, not just survive!

      I co-slept (bed-shared) with my oldest until he was almost 4 yo. I bed-shared with my youngest until she was about 9 mo (she wouldn’t sleep with us anymore – she likes her own space… a LOT). I nursed both for the same amount of time. My children decided when to stop nursing and bed-sharing. Both are allowed and encouraged to join us in bed at any time. We keep the doors open with the bedrooms next to each other. Snugglepiles in the evenings and weekends are typical.

      From Amy In Oz: “the knowledge we have now shows that there is a safer way of doing things”
      I couldn’t agree more!

      From Happy Mam: “One of my very earliest memories, so vivid, is waking up in the night cold and alone. I tried to go into my parents room and bed, but I found the door locked on me. No one would answer my sobs. I was devastated. ”
      I would hate to cause such an emotional situation for my children. And I understand how you feel. Non-response from parents during the night creates such a feeling of abandonment… It’s horrible, even if it won’t kill you. Humans are SOCIAL creatures, not solitary beings.

      • Strub said

        “It implies that as long as there is survival and no consistent result of homicidal mania, you did exactly what you should have. Children have been raised by wolves and wild dogs and had this result.”

        The person never once said they survived, they said they turned out fine. Extreme examples such as being raised by wolves takes your argument and invalidates your points.

        My first coslept, my second did not. Both are to use your words are “thriving”. My children are tended to when they need it and never as you put it (you like extreme words I see) “abandoned”.

        People open to new ideas might listen to you if your argument wasn’t full of rhetoric.

        Next step- accuse me of judging you, I did and I don’t care.

  15. You know i have mixed feelings on the parent sleeping issue. Like if your a rought sleeper meaning you turn and twist and wake up and the bed is a mess every morning then it might be a better idea to keep the baby in a safe crib. on the other hand if your child sleeps better with you and is more comfortable you might want to try to adjust to him/her.

    • Peace said

      you could use a bassinet next to the bed if you were worried about harming your child; and carrying your baby in a carrier while they are sleeping during the day helps bonding too.

    • Greg Bishop said

      That’s certainly a legitimate issue; I know my parents had my crib in the bedroom for, as best as I can tell, the first few months, but moved me into a nursery immediately across the hall (and slept with the door open) shortly thereafter. I never slept in the same bed as they did at night and, to my knowledge, seem to have turned out alright. Now, speaking as someone who sleeps badly and is prone to all manner of violent motions at night (the cause of that, I can assure you, is NOT co-sleeping), I would make the same choice I could never forgive myself if I whacked the poor kid in the face in my sleep, or squashed it–frankly, the overall physical well-being of the kid is the paramount concern.

  16. Kirk Lazarus said

    I think this is easy..would u want to be alone at age 6 months, 12 months whatever if u had a say. doubtful. to think that one day your kid won’t want to grow up and have his own area shows little faith in your kid from the start..of course they will. they want to walk. and climb. and be grown up. and eat with a fork. we never offered a fork, he grabbed it from our hands and wanted to try. I have faith that its the same thing..because we co sleep the death thing is just an absurd argument and i don’t waste my time even worrying about that…I have one kid, I am a dad and he is a year old. Mommy breast feeds so it’s just easier for us..People vs Co sleeping IMO boil it down to what’s good for them. And the funny thing is at least IMO is that it would be better for them in the long run to co sleep but they don’t see the forest from the trees…..Just today someone said to me, yeah she has been in her own room since 3 weeks! and then proudly said, at about 18 months she slept thru the night and now we are and i sleep so much better!!. nice. our kid, other than rocky nights that any kid in any situation may have along with us sleep thru the night since about 6 months. If the transition is rough, I’ll deal with that then, no biggie. And if it is a biggie, really in the big picture how big will it be…like he will turn out at age 25 scared to sleep alone? lol

    • Jason said

      Actually, I have an 11 year old that I achieved full custody of that was sleeping with his mother. It took me at least a year, to get this kid from being afraid “of the dark” or “scared to sleep alone”. Now, whenever the boy goes to visit his mother (court ordered time only), she continues to allow him to sleep with her… he’s 11!!!!! When does it stop? He says he feels less loved from me, because I don’t allow him to sleep with me? That is crazy?! I love him no less, I just believe children sleeping with their parents is abnormal. Everyone keeps saying that we are “mammalian”… sure that may be true, however, we have adopted a higher developed, more intellectual brain that is capable of understanding psychological deviances that occur when such actions are allowed to happen than those mammalians. Does anyone understand what I”m saying? I wonder what Freud would have to say about all this.

      • Andrea said

        Having an 11 year old who still sleeps with his mother is indicative of deeper, more underlying issues that have likely prevented his independence from emerging. Normal, healthy children will naturally develop independence that will lead them to their own rooms. There’s a reason why you’ve acheived custody of this boy and this reason is likely related to his intense need to sleep beside his mother. When parental attachments don’t form properly (as a result of abuse, neglect or harmful parenting), the child is less likely to develop a strong sense of independence. Go back to the reasons why this boy was taken from his mother and you’ll find your answers about why he struggles to leave his mother’s room. Do a google search about “attachment theory” for more info.

      • gregdowney said

        I agree, Andrea. The problem here doesn’t appear to be the co-sleeping; rather, the co-sleeping is likely a symptom of another set of problems. Most children, even given free rein, wind up seeking independence in different forms at their own pace, some quite young (as our other commenters point out). There is danger in applying a single standard, assuming that only a single profile or timetable is ‘normal.’ There’s SO MUCH pressure on parents to conform and so many ‘experts’ telling them what is or is not normal. I’ve always found Jim to be a very gentle, non-judgmental commentator on the subject, not so much prescribing a single one-size-fits-all sleep pattern, but standing up to those who do, pointing out that there is enormous variability around the world, and that people who don’t follow the standards laid out by some conservative pediatricians are not necessarily condemning their children to inevitable abnormality.

        That said, in this case, there do seem to be other issues, and I’m not sure how I would respond if I were the father in this situation. No matter what he does, this is not an easy situation to navigate.

      • Amy in Oz said

        I just believe children sleeping with their parents is abnormal.

        That is because the culture you are from says that children should sleep independently. Granted, I think 11 years old is too old to *need* to cosleep, and is a symptom of other issues for your son, but this article is addressing *infant* sleep, not prepubescent sleep. This gut reaction from you is simply rooted in cultural factors, not the biology of infants and parents.

      • Mary G. said

        Gee, could it possibly be that he NEEDS to sleep with his Mom during visitation in order to balance the loneliness the rest of his time???? I wonder….

        (in case you missed it – that’s sarcasm)

      • dahlia said

        Maybe you could just let down your macho man wall for a few nights and just let him sleep with you. Let him feel loved and safe and he may feel more confident sleeping in his own. Me and my brother co slept allot as children once I was about 22 and he was 15 we would wake up in the morning and get in the same bed and cuddle and talk and joke. We are so close. I’m 25 now and to this day if I’m at my dad’s house and there are no available bed I can sleep next to him. There’s no age limit. He’s 11 before you know it he will be grown. Take any and every opportunity you can to bond with him. You will not regret it I promise.

      • DawnMom said

        I have five kids, ALL of whom co-slept during their nursing years in our bed for a portion of the night. I have an 11 year old daughter and she would be mortified if she had to sleep with me! So what you are talking about is the symptom of an entirely different problem and doesn’t have to do with co-sleeping at all. an infant snuggling with momma is completely normal and convenient for both momma and baby.

    • Carol said

      I am also wondering if maybe the reason the boy WANTS to sleep with his mother is because of insecurites created when his parents split up? I am not going to assume that the father “abandoned” the little family, but the child may feel abandonded by the father even if the mother was the one who “left”. There is no relationship to sleep issues with a pre-teen vs. infant co-sleeping. There are SOOOOO many variables that come between newborn and 11 years of age, namely, 11 years of variables. If children in other cultures all over the world can grow up and be “normal” productive members of their society after co-sleeping, then there is NO reason to assume that American children can not or will not do the same.

      • Silvia said

        I agree, Carol. I think a child that is only allowed to spend the time the judge found appropriate with his mother wants to be with her as intense as he can, and therefore most children would prefer to stay in bed with the parent he misses more.
        My husband and I sperated when our daughter was 4. As she was a 6month premature sometimes having breathing problems while sleeping my doc told me she should be connected to an electronic tool that measured her oxygen levels while sleeping. She was born unexpectedly while I was on a trip in Germany and so I told the doctor that I lived in a small village in Turkey where we often were disconnected from electricity for days. He answered that this was no problem as I could just take her in my bed and that babies hearing the heart beat of their mothers rarely stop breathing while sleeping. So that’s what we did and we never ever had any problems.
        After our divorce she stayed with her father for 20 months and was sleeping with him in their bed. Then she continued to live with me and slept on in my bed. She could see and stay with her father whenever she wanted and had her own room and bed in my house and in his. She would go on and off using her bed or sleeping in my bed or with her father during weekends and holidays. It was just normal for all of us. Last year her father suddenly died when she was 15. Me and her talk a lot about her childhood and her memories with her father and she is so happy about how her childhood was and that she never felt like a “child of divorced parents” like people’s opinions expected it. She has lived a lot of cuddling, security, pillow fights, intimate chats, being cared for and closeness with both of us and remembers the times she spent with us in our beds as the most happiest of her being with her parents.
        She had to leave us to get a better education in another country when she was 14 and is a strong person who can care for herself and can be happy whereever she is and whichever circumstances she is in. And I am sure that her strong bond with me and her late father is the result of never being put off or left alone and never having been regarded as disturbing or not able to grow up while staying in our beds. She is a young woman of 16 now, being able to take her life in her own hands and decide what is good for herself and what her aims are and has the profound knowledge of always being held, supported and comforted despite whereever she is. And I think one of the main reasons is that we have been co-sleeping and she has never been forced to be alone against her own will.

  17. Julie said

    I had heard all the “no-no”s involved re: cosleeping. Then came my now 23-month old. We started off with her in a cradle in our room. Gradually, since I breastfed, she spent more and more time in bed with us. It wasn’t intentional at first…I simply would get her from the cradle to nurse her during the night and found that we both drifted right back to sleep within minutes. Then I had an “Ah-ha!” moment….why bother even having to get up and walk around at all overnight…just put her to bed with us? What a magical moment for us. I would, and still do, awaken to almost each/every sigh I heard. But I never woke fully enough to feel sleep-deprived in the morning. In fact, it was quite the opposite-I felt better the mornings after she slept with us vs. the nights when she didn’t.

    My husband fully supports and encourages cosleeping also. And now, at 23 months, she’ll sleep in her own room by herself just as easily as she will in bed with us. Why? Because she KNOWS we will ALWAYS respond to her needs regardless of what time of day/night it is. We have developed such a trusting, close bond.

    No, the children will not sleep in bed with you forever. No, you cannot get their youth back once they grow up. No, you shouldn’t go against your instincts. Even though “we turned out just fine” when our parents did the best they knew how, we have further evidence and information available to us today than we did 30+ years ago…why not do the best we know how to do today, such as breastfeed and/or co-sleep? And who knows-maybe the reccomendations will change when we are grandparents ourselves, but for now, let’s do what we know to be best for our children.

    • Heather said

      We have 3 kids, 6.5, 5, and 2. All 3 bedshared with us from birth. A nursing mother naturally sleeps on her side with her arm out and the baby’s head basically tucked into her armpit, because that gives the baby the easiest access to the nipple. It would be nearly impossible to roll onto a baby from this position. Around 2, most kids go through a strong stage of wanting to be “big”. We use this stage to accomplish potty training and give each child a twin bed of their own (btw, babies who bedshare also learn much younger not to fall out of bed). Currently, the routine is that I nurse our 2 year old to sleep in his bed. He will usually wake early in the morning and crawl into our bed to nurse. Often, this doesn’t wake either of us enough to remember in the morning, and it seldom disturbs hubs’ sleep at all. The older kids often crawl into our bed for morning cuddle time. I expect the 2 year-old will self wean around 3, just as his brother and sister did.

  18. Juli said

    I don’t know if my siblings and I coslept with my parents by any definition, on a regular basis. (I may have slept in a bassinet in my parent’s room for my first month or so, but my younger siblings didn’t. And when we visited relatives, we’d cosleep.) We did spend around an hour in the morning as babies and toddlers in bed with our dad while he dozed while our mom got ready for the day. My parents had a custom made bed that was barely off the floor and had no spaces for a child to get anything caught in after I managed to roll off their old bed one morning.) I know that with my youngest brother, occasionally my mom would fall asleep while breastfeeding him and he’d sleep part of the night with my parents – that’s probably true of all of us. And when we got older were in and out of our parents bed at all hours of the day and night. We turned out just fine.

  19. [...] Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone By James J. McKenna Ph.D. Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. Chair in Anthropology Director, Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep [...] [...]

  20. [...] Popular: Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone Advice on cosleeping from a leading expert, and how anthropology helps ordinary people live their [...]

  21. [...] on Studying SinMaximilian Forte on Wednesday Round Up #44Round Up of the Best… on Cosleeping and Biological Impe…dlende on Wednesday Round Up #44Maximilian Forte on Wednesday Round [...]

  22. Greg Hooper said

    Thanks for the interesting article. Like several others above, we slept with our babies because we thought it was the natural, convenient and loving thing to do, and everything worked out fine. Our kids are healthy, and (I hope) more secure and well-adjusted than they would have been otherwise. What freaked me out was the negative reaction we got from friends and family. The mother of one of my friends told me, “My friend had her baby in bed, and rolled over and suffocated it!!” Later, I found out that the friend was an overweight alcoholic. I don’t think we heard one supportive opinion, so we stopped asking people what they thought.

  23. [...] the biological side, Jim McKenna’s post on Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone covers a prominent medical controversy and provides advice about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, [...]

  24. [...] Best of AnthroThe Relevance of Ant… on Studying SinThe Relevance of Ant… on Cosleeping and Biological Impe…The Relevance of Ant… on Round Up of the Best of Anthro…The Relevance of Ant… [...]

  25. [...] patterns in infants, perhaps even protecting them by helping them to regulate their own bodies (see Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone). Goldschmidt points to the neurological effects of mothers’ grooming on infant rats and [...]

  26. JG said

    In the accompanying illustration, the infant is sleeping prone on its stomach, which no one recommends, including the author of this piece.

  27. Erin W. said

    I found this article while I was pregnant and was so glad for it. I had been considering whether or not to co-sleep, and this article helped me make my decision to go through with it. At first we used the bassinet right next to the bed, but even that seemed too far away. The first night I put my daughter in bed with me was the first decent night’s sleep I got after having her. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t get the same kind of sleep I got before having her, but it’s a much better ride this time around than it was with my first daughter who slept in a separate room.
    In response to Kelly G. – I didn’t co-sleep as a baby, and yes I did turn out fine (I hope that’s what people consider me, at least!) I’m not saying that parents who don’t co-sleep are bad (and I don’t think that’s what anyone here is trying to say either) Co-sleeping is just easier for me. I realize that one of the benefits of not co-sleeping is surely not having to wean your child from your bed and into her own, but I will cross that bridge when the day comes.
    Anyway – the point is that I am happy with the choice that my husband and I have made for our family. Once our daughter is able to feed a little less often I intend on graduating her to her own bed, but until that day comes I am more than happy to cuddle up next to my little bundle of joy.

  28. Jennifer said

    What an excellent article. I hope many expecting parents stumble upon it before welcoming their babies into their lives. I strongly believe the AAP is wrong about it’s unqualified recommendation against any bedsharing, based on my own experiences and those of the many mothers I have spoken with. I had never considered sleeping with my baby (thinking it somehow taboo)until my Lamaze instructor suggested it as way to facilitate nighttime breastfeeding – I am eternally grateful to her for giving me “permission.” I did briefly try sleeping with my first baby in a nearby crib but found that I could not sleep well this way – I was continually waking to check to see if she was still breathing. Only when my babies slept with me was I able to relax. It was amazing to me the way our sleep cycles became synchronized – I would awaken seconds before my baby roused, we would nurse and then fall easily back to sleep without my husband waking up at all – there was hardly ever a need for the baby to cry at night. I knew I would never “roll” onto my newborns in the same way I knew I wouldn’t fall of the edge of my bed. Sometimes I did worry my husband might somehow not be so aware, and would sleep curled around my baby protectively. Bedsharing was more than convenience; it felt so completely “right” on a fundamental, biological, and emotional level that I feel sorry for any mother who has denied herself and her baby this pleasure. Parents should be taught how to do it safely, not uniformly told to avoid it.

  29. Eric said

    I agree with a lot of the issues with putting your baby in the bed. But as part of the joys of being a new parent there is no replacement for having your baby snuggling with you at night. I believe that as long as you put some safety measures into play I think it’s OK. I was worried that I would roll onto him but I found that when his little hands were wrapped around my finger while he slept I knew that he was ok and I wasn’t going to be putting him into danger. But there should be some limit to bed time because as your baby gets older you don’t want your toddler constantly in your bed either. I’ll be writing a post on this today. Check it out!

  30. Melissa said

    i don’t understand how ANY MOTHER can go from carrying her baby inside her womb for 9 months and send the baby directly to their own sleeping space! that closeness of the womb is best recreated in a cosleeping environment, and that closeness breeds security, and security leads to independence. not to mention it makes breastfeeding effortless (gotta love the side lying nursing position), your baby need not cry to have their needs met, and the risk of SIDS is actually REDUCED (assuming mother is not drinking or on drugs) because mother and baby sleep cycle together. all that and the PURE JOY you get knowing that you are meeting your baby’s biological need to maintain that intimate connection in the first years of life.

  31. [...] Here’s a great article explaing the ins and outs. (HT: midwife and mentor Susan Oshel with Charis Childbirth.) That the highest rates of bedsharing worldwide occur alongside the lowest rates of infant mortality, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) rates, is a point worth returning to. The low calorie composition of human breast milk (exquisitely adjusted for the human infants’ undeveloped gut) requires frequent nighttime feeds, and, hence, helps explain how and why a cultural shift toward increased cosleeping behavior is underway. Approximately 73% of US mothers leave the hospital breast feeding and even amongst mothers who never intended to bedshare soon discover how much easier breast feeding is and how much more satisfied they feel with baby sleeping alongside often in their bed. In short, and as mentioned above, cosleeping (whether on the same surface or not) facilitates positive clinical changes including more infant sleep and seems to make, well, babies happy. In other words, unless practiced dangerously, sleeping next to mother is good for infants. The reason why it occurs is because… it is supposed to.  There is no doubt that bedsharing should be avoided in particular circumstances and can be practiced dangerously. While each single bedsharing death is tragic, such deaths are no more indictments about any and all bedsharing than are the three hundred thousand plus deaths or more of babies in cribs an indictment that crib sleeping is deadly and should be eliminated. Just as unsafe cribs and unsafe ways to use cribs can be eliminated so, too, can parents be educated to minimize bedsharing risks. [...]

  32. The most balanced article I’ve seen on this issue. Thanks.

  33. [...] Link: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone Jump to Comments A great article about co-sleeping – actual benefits, risks and safety. [...]

  34. [...] Co-sleeping article Thought this was a good article, and am posting it here because it mostly is in regards to those who bf. http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12…t-sleep-alone/ [...]

  35. K said

    I bought a crib and put it in my first child’s room while pregnant. Then, as a working and nursing mom with a colicky baby – I found that I could never sleep if I wanted him in the crib. He nursed every two hours at night until 18 months of age. I constantly worried about his tummy and whether he was ok – he cried and cried when not in contact – so, no sleep for anyone while we tried to settle him on his own. With me gone at work all day, we could get the nurturing, physical contact and some special mommy time every day. He coslept until he started to disrupt my sleep (and not nurse at night). Then, we were able to move him to a mattress on the floor, rather than a crib (in a gated room).

    For my other two children – I never even took the crib from storage. They co-slept as little guys up until they could move to a mattress on the floor of their own gated room.

    My experience: I slept better with my babies close by. I was aware of their every little movement (no worries about them being ok somewhere else). I was able to nurse all of them until self-weaned while working full-time (my sleep was hardly interrupted). They got lots of special contact and mommy-time even though they were in other care during the day. I didn’t need to pump as much milk, as they got a lot of nutrition during the night.

    It worked for our family. If it doesn’t work for you – don’t do it. But, the evidence does not suppport dictating where other peoples’ babies should sleep.

    • Miranda said

      “the evidence does not suppport dictating where other peoples’ babies should sleep.”

      amen. Why do we get so bossy about children and parenting?

  36. Rebecca said

    I am a mother of 3 children. In all of my experience I have never used a crib for my babies, always breastfed and co-slept. In my opinion, the bonding, nurturing and physical attention that the child receives, far outweighs any of the potential risks involved and just feels more natural.

  37. Naomi said

    we are another co-sleeping family, and wouln’t do it any other way – it feels strange not having our 8 month old in the bed with us! Our DD slept in our bed still she was 5 1/2, and still creeps in if she feels the need.

    our cot holds our clean clothing lol!

  38. Susannah said

    We also bedshare with our youngest biological son who is a little over 2 years old. However, we have 2 older children that are adopted into our family (5 and 7 years old) and I think that does bring up some issues. We don’t really feel as comfortable with them climbing into bed with us and now they are starting to ask why our youngest son gets to sleep in the bed still since our middle son was 2 when he moved to our house and he never slept in our bed. It is difficult explaining that, plus we are starting to run up against wanting him to sleep in his own bed (still in our room) and he definitely is not on board with that plan! However, I think that the great bonding time and the night breastfeeding ease more than made up for the trouble caused by bedsharing and we still love to snuggle him at night some! And IMO, I was never worried about any danger to him in our bed and I did end up sleeping exactly as another poster described and he was fine. He has always loved blankets though and ever since he was old enough to snuggle himself into a pillow by himself, he has!

    • Suzanne said

      Try your utmost to love and embrace all of your children equally whether they be adopted or biological. No matter what, generally speaking, the adopted children will never feel as loved – so you need to try even harder because if you want them to be confident and successful, the best way is to love them totally to their core just like they are your own. Your adopted kids are very lucky that you really do love and care for them – and it sounds like you are awesome and loving parents. Sibling rivalry is difficult to deal with at the best of times – kids will feel hurt if they feel less loved. God tells us that we are all equal – and God loves us all totally! But unless a person knows God`s love or feels totally loved and lovable then they can suffer from poor self-esteem. There are some benefits to being less loved I guess… My sister was my Mom`s favorite child but then, very sadly, after my Mom died when we were still under 10 years old, my sister could never fill the hole that was left when my Mom died – she was never good at being on her own – she always needed to be the favorite but when she wasn`t anybody`s favorite anymore then she turned to substance abuse. It`s too bad that she didn`t find God`s love first – but thankfully she did eventually and no long uses substances to fill the hole because the hole is filled in most perfectly by God`s love! Everybody is different and reacts differently to life experiences. But being unconditionally loved and being and feeling fully embraced by ones parents is always good! Let your kids know how special they are to you – tell them often that they are special and so loved. Thank them for being in your life – for the gift of their presence in your life. Every child, in their heart of hearts, loves their parent totally – they love you unconditionally as much or even more purely than the most beloved adult relative that you ever had when you were a child.

  39. Syka said

    Hi I just want to say what a brilliant article. As a 1st time mum of my DS, I was also warned against the dangers of bed sharing so I bought a moses basket for my DS to sleep in while still in our room. When he naturally woke in the night for a feed, I felt tired in the mornings. Then I spoke to my mum and she reminded me she had co slept with me and my siblings even though she had not breast fed any of us.

    I moved my DS into our bed and even though he now wakes up more often for a feed, I’m not tired in the mornings. Like some others, I can’t even remember most days how many times he wanted feeding during the night and have found myself waking up about 5 mins before he stirs for a feed.

    I would love to take part in a sleep study to see how we behave towards each other during the night but don’t know of any in the UK!

  40. [...] 21, 2009 · Leave a Comment Check out this study done by By James J. McKenna Ph.D. & Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. at the University of Notre [...]

  41. [...] This article was posted in the BF section, but promotes definitions that are separate for co-sleeping and bed sharing. It is a great article!!! http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12…t-sleep-alone/ [...]

  42. [...] [...]

  43. It’s really only in the West, that we don’t sleep with out babies. Pretty much the rest of the entire world does, so an article on the ‘safeness’ of it does seem a bit silly. The cultures that put babies into cages and stick them in a room all by themselves are the ones that should be ‘examined.’ We are definitely the minority worldwide. When I worked with diverse ethnic groups in the inner city I noticed that the children from cultures that slept together got along very well with their siblings and really looked out for each other. The siblings from cultures that had very little human contact from infancy on and considered holding a baby ‘spoiling’ were always fighting and really hurting each other. I notice the same about members of my own family and circle of friends. Not 100%, but a very high correlation.

    • Gabe's Mom said

      I think that saying great things about co-sleeping with your child and then beating up parents that do not choose to follow the same path makes you seem hypocritical, if a parent that does want to co-sleep with their child, that is their choice and all of you may have less confrontation on the matter if you respected the people who do not or should not because of medical reasons or otherwise. Why is is that one parent must judge another, would it not be better for all of our children if we supported our differences, just as much as our similarities. It is also unfair to say those children who were separated from their parents in sleep or their siblings do not share a bond as strong. Each family is unique and the way each child views themselves and the world. How we interact outside our beds is of tremendous importance and not every part of who we are surrounds our sleeping situations, otherwise we would have a much more simple and world and people, but we are complex, just as this issue is complex as well.
      I worked for a woman who slept with her daughter for six weeks and then accidentally smothered her in her sleep, there were not too many blankets or pillows or a bed she became trapped in an open space by. The mother was a great mom and on no medication, but she covered her baby with her body and she is now dead. I was a nanny to their other five children, but their mother never fully recovered from the loss the three years after when I came into their life and she still has not. I expect she never will…Sometimes babies die from bed-sharing, it isn’t a ploy to get you to not sleep with your child, it is simply a fact.

      To those who successfully bed-share with their children, I am happy for you, but after knowing a woman made hollow by the loss and her guilt from it I have made the choice not to share a bed with my infant while I am asleep. I STILL MEET ALL THE NEEDS OF MY CHILD, even though he loves his crib. I also do pull him into my bed when he is unwell or wakes upset (which almost never happens) in the night, but I don’t sleep, I can’t. That is my choice and I would think that other mothers would have the heart and mind to respect my choice, as you all ask the same from a mother who does not share a bed with their child. Every choice we make is our own, so we should all start respecting each other’s viewpoints and stop the sarcastic and pretentious comments. Healthy debate is one thing, classless beating down of others is not, I hope that most of all that is what we teach our children is to accept those who are different than us, just as much as those we feel are “like us.”

  44. dlende said

    A friend of mine wrote me this after reading the recent commentaries. I asked if I could post it, so here it is:

    Juste une petite note, c’est après avoir encore lu tout ce qu’on ecrit sur le blog à propos du co-sleeping.

    Ce n’est évidemment pas que je serais contre ou quelque chose, c’est surtout cette façon (d’ailleurs très américaine) de penser par mode et de penser d’une seule façon pour tous (et quand je dis pour tous…, c’est pour le monde entier si ça vient des américains!!) et de penser qu’il n’y a que cette façon et que toutes les autres seraient préjudiciables.

    Du temps de mon premier bébé, la Loi américaine (à suivre absolument par le monde entier) était de ne PAS allaiter les enfants et de surtout surtout les coucher sur le côté avec toutes sortes de stratagèmes de coussins pour qu’ils ne glissent pas sur le dos, parce que sur le dos, ça c’était la mort assurée si le bébé régurgitait…. Tu penses comme les mères devaient se sentir à l’aise, n’est-ce pas!…

    Et puis pour le deuxième, c’était déjà tout changé, on pouvait allaiter mais pas de trop et pas dépasser 6 semaines, et alors absolument coucher les enfants sur le ventre, même qu’on faisait des devant de poussettes en transparent pour que les bébés puissent ‘voir’ quand on les promenaient…

    Remarque, ce truc de les coucher sur le ventre, franchement, c’était le meilleur, aucun danger si ils régurgitaient, super bon pour la tête, et surtout tellement rassurant d’avoir leur petit ventre bien collé contre quelque chose de chaud comme le matelas, et en plus c’est bien souvent comme ça que TOUS les enfants finissent par dormir dès qu’ils savent se tourner comme ils le décident!! Et pour maintenant, ah, c’est sur le dos, absolument sur le dos… Va t’en y comprendre quelque chose!!

    Mais pour le co-sleeping, c’est surtout la façon de culpabiliser ceux qui ne veulent pas faire comme ça, qui ont peur ou qui ne se sentent pas à ce point tout devoir donner à leurs enfants y compris leurs nuits dans lur lit! C’est surtout de dire que c’est comme ça et que si tu ne le fais pas, ou bien tu es une conne ou bien tu n’aimes pas ton enfant.

    Et alors, comme ce matin, dire que c’est juste dans l’Ouest qu’on ne ferait pas comme ça mais que dans tout l’Orient on co-sleeperait…?! C’est vraiment faire fi d’une quelconque analyse pus honnête et plus intéressante, c’est ignorer que la plupart de ceux qui pratiquent à l’Est le co-sleeping, ne boivent peut-être pas d’acool, jamais, et ne dorment pas en couple la durée du co-sleeping.

    La plupart des co-sleepings dans les autres cultures se font SANS le père, pas en couple, respecte l’intimité de l’enfant-nourisson et sa mère sans que l’homme n’intervienne. Mais de ça personne ne parle jamais, on compare juste des choses qui ne sont pas du tout les mêmes, on fait des raccourcis qui me dérangent beaucoup dès lors qu’on les présente comme des trouvailles quasi scientifiques.

    Il n’y a pas de regle, et c’est faux de dire qu’on dort comme ça pour éviter les morts subites. Il y en a peut-être moins, mais ce n’est pas pour ça qu’on le fait, et peut-être que ce n’est pas non plus pour l’enfant!!

  45. TedinAsia said

    An Expat Westerner married and living in Japan to a wonderful Japanese woman, our first newborn arrived very early and was in Hospital for her first 6 months, now healthy and home, it just seemed natural to have her sleep between us. She sleeps just a little elevated on a large bath towel with a rolled bath towel on each side to prevent her from rolling out, Mom & Dad sleep on each side. Dad has the night feeding duties and is a light sleeper, Mom takes care during the day with stretching and feeding. Maybe we are just blessed, but this has worked out very well for us. Listen to your common sense, listen to your baby and do what you feel is best. I would think that the type of people visiting and researching these types of issues are undoubtedly / going to be good parents… relax and enjoy the experience. I might add that we also have two kind kitties who share our bed as well…

  46. [...] P.S. Japan has lowest cases of SIDS in the world, and there cosleeping in non smoking mothers is enc… Share and Enjoy: [...]

  47. [...] January 2009 in high style, Daniel put up our second most popular post of all time (second only to Jim McKenna’s widely read piece on Mother-Child co-sleeping, an article that draws constant readership). The normal Wednesday Round Up was extraordinary [...]

  48. [...] Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone by James J. McKenna — While technically from the very, very tail end of 2008, this post by [...]

  49. [...] Comments Kasie on Cosleeping and Biological Impe…Sarah on Videos from The Encultured Bra…Paul Mason on Videos from The Encultured [...]

  50. elaine said

    I have two boys ages 9 1/2 and 7 and both of them slept in our bed since the day they came home from the hospital. I now have an 11 month-old and she has never slept in a crib either. I strongly believe in co-sleeping, not just in the same room as your baby, but in the same bed. I have always felt more comfortable having my infant right beside me rather than in a crib, all alone in another room. It just went against my maternal instinct. Many people would tell me it isn’t safe, but I was very cautious and still am with my third child right beside me. I feel it helps to build a stronger bond with your child. If there is another adult in the bed, I recommend using two blankets. I find this works well with my husband who has the freedom to move around as he chooses and the other is for baby and me. My daughter sleeps very comfortably snuggled up with my arm under her and close to my body. And when I eventually need to get more comfortable I lay her down flat on the mattress righ beside me with her own little blanket or without one at all. Sleeping with your baby is so natural. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  51. NewMommy said

    Emmegebe said this in 2008 “Mothers almost universally assume a protective sleep position: side-lying, facing the baby, bottom arm extended out past the baby’s head. From this position it would be very difficult to roll onto the baby without rousing (the mother’s arm would be pinned).”

    Babies are formed and grow inside of us, they are born into the world and some assume to put them alone in another bed. Where’s the heartbeat, warmth and smell of the mother? The baby needs to be next to the mother and father in order to feel comfortable and safe. As a first time mommy of my 2 week old baby, I have a need to be next to her, and she has the same for me. The way the person described the sleeping position above, is exactly how I sleep with my baby, and nobody told me how. I did it instinctively and we’re both happy and comfortable at night.

  52. We all have to move out of our western minds and start living from our hearts. We’ve become so alienated! Always trying to work out how to do things intellectually when really our innate sense is there all the time if we allow it to bubble to the surface. My children are 1 and 3. We, ie myself, partner and 2 kiddies all share the family bed which stretches across the width of the room and it’s so natural, it simply feels right.

  53. Barbara Bailey said

    This article brings to mind incidences with my youngest son, now nearly 11. I co-slept with all my children, safely and happily. For my youngest however, I believe co-sleeping was a life-saver. Early on I realized I was waking up a few times each night to sit him up, pat his back, and get a response from him. After several days, and realizing that I was waking because he was experiencing apnea, I totally eliminated dairy from my diet (he was exclusively breastfed). I had already noted during the day that my intake of some foods affected him and had cut back on dairy after the 2nd day. About a week after totally eliminating dairy, he no longer experienced apnea. Any time I cheated, had a small amount of ice cream, it would affect him. I am certain that he would have been a SIDs statistic if we had not been co-sleeping. He can consume limited amounts of dairy now but I can always tell if he drinks a milk at school or otherwise has had too much dairy in a day because it affects his breathing, especially at night (horrible snoring.) Co-sleeping saved my child.

  54. minnewyork said

    I have my daughter’s crib in our room, and sometimes she sleeps in bed with me and nurses through the night. One of the comments was about how mothers naturally take the protective position when sleeping with their baby. I do that very thing, but wake up feeling very sore from staying in that position. I love the idea of sleeping with her, it’s very nurturing, bonding, but I also struggle with muscle aches and pains. Does anyone else experience this?

    • Jespren said

      I have this problem too. I have coslept with both my kids, the 2 yr old is now in his own bed but still in room and my 6 month old goes back and forth between the crib in sidecar position and with me in bed. I have bad joints and sleeping with my arm wrapped around her or outstretched over her head dislocates that elbow, which doesn’t make for a relaxing sleep environment. So she moves back and forth and I keep her swaddled during sleep. The swaddling really helps (we sleep in a cooler room so no worries about overheating) and with them being a bit firmer from the swaddling it is easier for me to assume slightly varried sleeping positions safely. I’m a super light sleeper though too and do not move in my sleep. I do not roll or stir in my sleep so a swaddled baby at my side is safe, although I don’t recommend this if you are a heavier sleeper.

  55. [...] This original article can be found right here: http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-no… [...]

  56. [...] By James J. McKenna Ph.D. Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. Chair in Anthropology Director, Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory University of Notre Dame Where a baby sleeps is not as simple as current medical discourse and recommendations against cosleeping in some western societies want it to be. And there is good reason why. I write here to explain why the pediatric recommendations on forms of cosleeping such as bedsharing will and should remain mixed … Read More [...]

  57. [...] Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone [...]

  58. Mary G. said

    My daughter coslept with my hubby and me most of her early child hood. I simply didn’t wake up when she cried from the crib, until she was hysterical, purple and sweaty from screaming. Once she was in bed with me, I woke at the least little flutter of movement – she never needed to “cry”.

    She DID have her “own room” with her own bed and such, so the message was always there that a time would come when she could/would sleep in her own bed alone, but only when she was ready. Several times over the years she would try it out for a night or two, but invariably returned to the companionship of a shared bed. At about age 8 or 9, she shifted from sleeping in bed with me to her own bed, then at about age 12 we moved to a new house, and she decided that it was now time for her to have her own space, and she’s never returned to my bed.

    It’s as simple and natural as that. She’s a perfectly happy, well-adjusted 17 (almost 18) year old, confident and content with her life. I strongly attribute this to her early life snuggled safely and securely with her Mommy.

  59. Tamara said

    The root of the anti cosleeping movement is about a man’s unfettered access to a woman in a heterosexual nuclear family situation. With the baby removed from the bed and from the room he has easier access to sex. With the baby or child in the bed he does not have easy access to sex. If I ever have children they will sleep with me.

    • Mary G. said

      While that probably IS a large part of it, I also think it’s rooted in the surge of hero worship for doctors that began in the early 1900′s as science progressed so rapidly and things like vaccinations saved millions of children from suffering miserable deaths and life crippling diseases (polio, anyone?)

      In the 1950′s it was popular scientific thinking that babies were delicate little creatures who needed to be protected from evil bacteria (the doc’s had yet to realize our life utterly depends on being chock FULL of bacteria!), and mothers were cautioned to not handle their children “too much”. Many women were told to not “handle” their child except during diaper changes…. that their bodies were covered with germs from which their delicate babies needed to be protected.

      So breastfeeding was out (bodily contact! Ugh!) Sterilized bottles, boiled bed linens, anti-bacterial creams (the germophobia continues!), antibacterial soaps… kids were kept in as sterile environment as possible… and along came asthma, allergies, skin sensitivities… a host of immunological issues brought on by the sterile environment that kept the children from building their natural immunities to the germs of the world.

      Babies are animals, just as we are. We NEED contact with nature, dirt (soil/earth) ground, trees, fresh air and sunshine. I see our society slowly learning the balance between cleanliness and the damage of sterility in the environment. We’re learning.

  60. Momof9 said

    I have 9 kids, all of them slept with me. Several are grown, some are still little and sleep with my husband and me. There is no way you could walk into a group of teenagers and look at my kids and say “Oh, yeah, they slept with their parents”, unless you were perhaps noting how well adjusted they are. lol My oldest daughter has a daughter of her own, and she coslept (bedshared) with her as well.
    My kids have all grown up knowing that babies don’t sleep alone. We don’t have cribs or bassinets in our house. When my granddaughter was born in the hospital, my daughter (20yo at the time) saw the isolettes (clear plastic boxes on rolling carts), she said to me “Mom, what are the boxes for?” I said “Those are for the babies to sleep in.” She had a blank look on her face and said “Why??? Babies need to be with their mothers. What if something happened to them in there.”
    The human race would not have survived if babies had been left to sleep alone. Just like it would not have survived if mothers truly could not breastfeed their babies, or if 35% of women needed cesareans to give birth. It doesn’t make biological sense.

  61. Erin said

    While none of my three kids co-slept with me, I don’t have any issue with those who choose it for their families. You have to do what is right for your child, your marriage, your family. I am an advocate of breast-feeding and of all kind of other instinctive mothering techniques…so co-sleeping doesn’t seem like much of a stretch.

    So many of you have argued very well for co-sleeping and I think your points are very valid and obviously backed up by a lot of good research and information. My question, though, having not experienced co-sleeping, is how do you transition the child (children) into their own beds? My best friend and her husband co-slept with their child and now, at the age of eight, he is terrified to sleep alone. He’s actually pretty terrified to be alone at all…doesn’t want to go upstairs alone, won’t watch TV by himself or play with toys by himself. He is completely dependent on one of his parents being near him at all times. So, eight years later, they’ve never spent a night alone or a night without him. That can’t be good for a marriage…right?

    Reading these comments, so many of you have successfully transitioned your children into their own beds without a lost wink of sleep. What is the difference? What did you all do to make your children so comfortable when it was time to transition? My heart goes out to this poor little boy who hasn’t had the gift of learning age-appropriate independence. I’d love to know how you all were so successful in giving your kids that gift.

    • Mary G. said

      First of all, please throw away your concepts of “age-appropriate” anything. Children all vary – wildly – in their developmental stages, and those stages vary wildly in what order things happen. My daughter slept with me until age 12. At about age 7 she began sometimes sleeping away – overnight visits to family or friends, trying out her own room (we had it set up for her, but with the understanding it was available when SHE wanted it, so the expectation was there, but no pressure)

      Children – ALL children – develop a need/desire for privacy, but when that develops is as unique as every child. Modern ideas of “age-appropriate” anything make me grind my teeth. My daughter spoke her first words at 5 months, complete sentences by 12. Clearly enough for strangers to converse with her by 18 months. MOST children still babble incoherently at 2 years – lucky for them no one was concerned about their inability to talk!!!! At the same time, my early-speaking daughter didn’t learn to READ fluently until almost 9 years old – an age when most of my family were tersely telling me that I was a horrible mother, incompetent teacher and that I had no business educating her at home. She began reading at age 8.5, and by 10 was reading on a collegiate level. She now reads advanced materials even I can’t understand (she’s now 18, and doing extremely well, intellectually speaking, and has slept in her own bed in her own room for 6 years).

      As for the health of a marriage with a child co-sleeping? HA! Children sleep heavily, and the parents can always go into the livingroom if they’re not comfortable in the same room with the child. Sofas are great! LOL ;-)

      • Erin said

        Mary G.,

        While I respect your point-of-view very much and agree with it to some degree, I have to voice my concern that there IS age-appropriate behavior. Yes, children all mature at their own rates and those milestones need to be nurtured as they come and not pushed. Like you, my son was verbally gifted and was speaking in complete sentences by age one. Even now, at age seven, he uses adverbs properly and has a vocabulary that goes well beyond that of kids his age. However, he’s still very immature in a lot of ways and I have no intention of pushing him to do something before he is ready.

        But my concerns for my friend’s son (who is MY son’s best friend) stem from him often being left out, by his own accord. For instance, at my son’s birthday party this summer, the friend would not allow his parents to leave him here at my house, a place he’s been a thousand times. I live directly across the street from them and you would hope that he would be comfortable being here. But he was not.

        He completely relies on his parents for everything — he won’t even put on his shoes (Velcro tennies!) by himself. He still sits down and expects them to put the shoes on him. He has no independence whatsoever and I see it hurting him socially.

        Do you not believe that parents need to give their children the chance to branch out? For instance, my oldest child did not want to ride the bus in the mornings, but my husband’s schedule could not accommodate taking him to school. I have two other children who are not school-age and they sleep later than my son, therefore I could not take him to school myself because I would have to wake up my daughters to do so. So I made my son ride the bus. I took him to the stop, introduced him to the bus driver and saw him on safely. When he got back home that afternoon (he has always ridden the bus in the afternoons), he was so happy he’d ridden in the morning. A number of his friends were there and he enjoyed getting to spend some time with them outside of the classroom. Success! Now he happily trots out of the house every morning, excited to get on the bus. He would have never found this joy (and independence) without a nudge from me.

        I think children need to be nudged from time to time. Not pushed…I don’t advocate doing anything the child is not physically, mentally or emotionally read to do. But I knew my child was ready to ride the bus, but I had to place the opportunity in front of him…otherwise he would have never seized it by himself.

        So with examples like these, I can’t help but believe that there IS age-appropriate behavior. An eight-year-old SHOULD be putting his shoes on by himself. My son was perfectly capable of happily riding the bus in the morning. Do you not agree that sometimes, with a parental nudge and a lot of good, SINCERE support, kids should be hitting certain milestones at certain ages?

        Looking forward to your response! And I agree with you…couches are great, even for those of us who do not co-sleep! :)

      • Mary G. said

        Ah, so we’re having more going on here than JUST sleeping with the parents. This is a whole ‘nother story my dear. By all means he should be able to tie his own shoes (or at least be able to put on velcro ones – I cannot recall at what age my daughter was able to tie laces).

        At the same time, I had another friend who’s daughter was much as you describe. Up until age 7 or 8 we all called her “The Velcro Kid” (her mother included), then one day this young lady’s “security tank” reached the full mark, and she trotted off on her own. This happened at my house, in fact. They were over at my home visiting, I think the girl was about 8 or 9 by then, and we’d all been sitting on the front porch together – the mom and I on our swing.

        After awhile the other Mom suddenly went still and said, “Did you see what Kiara just did!?!?” I looked up and realized that she and my daughter had just run merrily into the back yard, out of reach, out of sight – heck – out of HEARING of her Mother! She was “ready”, so went. Some kids have a natural caution level that’s just much higher than others. They need that security tank to be FILLED before they can reach out.

        In our society of “get the kids out to daycare/preschool by age two”, the idea of having a family that nurtures there kids close to their hearts and fosters family togetherness over early independence, they stand out strangely, I know. I still support the parents keeping their child in their sheltering arms, but I do think they could perhaps encourage him to do more for himself. This, assuming your example is one of a pattern, and not a one-off thing.

      • All six of my kids slept in bed with me, and they chose on their own to move to their own beds by age 3 or 4. The bed was made available, and at some point, they decided they were big kids and could sleep in their own bed. They were all independent tots too. I spent a lot of time chasing them as they went exploring (everywhere!), pretty much as soon as they could walk.

        Every family works differently, and there are always a lot of different factors at work.

    • Christen said

      Hi, Erin!

      While I do not think co-sleeping is to blame for this sort of behavior (age-appropriate or not), here is what some parents to end the co-sleeping relationship. Transitioning can take some time. The key to anything when it comes to children (as you probably already know) is to not pressure the child to change and gain independence. Make it clear and stress-free that this decision is theirs. Only after they move forward on their own, with good support and love, will that child walk away feeling confident. If being pressured or forced (goodness forbid), confidence will always be an issue and can turn dangerous in adulthood.

      That being said:

      Many families put a toddler bed or in this case, maybe a twin (though who’s to say a toddler bed may not feel nicer?) with it’s own sheets – something that is appealing to the son, like if his favorite movie is Toy Story, maybe some Toy Story sheets, etc., and place the bed directly against the current bed. The idea is to just let it be there. Some children will hang out on the bed when playing, some will take naps on it, some will sleep in it right away. If you tell the child, “this is for you to use as you like,” it’s usually a good approach to someone who is obviously terrified. Many moms even sleep with the child in the bed a few times, to show that it’s a safe place and to make it smell like mommy. After a while, transitioning takes its own course. Does he already have his own room somewhere in the house? At this stage, I think he should. The biggest idea behind transitioning is SAFETY and the child recognizing that he is still safe and protected. If the parents are pressuring him at all, or judging him, scolding him, pressuring him to be more than he currently is, this is going to be one hard, and in the end, unsuccessful road (success meaning a confident child who feels safe).

      Many hugs to the little boy and his parents, and hopefully they always support each other. Any kind of anxiety can really set off these sorts of issues in a child – seeing parents fight, changing schools, losing a friend, missing a teacher… so many things. If not properly supported, confidence is lost and fear sets in. It’s my belief that this kind of behavior stems from fear – separation and loss anxiety. I’d imagine the parents feel a lot of pressure from other people; I truly hope they do not let their child see this, and I hope – very very strongly – that these people do not directly confront the son. It’s cruel.

      Good luck! I hope this helps in some way…

      –Christen

    • Heather said

      Our method has been to get each kid a bed when they are around 2, make a big deal about it being a “big kid” thing. We start out with naptime. I lay down with the child, cuddle, and nurse him to sleep, just as if he were in my bed. After a week or so of this, we do the same at bedtime. But only my eldest ever transitioned to a room alone. My current 2 year old is on a bottom bunk, with my 5 year old up top (and they adore each other). The kids always know that they CAN come into our bed whenever they need to. The 2 year-old almost always comes in sometime in the wee smalls to nurse, and goes back to sleep in our bed. The 5 year-old usually wants some morning cuddle time, and the 6.5 year-old wants morning cuddle time about once a week.

      Independence issues? Sometimes, I WISH we had some! My 6.5 year old talks to everyone, despite all attempts to teach stranger danger, and her brothers are only a little more reserved. They are by no means inclined to hang on apron strings in any way!

  62. Victor Vieira said

    What is this B.S. about scientific research to determine if a baby should sleep with it’s parents or not… who are we to question and judge billions of years of evolution… WHAT ARROGANCE!!! We live in an illusive self-destructive world of religion and so called science, and NOT AT ALL a Spiritual one!

  63. Great article.

    Even as an adoptive mom (and dad) who were forced to bottle feed as we were in a foster-adopt situation (another rant for another day) we were completely in tune to and aware of where our daughter was while sleeping. Bottom line, we took a traumatized infant who found herself at 3 days old away from the smells and sounds she had already found to be soothing and natural and brought her into our foriegn-to-her home. I couldn’t imagine her not being either tucked safely inside a wrap on my body or within a few inches from me while sleeping at night. Putting her alone in a crib, even within our room, left me to feel as though she was feeling abandoned and alone all over again.

    People need to research and educate themselves on safely practicing co-sleeping and then make a decision that is best for their family.

  64. MommyOfOne said

    I’m a little torn on this subject. I don’t think it particularly -harms- a baby to sleep alone nor to be bottlefed. I was bottlefed and did not co-sleep with my mother and turned out perfectly fine. My doctors children were bottlefed and did not co-sleep and they were perfectly fine and could even read by the age of 2 and a half (more related to the concept people say that breastfeeding makes babies smarter…it’s also a lot of genes that determine that). Anyway, I have co-slept with my daughter since the day I brought her home from the hospital. Now that she is 2 months old and a bit bigger, I will put her in her Boppy pillow for breastfeeding because it is impossible for her to roll over in it (trust me, I’ve watched her for hours) and will lay with her like that. We also have a sleep positioner to let her sleep in for safe co-sleeping so she won’t roll over into a pillow or anything. I think the co-sleeping is a great thing, but I agree that there are good and bad ways of doing it.

    My only problem with any of the above comments is how it says that many people are “too lazy” to make the sacrifices necessary for breastfeeding. This is NOT necessarily true. I breastfed for 5 weeks. At the end of the 5th week I got sick and my doctor recommended that I stop. I quit for a week then when I felt better, I resumed. Now my daughter has become ill (not related to my illness) and I have been told that I probably need to stop altogether because I needed to give her special formula to help her with her illness. I cried. I became incredibly depressed and it tore me apart to have to quit. I began pumping like crazy to stock up on what I could so I could give it to her later. Now that I have returned to school, my milk supply has diminished to next to nothing. Quitting has been the hardest thing in my life because I feel like I am losing the best thing I can do for her. So please do not say someone is lazy if they do not breastfeed. I did everything in my power to keep it. It’s just not the best thing for her health now according to my doctor and I need to do what is best for her.

    • Christy said

      Contact a local La Leche League group for help on re-lactating. Breast milk is incredibly healthy, and is even being used as a treatment for some cancer patients. I can not fathom how any formula, no matter how “special” could remotely surpass the healing properties of breast milk, which is a living food, full of antibodies and enzymes. Formula is a “dead” food, made in a lab. Perhaps the doctor is not aware of just how well God created babies’ perfect food. Another place to seek info is drmomma.org, a very informative blog written by a doctor, who greatly supports breastfeeding.

      • Laura said

        Christy – I couldn’t agree more.
        MommyOfOne, If a doctor ever tells you to stop nursing for ‘health’ again, get a second or third opinion. I had a doctor tell me a TON of untrue things when my son was 3 days old. I left her office in tears and was so confused on what to do and what I was doing. An example: She actually told me if he has more than one wet diaper per day I’m nursing too much. And the list goes on. The fact is that many doctors are not well educated on nursing since it has not been mainstream for so long. If I had listed to her I would never have been sucessful nursing my son. He is turning 18 months next week and still nurses before bed.

        You said yourself that your Dr did not nurse. Maybe with future kids it would be worth shopping for a doctor that supports and encourages nursing…

    • Christen said

      Oh, MommyofOne! I’m so sorry your doctor did not give you proper information. Medical doctors can often mean well, but they are trained in a variety of areas; unfortunately, lactation is not given much attention. I agree, please contact your local La Leche League leader (http://www.llli.org), who are lactation experts. Re-lactation is possible; in fact, women who have never had a baby are able to produce a milk supply for their adopted children. The process can take several weeks, but it is successful and still healthier than man-made synthetic options. Also, you can go to any bookstore and in the pregnancy section find the current edition of La Leche League’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Page 354 is the section for re-lactating, with great tips and advice.

      Your doctor never should have suggested taking away the very thing your child needed during an illness and if you ever get sick again, your baby can still nurse and be safe. In fact, the antibodies your body produces to fight your illness go directly to your baby and she/he will be further protected from that illness.

      Good luck. I do hope you try to reestablish nursing. Yes, formula fed babies turn out fine and well and some even healthy, but everybody agrees – doctors and moms – that breastfed babies turn out healthier. There are very few legitimate reasons to not breastfeed; unfortunately, mothers are given the wrong ones. It makes me sad.

  65. [...] Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone 2 ani si 4 luni. 1 an si 5 luni "Breastfeeding is not a reflex;it is a learned process. In [...]

  66. [...] [...]

  67. concerned mom said

    this article is so biased its unbeileveable. I breastfed all of my children. my oldest 2 slept in thier own crib, in thier own room and are perfect. not a thijg wrong socially, developmentally,etc. if you sre that lazy that you cant bring yourself to climb out of bed to feed your child, you have no reason having them. my youngest sleeps in our room in a bassijet, i still get up and feed him elsewhere. i know of 2 infants who have died in the past 5 yrs or so by bed sharing. not by sids. and also, the statement about formula feeding mothers shouldnt bedshare is stupid. so the only good, sensitive moms are the ones who breastfeed. i know a lot of moms who formula fed and are much better motuers than some of the ones.who breastfed. the article is biased. and if you want to use the argument thwt our ancestors did this. look at infant mortality rates thrugh out history.

    • There’s nothing saying that a baby not co-slept with turns out 100% wrong with all sorts of issues. It was merely expressing the benefits of doing so for everyone in the family. If you don’t, that doesn’t make you a bad parent and it’s silly to think everyone is calling you that. There are benefits to everything considered positive and that has science backing it up but does that mean every single thing that doesn’t fall into those two categories is bad? No, of course not. The world is not black and white like that. It might be more beneficial to co-sleep, yes. And this notion is based on history, science, and the study of people in relation to each other. But it is not a personal attack. It is, however, an attack on how the media and modern medicine portrays such a normal act.

      • And infant morality rates have significantly dropped throughout time because of medicine, cleanliness, and a multitude of other things that have nothing to do with co-sleeping or breast feeding beyond isolated events involving disease. While it is true that co-sleeping CAN kill a child, there are steps that can be taken to avoid it and SIDS kills far more children than safe co-sleeping standards ever has. It’s been on the rise in recent times due to many factors, most unknown but two being cushions in newborn cribs and not co-sleeping. Does that make it irresponsible to not co-sleep? I don’t know, that seems more like a personal decision, just like breastfeeding. And not breastfeeding doesn’t make you bad either. Some women can’t. Others don’t have time. It doesn’t mean their babies will turn out messed up. It just means there are more benefits TO breastfeed involving cancers for the mom and the immune system for the baby. You’re looking at all of this the wrong way…

    • KB said

      Re: breastfeeding vs. formula feeding and bedsharing, there is numerous data that suggests formula feeding is, in fact, a risk factor for unsafe bedsharing. It has nothing to do with how responsible or wonderful the mother is. It’s just a fact.

    • DawnMom said

      Wow. so moms who choose co-sleeping for their kids are lazy? that is just ridiculous. I have five kids and all of them are different. I have one who had some health issues which caused her to cry from 11pm to 4am every night, and I stayed up with her and cared for her -getting barely 3 hours of sleep a night. I am far from lazy. and yet, my youngest child and only son literally ate every hour when he was tiny. he was simply hungry all the time. If I hadn’t tucked him into bed with me at night I wouldn’t have slept at all. So tell me, would severe lack of sleep (and the psychosis that goes along with it be harmful to mothers and babies? By the way, having a baby in a bassinet in your room nextto the bed Iis a form of co-sleeping. Bed-sharing isn’t for everyone, but DONT YOU DARE accuse those who choose that for their families lazy. That is narrow minded and rude.

    • DawnMom said

      Also check out the infant mortality rates in the US compared to undeveloped countries. Would you believe that our infant mortality rate is higher? Well, it is. If co-sleeping was so responsible for infant mortality in history, then wouldn’t it be a factor in these countries as well? And yet, more American babies are dying. So that argument doesn’t hold water.

  68. [...] Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone 2 ani si 4 luni. 1 an si 5 luni "Breastfeeding is not a reflex;it is a learned process. In [...]

  69. I loved birthing my children naturally, co-sleeping (I couldn’t even imagine them being away from me; it would scare me that I wouldn’t hear them when they needed me), breastfeeding them into toddlerhood, feeding them real food from the family table, carrying them on my body . . .

    Only in American and other supposedly “first world” countries do we force our babies to be independent from the womb. In the majority of the world, they live interdependently. They are collective in their thinking, not me-centered. Our culture reflects our values: Me-first, instant gratification, addictions galore! We are emotionally bankrupt!

    Co-sleeping is HOW families have slept for milleniums. We have to give it a fancy name and debate about it. Crazy! What I appreciate the most and what I teach in my childbirth classes and newborn classes to new parents is to not feel guilty if their baby sleeps with them. Some have posted that only a fringe population sleeps with their babies. Not true. The problem is that a good majority of parents bring their babies to bed, but secretly. What a shame that they are made to feel ashamed of something so normal and natural.

    SIDS is a complicated issue. It is very important to remember that more babies die from car accidents and other causes than SIDS. It is very rare. Tragic, but rare. Maybe we shouldn’t put our babies in cars since they are at a high risk of dying each time. That is the absurd logic some use regarding co-sleeping.

    If you sleep with your baby, don’t be ashamed or feel guilty. You are in good company. Like many things that have been modernized out of sensible childrearing, the majority of famous people over the centuries enjoyed: being born at home, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, home schooling.

    Just like in maternity care, our statistics of mortality are appalling! Clearly, we are doing something very wrong with how we bring baby’s into the world and how we parent them. We could learn so much from other cultures. If you are one of those that scoffs at comparing ourselves with other cultures, let’s look elsewhere than so-called third world societies. Let’s look at Sweden. That country made a decision to be baby/family-centered in it’s politics. It passed policy after policy that supported the best evidenced-based practices: midwifery care, extended maternity leave, infant massage, breastfeeding, attachment parenting. Results – it has consistently rated as one of the top 5 countries in the world for the lowest mortality rates. We have a lot to learn!

  70. [...] Dr. Daniel Lende offers balanced advice on cosleeping, bedsharing and breastfeeding. Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone [...]

  71. [...] Other studies also support co-sleeping as a safe and healthy choice. For example, research by James J. McKenna Ph.D. notes that co-sleeping may actually help reduce the risks of SIDS. Another co-sleeping supporter, [...]

  72. [...] in favour of co-sleeping reducing SIDS it seems to be correlation and not causation. He makes the argument that, “In Japan where co-sleeping and breastfeeding (in the absence of maternal smoking) is [...]

  73. [...] amount of societal pressure in the Western world to have children sleep in their own bed, although cosleeping is the norm in other societies. Hopefully, studies like this will give cosleeping parents the ammunition they need to use with [...]

  74. [...] bills, bathing the kiddos and bedtime. Not to mention all the diaper changings, midnight feedings, co-sleeping nights and potty accidents in the middle of the night. Sure sounds like we homemakers have it easy [...]

  75. Sata said

    What an interesting debate! And a great article, I think!
    I’m a new mom of a 5 month old son. He was born at home and we now all share the bed he was born in! Lol:). It sort of happened this way by accident, kind of, as we hadn’t really made a decision before he was born as to whether we would co-sleep/bed-share or not. I do know that we have a room for him and even a crib, (although when I first saw it all put together I knew I didn’t want him sleeping in there), but hes never slept in it!
    I absolutely love the way we share our bed with him. We have a wonderful connection, as all mothers will with their children, and while I don’t think it’s “because” of co-sleeping, it’s maybe helped the bond grow very strong!

    One issue we are starting to have is that we are told by “whoever” that DS needs two naps a day, on average. We are trying to start putting DS down for naps in our bed, (safely corraling him in there, no way for him to fall out or into cracks, etc), and then leaving the room to do laundry, work, etc. Problem is that now that he’s getting older and more used to sleeping with us, he won’t nap! Moments after I put him down for his nap and leave the room once he’s asleep, he’s awake and crying. It breaks my heart. we tried having him nap in the livingroom, (where I work from home), but everyone says he needs a restful, dark, quiet space to get good naps!

    I’m certainly falling victim to the “too much information from people who don’t share my beliefs” thing. Is there anyone out there Wuth advice about this??

    Also, DS just recently started eating A LOT during the night.. Used to be consistently twice a night, now is every two hours or so.. Growth spurt!? Teething?! Any help is greatly appreciated!

    Oh and one more thing.. I just read something about SIDS that I thought was interesting..
    In researching the best, healthiest mattress for our son, I read about a study that basically found that typical plasticy crib mattresses, with fire retarders and similar chems added, might be a factor for SIDS. Apparently the sweat from the baby mixes with these chemicals and a very small amount of toxic gas is created from the combo of the sweat and the mattress chems! Makes sense to me! They found the levels they detected around the baby to be high enough to cause nerve damage. It makes sense to me because the plasticy surface actually makes them sweat more! Add to that a polyester sleep sac and they may be on to something!

    Anyway, I really agree that co-sleeping is awesome, but also totally support people choosing what’s best for their family. I think it’s silly to put a tiny infant in a room by themselves, but that’s just me:). Just because one family makes a choice that i wouldn’t make doesn’t mean I think they’re horrible people or bad parents. I find I get so much negative energy from women who didn’t have an unmedicated birth when I tell them (when asked:) that our son was born at home.

    And to the woman who was told to stop nursing!! No!! Do what your heart tells you!! And find a new doc right away! Good luck:)

    • Kellan said

      Have you tried baby-wearing? I’ve done a bit of research on this and have found that for serious wearers, springing for the more expensive ones tends to be best, while the light baby-wearers can get away with a much cheaper carrier/wrap/sling. Send me an email and I’ll be glad to help you some more! (A bit short on time right now)

      hart wig mt at gm ail. com

    • Heather said

      Sata, our solution for naps has been a baby hammock hanging up in the living room, until they get too wiggly for it, about 6-8 months. It feels all cuddled up, like a sling, and is right with everyone, so the baby is reassured by daily noise while he naps. Babies do NOT need dark, quiet, places to nap. Much better for them to learn to sleep well, even with some noise! I always nurse the baby to sleep, and then lay him down in the hammock or bed.

  76. carlie said

    just this week we lost our 12 week old nephew co-sharing the bed with his mother and she breastfed, she thought she crushed him when infact he died of SIDS, top doctors here say most babies die from these freak accidents, and its better to not co-share at all, i have never seen a precious baby die like this but i did just 3 days ago i would warn parents of co-sharing especially mothers who are sleep deprived, if i can save another family from the gut wrenching emotional rollercoaster and having to switch of life-support machines, then my job is done here, just dont put your kids in bed with you, you dont want to suffer like we did and still are

    • Linda said

      How heartbreaking. I hope that time has started to ease the agony you whole family must share, though you will never fully recover from the loss of this precious being. Your posting itself actually supports what the author has criticized – parents being victimized by the “system” before the situation is properly investigated. Your darling neice blamed herself, when it was SIDS and not her co-sleeping that took her sons life.we have allowed ourselves to be so conditioned by these negative, illinformed, culturally biased assumptions that we will blame ourselves, be blamed by others even when the facts bear out a different truth. May you find a way to find peace and move on with strength and love.

  77. health for kids…

    [...]Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone « Neuroanthropology[...]…

  78. [...] Article on cosleeping http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12…t-sleep-alone/ Figured I'd be safe posting it here. I wanted to [...]

  79. Good to hear a sane balanced and biologically based argument for where babies should sleep.

  80. Audra Harvey said

    As long as humans are humans, you can’t eliminate co-sleeping. It’s only natural, and you can’t erase instinct. With my first child, I knew nothing about co-sleeping. I had read Gary Ezzo, if that tells you anything, AND I thought it was reasonable (insane, I know). My husband and I were barely surviving on fragmented sleep–up and down, up and down. One night he brought me the alarm clock instead of the crying baby! The first time baby accidentally fell asleep next to me while nursing, we both knew it was magic (we slept for more than 1 hr at a time). And also, it was exactly the way things were meant to be.

  81. Great article, but I thought the analogies could have been stronger. Driving is inherently dangerous and eating sugar and fat is generally not good for you. You are better off doing both as little as possible. However, sleep-sharing for a healthy nursing mother and baby is healthy, natural, and wonderful. A better analogy would be if people said “if a 14 yr old drunk girl accidentally gets behind the wheel and crashes than no females should drive.” Overtired caregivers accidentally falling asleep with babies give co-sleeping a bad name. When the choice is made not out of exhaustion or lack of money for a crib, but because it feels right, and the bed is made safe, or a “co-sleeper” or “side car” are set up, than co-sleeping can be wonderful. Even if it’s “safer” it’s not infallible, unfortunately. I hope more medical professionals wake up to this reality, so moms can stop lying to their doctors and feel good about co-sleeping!

    Why is the baby in the image sleeping prone? The new edition of “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” is very pro co-sleeping. They talk about how a nursing baby naturally falls off the breast to sleep on their back, which is healthier. It’s a great book and has lots more great pro-co-sleeping and pro-home birth details.

    • Linda said

      Sorry, but despite all the western “studies” most babies globally sleep on their bellies. It’s natural and not a problem if not born to smoking mothers, sleeping with drunk parents or made to lie on a toxic plastic coated mattress. It prevents a lot of colic and other digestive problems and is just comfortable. Laying babies exclusively on their backs is not only producing a generation of people with flat heads that are pretty unattractive, they are now finding (shock,horror) that these flat heads cause all kinds of vision, hearing, neurological and spinal development problems! gee – that must be the way nature intended us to develop. – NOT!
      As for “look at the historical mortality rates” before doctors started to intervene.
      Total rubbish.
      Studies have shown that it was only in the late 1980s that infant and maternal mortality and morbidity rates dropped back to numbers close to those which existed in the 1800s!!!! YES – when babies were born a home, on farms to fit, healthy, well nourished mothers, supported by extended family networks, co-slept (because there generally weren’t enough rooms on the farm for everyone!) LESS mothers and babes had problems.
      Doctors took over the show before they knew about bacteria and killed EVERY mother in one area of France one year, because the doctor would go directly from examining a corpse to delivering a baby!
      It took several centuries of advancing medical knowledge and technology to GET US BACK TO THE PLACE NATURE HAD US BEFORE!!!!!!!
      wow – I don’t know about you – but I’m impressed!

  82. mommybandy said

    What a wonderful article! I’ve co-slept with my son since he was born and I never experienced the exhaustion that so many of my peers tell tales about… I never once was up three to four times a night feeding an infant and I’ve never gotten a poor night sleep when he was breastfeeding. Our son had no problems transitioning into his own toddler bed in his very own room when the time came and now only sleeps with me when my husband is away with the military. Is greatly reduces mine AND his stress and anxiety levels at daddy being gone. I find that when he sleeps with me he always sleeps longer and wakes a much happier toddler.
    As for having intercourse, we managed to make another baby while co-sleeping… LOL When baby is asleep, the bed is yours! Besides, like a previous poster said, the bed isn’t the ONLY place to have sex.

  83. [...] The biological imperative of safe co-sleeping is a great article if you want to do further reading on the subject! [...]

  84. Laura Galloway said

    Wow. What a great article. I didn’t co sleep with my little who is 19months old now (although we do enjoy plenty of snuggles in bed!). I chose not to for the simple reason, ‘it’s not the correct thing to do’. Am I blinkered?? Yes i think I am! Certainly an interesting read and would make me consider this with future babas :-)

  85. Jeaniney25 said

    Ok, so I was GOING to read ALLL the comments but I don’t have time…here’s my PERSONAL EXPERINCE…had a big bed long ago, used to sleep in it with my first child, when she was an infant, we shared a small bed, mn crib sometimes but my bed was ALWAYS IN her room!!!! I went about 3 years total without bed sharing but went right back to it when housing matters settled! Either way i had her in my room at least, always!!! It was a comfort thing for th BOTH of us n I felt NO SHAME OR REASON for changing that arrangement–then I had the local Community Outreach People come in n CALL the local Child OpProtective Services BCUZ I had both my children in my bed at one point!!! (we r ALLL VERY SLIM had HUGE bed n I AM THEIR MOTHER, IF THERE WAS A DANGEROUS FEELING OR THOUGH, I WOULD’VE taken them outta my bed on y own!) I wish I had THOUGHT of the bed sharing thing to tell CAS so I could just get them off my back but in any case, I conformed…UNTIL THEY WEREOUT OF mY LIFE 3 weeks later!!! ***my TODDLER, was waking up in the middle of the night, walking around our apartment in the DARK aimlessly, looking for Mommie, upset n scared I’d awke up QUICKLY (it’s an instinct thing) n find her sentimes still wondering or looking at me as I slept in MY BED ACROOSS the island thru the kitchen around the other side of the apartment. At which point I’d obviously get to bed with her comfort her n go back to co sleeping!! The SAME toddler has had nightmares n horrible sleeps, n dreams her whole life n waking up, down the hall from her while she screamed in her sleep or cried, just didn’t seem right to me!! So were in a new house, where I HAV a partner, n I sleep with the 2yr 9 mo old n I DON’T CARE WHAT my partner says, That’s where ima stay until my baby is ok to sleep on her own, IF that means until she’s 10yrs old, like my FIRST, THEN SO B IT!!
    THE POINT: my opinion, the HEALTHY SAFE co-sleeping same room at least, highly recommended! The TRANSFORMATION TIME into THEIR OWN BEDS SLEEPING ALONE, was ONE WEEK, after sleeping with Mom for TEN YEARS….wow! That was it! I offered oldest five bux a week to sleep alone, n there she went! Done! The toddler now, she’s got issues n NEEDS Mommie there n I’ll b there, every night n everyday until I TEACH HER n she’s confident with doing it on her own!
    The world is supposed to b the scary place, NOT the home…so I like to comfort n secure, first, worry later!!! There is always a solution to getting them out of ur bed, nothing lasts forever, especially with children! Good luck all..I don’t have a firm opinion, just experience!! THANKS FOR THE ARTICLE DOC,

  86. Jean said

    Parents who co-sleep are so incredibly selfish – and are not thinking of the child AT ALL!! You are not doing the BABY any favors. You are only satisfying your sick and twisted need to ‘be close’. Gross.

    • Kellan said

      Then why does baby need to be fed every few hours, including at night? Why is mom’s touch the one thing they need above all else? How is it that skin to skin has the power to revive a preemie or newborn?

      I am not selfish. I want to be at my best so I can take better care of my kids. This means I need my sleep. That in turn means my kid sleeps with me. Especially since we are breastfeeding 18 months after her birth. And there’s nothing wrong with extended nursing, either.

    • speakeasy25 said

      @Jean–Project much?

    • DawnMom said

      So, you have this incredibly dependant, tiny little child who has been in physical contact with their mother for their ENTIRE EXISTENCE and then they go through the trauma of birth. So they are alone and cold and and seeking the comfort of their momma, but if Momma holds them or tucks them in to sleep comfortably with her during the night she is GROSS? You know what? Banishing a sweet tiny child to solitude -away from the warmth and comfort of mom seems sick to me. Almost sadistic!
      A bed is not only for sex. that is what you are thinking, right? That people who co-sleep are spooning with their kids in some social-sexual deformed sort of way. but in the same way that kissing your mom on the cheek isn’t sexual, cuddling with a child is devoid of all forms sexual feeling. it is really about being there for your babies. You are WAY off base here, and the issue isn’t with co-sleeping. The issue you are having is within you.

  87. Co-sleeping is another form of extended nurturing, like breastfeeding, that all mammals display. Have you ever seen a crib or a co-sleeper made by an ape in its natural habitat? If one feels the need to separate their baby from them while they sleep then that is their choice but it is ass-backwards to judge a person for wanting to sleep with their baby/child. The technocratic model drives us to depend on contraptions and machines designed to outsmart nature. We are mammals people! Stop reading info from the CDC or books, written by people that you don’t even know, filled parental instructions and start looking at the way our great ancestors reared their children and how primitive living natives are still doing it. I wouldn’t look back to my parents generation for guidance being that they were the Dr. Spock era. There is a great book called “The Continuum Concept” by Jean Leidloff which talks about a native people living in the amazon who never put their babies down until they can crawl away. The terrible twos do not exist in this culture. The children are all very happy and are pleased to follow instructions from their elders. They all grow into well adjusted adult members of the tribe, whom all of which enjoy life. This is a great article and I hope awareness can ease the unnecessary fear around nurturing their children through the night and even extended breastfeeding for that matter.
    P.S. our boy is 3, still nursing and sleeping as a family.

  88. [...] this site includes a lot of information and how disinformation spreads about co-sleeping. [...]

  89. [...] Denne artikel, fra http://www.neuroanthropology.net, af James J. McKenna Ph.D. og Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. Chair in Anthropology, Director, Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory, University of Notre Dame, beskriver meget fint hvad samsovning er – og ikke er – og hvorfor det er så vigtigt. Og en af de rigtigt vigtige pointer omkring samsovning er, at baby simpelthen bliver mindre modtagelig overfor sygdomme af samsovning, og mor får efterfølgende mindre risiko for brystkræft. Fordi samsovning fordobler antallet af amninger om natten og øger antallet af måneder barnet ammes. Læs uddrag her, og resten i linket: [...]

  90. Jessica said

    This is a great article. We do a combo of bed and room sharing. Eventually we hope he’ll use his crib but we won’t try until he’s much older.

  91. El Veeb said

    I’m not a parent yet, but I’m all for co-sleeping- I have a 2-year-old nephew, and my sister used to room-share (she still takes naps with him)- from what I hear, they both still enjoy it.

    @Jean- co-sleeping is both healthy and natural, but gets a bad reputation due to Western culture, which encourages separation and detachment from family (and we wonder why our society breeds so many sociopaths). Yes, there are some sick people out there, but someone already made a very good point- anything can be unsafe, if done irresponsibly.

    @Carlie- as the article states, co-sleeping (when done properly) reduces the risk of SIDS but does not eliminate it completely. In any case, I’m very sorry for your family’s loss.

  92. [...] us (but we both agree on co-sleeping — or at least he doesn’t disagree too much).  Read this article explaining the scientific defense of bed-sharing by James McKenna, [...]

  93. Mel said

    To the Nay sayers and Yaay Sayers!
    Say what you all want and opinions differ from each other. Both sides have some valid points but what I am here for is my own experience as a mother of 2 wonderful healthy boys. I came to North America from the Philippines. Breastfeeding, co-sleeping and bed sharing was the norm in my home country. I have never heard or seen anything different! When I had my 1st son, I had an emergency C-Section. It was difficult for me to bring him out of the crib and nurse him every 2 hours. My cut was unbearable and the nurses and doctors expect me to do this. When I came home I was expecting this sort of tiredness but this not like this. I knew I wanted to nurse my son. I almost gave up breastfeeding on my 3rd week of being at home. With barely any sleep and exhaustion setting in, my mother came to our rescue. She is a nurse herself and she has watched and helped me through my ordeal. I cried, I am giving up nursing! She looked at me and said,”what I am going to do and say goes against my profession but not as your mother who raised you and your brothers”. She laid me down on my side and took my son to nurse this way. I was shocked, I said, “Mom, the nurses and doctors told me not to”. She said, “Never mind what they say, they are not here to see that you are suffering”. She stayed with me till I was comfortable. For the first time, my son and I slept for 4 hours straight and from that time on, I never went back. I nurse my 1st son for 14 months and my 2nd son for 15 months. The greatest discovery for me is that, I would wake up to nurse my son seconds before they wake up to nurse. He didn’t cry a lot, because I am ready and I came to his needs. I am not a heavy sleeper so this worked very well for our family. Even my husband who is a Westerner and didn’t want me to nurse in public has changed his perceptions about all this matter. He proudly tells everyone, what we did during those times. The professionals, in my opinion means well in their “studies and what nots”. I think that making breastfeeding difficult to mothers, makes them give up on nursing easily. Hence, the very small percentage of women that breastfeeds on for a very short time..I do not think at all that bottle feeding is easier. First of all, You have to get up, to get the bottle, heat up the water, mix in the powder, take the baby and feed him. By this time the baby is on full cry episode(“Give me my darn food, woman”). Phew..What a process..Ohh don’t forget about washing them bottles and sanitizing them. It is a waste of time and energy. Breastfeeding(in bed/in general)-fresh everytime and ready to go anytime, do it anywhere you want to, you do not have to get up. You do not even need to lug bottlesi n the diaper bag when you go out or go on vacation w/ the kids. (BTW, we went on a 3 day roadtrip to our vacation spot for three weeks when my son is only 8 months old). Need I say more….Breastfeeding, Co-sleeping and Bed sharing worked for my family. I am not forcing my way on to you but do not force your way on to me. We all have different reasons why we do what we do in raising our children. In the end, we all mean well..If my kids are happy, then we are happy. I could go on and on about this subject..but my hands are tired and I kids want me! See ya’s!!

  94. Abbie said

    My son will be 1 year in a week. He was born three weeks early and was only 5 lbs at birth. He has slept with me in my bed since he was born. Even in the hospital, I would doze while he breast-fed. When the nurse came in to check on him (which was VERY frequent), I would wake up. I didn’t want them to tell me he couldn’t be in bed with me. From the moment we got home, he slept with me. I had a bassinet for him next to my bed, but he very rarely slept in it. Now, he sleeps in a crib next to my bed, but I still bring him to bed with me in the middle of the night when he wakes up hungry. I nurse him for a while, and then I put him back in his crib. I will do this sometimes 3-4 times a night.
    You should not co-sleep when you are exhausted or intoxicated. Any time when I have been overly tired, I have put him in his bassinet between feedings, just to avoid any potential risk. If I were extremely overweight, I would not co-sleep with my son, because the risk of suffocation could increase in that situation.
    Any time he shares my bed, my maternal instincts have kept me aware and responsive to him. He is happiest and sleeps best when he is in bed with me. I cannot imagine not sleeping with him. It seems like such a cruel and cold thing to do, to force an infant to stay away from his mother for several hours at a time. Evolutionary development did not led to that–societal trend did. For many millennia, babies survived and thrived while sleeping next to their parent or parents. We didn’t have cribs when we were prehistoric man, and yet we managed to live and evolve to the point where we are today.
    Ultimately, it is a personal choice by any parent whether to co-sleep or not. In my personal experience and in my opinion, I feel it would be cruel to force my son to sleep alone, and I think it goes against our natural biological development. But that is with regard to MY life and MY son. I don’t convict parents who choose not to co-sleep. Parents who choose to co-sleep with their babies should not be convicted either. As Dr. McKenna says, although SIDS deaths are, by definition, “crib deaths,” it doesn’t keep parents from using cribs. Although there are instances of accidental suffocation with infants who bed-share, it doesn’t mean that all infants should be denied that pleasure and comfort.

  95. diem said

    i am vietnamese and in my culture bed sharing is the norm. i was a single mother with my first child and i was bed sharing with her with no problems..i dont move around much when sleeping and i wake easily and am not a deep sleeper..we had such peaceful nights and no fussiness and baby slept well and woke up happy. before she fell asleep i would lay in bed with my baby girl and watch tv or talk on the phone or listen to music this was very helpful since she would fall asleep during the noise (not too loud though) and would never get startled. what works for me is the tv on sleep mode or the cd that played music would end so it wasnt playing all night to where i wouldnt hear her wake or cry.

  96. wesley allen headboards…

    [...]Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone « Neuroanthropology[...]…

  97. [...] Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone “In Japan where co-sleeping and breastfeeding (in the absence of maternal smoking) is the cultural norm, rates of the sudden infant death syndrome are the lowest in the world. For breastfeeding mothers, bedsharing makes breastfeeding much easier to manage and practically doubles the amount of breastfeeding sessions while permitting both mothers and infants to spend more time asleep.”         Parenting – A Much Better Way » SIDS, Cribs and Cosleeping » Print   [...]

  98. [...] is for babies and mommas. Here’s a good post about co-sleeping and another one on how co-sleeping is very important for newborns. All that being said, I won’t be doing it until my child is 5 as the author is. Safe [...]

  99. [...] http://www.cosleeping.org/ http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12…t-sleep-alone/ [...]

  100. [...] “One of the most important reasons why bedsharing occurs, and the reason why simple declarations against it will not eradicate it, is because sleeping next to one’s baby is biologically appropriate, unlike placing infants prone to sleep or putting an infant in a room to sleep by itself. This is particularly so when bedsharing is associated with breast feeding.” see neuroanthropology.net [...]

  101. [...] Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone, by Dr. James J. McKenna, Ph.D. http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-not-and-should-not-sleep-alone/ [...]

  102. [...] chosen to parent – a potent combination of attachment parenting, ecological breastfeeding and cosleeping/nighttime parenting. It’s not for everyone. It’s incredibly time-consuming, requires you to give up much of [...]

  103. Kathleen Johnson said

    I also shared a bed with my infant daughter. In the beginning it was a necessity since she was born a month premature and nursed every 60 to 90 minutes. I have always been a light sleeper so I had no fear of harming her. Even in my sleep I knew her position and the smallest movement from her would awaken me. She hardly ever cried and grew stronger every day. Now she is 10 years old and at times still sleeps in the same bed with me. She likes to cuddle and truth be told, I like it too. We tend to keep it quiet though as many people in our community see it as babyish for a child her age to sleep with her parents. I don’t see it that way nor does she. It creates a bond of love, trust, and security that we would not trade for the world.
    Despite my success with bed sharing, I would never recommend it for everyone. With me, a person could walk into my room and whisper my name and I would be awake. Other’s are not such light sleepers. When I was about 15 I knew a girl who went to juvenile hall for supposedly smothering her baby in her sleep. So I know that infant death does happen while bed sharing, but I also know it happens when there is no bed sharing as well. For me and my daughter, it was the most beautiful and natural way to sleep and if I could do it all again I would go back and give my other children the same gift!

  104. [...] Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone “In Japan where co-sleeping and breastfeeding (in the absence of maternal smoking) is the cultural norm, rates of the sudden infant death syndrome are the lowest in the world. For breastfeeding mothers, bedsharing makes breastfeeding much easier to manage and practically doubles the amount of breastfeeding sessions while permitting both mothers and infants to spend more time asleep.” [...]

  105. Reblogged this on bellissimom and commented:
    Cosleeping just instinctively feels right to my husband to and me. We are careful about how we cosleep but we enjoy the closeness and bond that it allows ust o share with our baby. There is a lot of discouraging of sleeping with the baby in your bed and I understand the need for safety but sometimes the baby sleeps much better when he is closer to us.
    I love that this post encourages and supports cosleeping as healthy and good for the baby as well as breaking down the different types of cosleeping arrangments.

  106. [...] Read more… 27 more words http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-no… [...]

  107. Mrs. Mom said

    Reblogged this on Motherhood And Other Madness and commented:
    When our daughter was born, co-sleeping came naturally to us. I had just had a c-section and needed her close to me. As she got older, she moved on to her own sleep space. My son is 13 months old and still very much enjoys sleeping curled up beside me. There is truly no better feeling than waking up with a warm baby snuggled close against you.

    I firmly believe that co-sleeping, when done properly, is safer than crib sleeping. I cannot fathom how mothers are intimately connected to their babies for 40 weeks, only to expect complete separation at birth. Co-sleeping is how babies are designed to sleep!

  108. [...] sleep as deeply as babies who sleep separate from their parents, and may wake more often. Here is an interesting article on why babies should not sleep [...]

  109. Kristen said

    I have a 19 month old who I am still nursing and I love articles like this that justify my decision to cosleep. From the first night in the hospital I felt like we both needed to be close to eachother and couldn’t stand the idea of her sleeping in another room. I was also very scared of SIDS and felt I was doing what’s best by being near her. When my daughter was under 4 months she slept in a cosleeper and then simply transitioned into our bed. She loves cuddling and is a super happy, spunky, and healthy toddler!

  110. Viviane said

    Love the article!
    I just did not get why bottle feeding babies cannot share bed with their mothers. My baby was bottle fed and we still shared many nights in the same bed. I did not find it unsafe. As long as the mother supervises the mottle feeding why cannot the baby be in the same bed?
    Another thing I do not get is that babies cannot sleep in their tummies. If they are strong and have good control of their heads, why not? As soon as I stopped swaddling my baby, when she was around 5 months, she spontaneously started sleeping in her belly. There was nothing I could do to stop her. That said, she was and still is a very strong baby.
    Anyway,
    I love the article and I will share it with as many mothers as possible!

  111. Emy said

    Just a thought:
    You mention infant-death is lowest in Japan, then talk about dangerously soft matresses. Has anyone thought about the benefits of a futon? I sleep on one with my baby, and I never get worried he could suffocate or get entangled in sheets or pillows (we use grain-filled pillows).
    Anyway, thank you, a great article, congratulations.

  112. Claire said

    Viviane, I have to pose the same question as you . . . . . Why is it safe to co sleep if breast feeding but not if bottle feeding??? This implies a mother who is bottle feeding somehow is not as connected/attached and responsive to her baby! I breastfed my twins for just over 3 months & then made the decision to bottle feed as I also have a toddler & he was not coping with the amount of time I had to feed (as I had to feed them independently) & this was in turn making me stressed too. I do not feel I have lost connection or responsiveness to my babies . . . . if anything now I am even more conscious of bottle feeding in a way that heightens & develops our bond. . . . . & we still co sleep in the same bed . . . . :0)

    • Maree said

      From what I’ve been told about about co-sleeping and breastfeeding it has to do with hormones – when your breastfeeding the hormones released stop you ever reaching deep sleep thereby meaning you wake to baby’s cues easier etc. Don’t think has anything to do with mothers attachment!

      • Kellan said

        That’s as it may be. As a sleep-deprived teenager, though, my little sisters would often sleep with me…and one of them would only go to sleep in my arms. I found that when there was a younger kid in my bed, I didn’t sleep near as deeply. I’m a heavy, heavy sleeper, too. By the time I had my first child, I found out this hadn’t changed a bit. At first, we were breastfeeding, but due to circumstances we had to change him to formula within a month. I slept a bit heavier after that switch – but it was the same as when I was in my teen years – I just couldn’t get deep asleep with a kid in my bed. Now, I nurse my 18 month old daughter. Let me tell you, she moves from beside me, & I still wake up.

    • DawnMom said

      It is because bottle feeding dramatically increases the risks of SIDS, and because mothers and babies aren’t biologically linked. with the interdependence they get on the same sleep cycles and moms will be really tuned in to sleep cycles and breathing patterns of their babies.

  113. samantha gromlovits said

    I have two sons. One is now 5 and the other 2. I love this article. Both of my boys slept in bed beside me from newborn up. After 2 they still sleep with me in the same room. I must say that i have never ran into any problems and noticed that my bond with my boys is a lot more loving and stronger then most parents i see. Also my second son stopped breathing one night and i know that because he was in bed with me and i was in tune with him that i was able to feel him stop breathing wake up immediately and startle him to breathe again. Had he of been in his crib he would have died because i wouldn’t have felt him stop breathing. Do you know how many sids deaths could be prevented if all mothers had their babies in bed with them and were in tune with their babies?

  114. Rob Markoff said

    I don’t think one rule fits all. Our baby “slept” in our bed for the first month, which was necessary and good. He quickly became a very big baby because he would constantly want to nurse, and he made cute little sounds that would keep all of us awake all night long. We became concerned that none of us were sleeping enough. So, after consulting with our pediatrician who advised us that our baby didn’t need to nurse at night, we decided that our baby should sleep in a crib in the adjacent room (it’s a tiny apartment – we can hear him breathe). My wife got out of bed and nurse him whenever he started to make little noises, which at first was every 2 hours or so. Getting out of bed was difficult. However, eventually, after two months he slept through the night! He slept from 8:30 pm to 6 am by 3 months. When he woke up, he made little cooing noises looking at the lambs above his head. He woke up with a big smile on his face, and we were happy too because we had a full night sleep. Our friends who co-sleep, on the other hand, are having a difficult time moving their child out of their bed at 3years old, and complain about the night-time feedings and lack of sleep. Other friends are happy about co-sleeping, and wouldn’t do it any other way. Do whatever feels natural to you, and makes sense for your baby. I disagree with the premise of this article which is that it’s “bad” for a baby to sleep alone. If the baby is asleep, the baby is fine.

  115. [...] comforting your babies. Cry it out is not going to promote healthy sleep habits. There is plenty of evidence that cosleeping is beneficial to babies. Just make sure you do your research and do it safely. [...]

  116. amy said

    I have read that co-sleeping decreases the risk of SIDS, and have also read that vaccinations could possibly increase the risk of SIDS. I wonder if Dr. McKenna has any opinions on the vaccination schedule of the USA or would go so far as to recommend delayed (or skipping) vaccinations. In Japan babies do not receive their vaccinations until they are older and then receive fewer than the typical US child.
    Another thought I have is that Japanese mothers eat far more DHA containing food that the typical US mother, and therefore her milk would be fuller of DHA I am guessing. I wonder if there are any connections in this way as well…

  117. Initially I felt that baby should sleep in a separate room not to become too clingy but after doing a bit of research on the subject I am now convinced that the best sleeping arrangement is next to mama in a co-sleeper and I just ordered one for my baby girl, who will be born in a few days.

  118. [...] Co-sleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies do not and should not Sleep Alone [...]

  119. Jessica said

    I always appreciate this information being put out there. When I had my first, she would not sleep unless held. I was so terrified of co-sleeping based on all of the negative and scary ads that I fought it. In doing so, I put my daughter in far more dangerous situations when I would do things like fall asleep while nursing on the couch or sitting up with her in the boppy. I would wake up terrified and feeling guilty. I would cry and I felt helpless. Finally, I talked with friends and family members who safely practiced bed sharing and I did some research. When I finally gave in to it, I was able to bed share safely, sleep much more and make us all very happy.

  120. Neen said

    If this is the only article any of you have read on co-sleeping then you are seriously misinformed. I am reading this article for the purpose of doing a university assignment on co-sleeping. Please read further. There is so much more information available. Whether you believe in co-sleeping or not, there are biases in the information here – trust me, I know, I’ve been researching every day for the last week.

    • Just curious, as the author of the paper, could you point out to me specifically where the article misinforms? I have been studying it for over 30 years and was an advisor to the Amer Acd of Pediatrics on SIDS and Infant Sleep and Bedsharing Issues. I know all the articles written about bedsharing. Are you suggesting that if you have a different read or interpretation on how to use the scientific information that this means that articles that suggest an alternative to your own read or interpretation that it “misinform”? Because if this is true then likely every article you can find…misinforms because people will always have different interpretations of the same data and how to use it and what it means, especially THIS issue where ideology and not science abounds. Over 100 of my articles have been published in refereed journals (Pediatrics, Sleep, Archives of Diseases in Children, Jour of Behavioral Medicine and other top journals). I wonder…. how could they let misinformation pass on to the public? So I am very anxious to correct where I misinform. Please do let me know because I have researched this subject, too, and run a Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab that permits me to learn everyday how and why mothers and dads sleep as they do, with their babies. Cant wait to tell them how wrong they must be..because afterall, you have done some research. Check out http://www.cosleeping.nd.edu for any number of these refereed articles I was mentioning. They are all downloadable. Good luck with your research.

      • Meggen said

        Nice to see you commenting on your own article! Thank you for your wonderfully important advocacy!

      • Gabe's Mom said

        I find it very interesting that you imply that because you have been published in medical journals that means that your scientific data is the one that is correct, if public media attention on your research is what you feel solidifies it as “right” then wouldn’t you have to say that scientific data on the other end of the spectrum that has been published is “right” as well. Or does this only apply to your scientific research. THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH SOME MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS IS THEIR NEED TO BE NOT ONLY RIGHT, BUT FEED THEIR OWN EGO…WHICH YOU MR. MCKENNA SEEM TO BE QUITE PROFICIENT AT. Next time you write an article why don’t you add more than three to four actual scientific facts. Maybe even brushing up on using PowerPoint to create tables and pie charts might be helpful, so that we saw less of your opinion and more FACTS to back up your side of the spectrum of healthy sleeping habits for infants. We all have to answer for what we do on this earth so you may want to consider the mother’s who have accidentally smothered their child in a bed, like my friend who did not fit into any of your risk factor groups…because her daughter is dead and will always be dead and she will never be whole or truly happy again. The life has gone out of her and I assume that you have no idea how it feels to be on that side of the story, because if you did you would not be so arrogant towards someone who contradicts you, you lack tact sir.

  121. I can tell you as a parent, who allowed all of her children in my bed as babies, while breast feeding, co-sleeping is awesome. All three of my children are still alive, all three of my children have great relationships with my husband and i, and all three are well balance. I was a heavy sleeper all my life until i had children, call it a motherly instinct but i would wake with the slightest movement of my children. Co-sleeping my not be for everyone but for this family it is. trust your instincts people, we all all animals in the grand scheme of things.

  122. [...] http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-no… [...]

  123. [...] is great research article about why babies should not sleep alone.  I will be sending this to any extended family, if they [...]

  124. [...] biological norm, we are meant to sleep with our babies. If you read any article on co-sleeping read this one! There is some eye opening information [...]

  125. Reblogged this on Embers of Incense and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  126. [...] further point of departure from traditional parenting is the sharing of a sleep space. Research supports the notion, evident in the Deb Lewis quote above, that children like to sleep with their [...]

  127. [...] of relief.  The good old Fighting Irish had set up co-sleeping experiments documenting all the physiological benefits of co-sleeping (bed sharing), weighing risks without fear-mongering, and giving safe [...]

  128. [...] most mammals co-sleep, allowing the baby to nurse on demand. Studies are also showing that  it is vital to co-sleep .   I do not say any of this to make parents feel bad about not co-sleeping or saying that any mother is [...]

  129. [...] of informative articles with research references for those of us whom wish to delve deeper into the science of infant sleep, attachment formation, and bed [...]

  130. [...] James McKenna’s Cosleeping and the Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone [...]

  131. [...] I had a similar experience recently with co-sleeping. It was something we had reservations about when we first started trying it, but now I can’t imagine sleeping any other way. And recently as well I came across a great article explaining why co-sleeping makes so much sense as well, from a neurological and anthropological perspective. [...]

  132. P. Lucero said

    I am a 40 year old first time father who would not have it any other way. Co-sleeping or bed sharing is natural and is beneficial for parents and the child. Of all the animals in the animal kingdom we are one of the few that are born premature. Because of the size of our heads we only have a 9 month gestational period. Most newborn animals are born ready to go, they can run, walk, crawl or are strong enough to hang on to their parents. Because humans cannot go to full gestation (our heads will not fit through the birth canal) we are born completly dependant on caregivers. But because of our large brains we are smart enough to care for our young (in most cases). This is why I say bed sharing is natural for us as humans. I love going to sleep at night knowing that my son, who is now 21 months old, is safe and secure. I don’t know what studies they come up with on bed sharing and how one can roll over on an infant, use that smart brain of ours. Know that blankets and pillows can be bad for a young infant, know that you cant’t sleep with them drunk or high. Once you start to sleep with your child you will get used to sleeping with them and know and wake up if you feel him by your back if you roll over this in only natural. People sleep with their dogs and not sleep with their own children? Really? I did not know this was a big deal as this is how both my wife and I were brought up, we both shared our parents bed until the age of 3 to 3 1/2. I bring up the dog issue, a friend of our who found out our son sleeps in the same bed as us, was shocked and stated that there was no way she could ever do this as she sleeps with two dogs already and there simply is no room. REALLY? People use our brains. Do what comes natural.

    • rloge said

      Exactly, well said. The main reason people object to this practice is that, starting in the Victorian era, middle-class status could only be conferred on those who had the resources to create separate living quarters for their young. Prior to such a mania, co-sleeping was obviously considered the norm. It’s too bad so many have clung to their mistaken and archaic beliefs.

  133. [...] Neuroanthropology.net: Co-sleeping and biological imperatives – why Human babies do not and should… [...]

  134. [...] wants to drink it all in, at 2am, when you want to be sleeping. She might not want to be alone. Co-Sleeping is Crunchy! It is also natural. Most child psychology experts agree that you cannot spoil an [...]

  135. preeti said

    i love this fundamental..its very basic need of an infant to stay with his or her mother(or father) even when its about sleeping at night..why should be they left alone….i am co sleeping with my 6 months son and will continue to do that as long as he wants to…or needs me…breastfeeding really becomes easier this way….

  136. Katie said

    I think you know if you are safe to sleep with your child. I co-slept with my second child but my husband felt very strongly that he didn’t want to (he was worried he would roll onto the baby) and as he is a very heavy sleeper and often I cannot raise him this seemed sensible. He now shares a room with our 4 year old (who was very happy to no-longer be sleeping alone) and I share with our youngest. Many people find this odd but it works for us and we are all happy.

  137. Petra said

    It is just natural, like all primates do. We have four children (3-17) and me and my husband really enjoy sleeping with the younger ones, because they are quiet and satisfied, when being with an adult. It ist best bonding. Parenting should be as relaxing as possible, but no struggle.

  138. Julia said

    I think co-sleeping is a good thing as long as precautions are taken to keep the baby safe.

  139. [...] Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone [...]

  140. Co-sleeping is good for your child. I agree with the others when they say that co-sleeping is never going to become dangerous if the parents are just responsible enough. Babies need their parents. They need to be caressed and they need to feel that they are loved. I feel that this is very important for them to grow healthy, emotionally, mentally, physically and even spiritually.

  141. [...] Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone by Dr. James McKenna. When done safely, mother-infant cosleeping saves infants lives and contributes to infant and maternal health and well being. Merely having an infant sleeping in a room with a committed adult caregiver (cosleeping) reduces the chances of an infant dying from SIDS or from an accident by one half. (Thanks Jenny) [...]

  142. [...] neuroanthropology.net [...]

  143. Iamamother said

    I am from asia and living in a city, its so strange that we now need the “professionals and the doctors and advertisements from some mnc to tell us what is to do with our birthing and how to feed our babies and worse still, how to sleep with our baby??? ) We are part of earth, and the universe says You do not ABANDONED your babies when they are born . You NURSE your baby with your milk , You love and care for your baby and have skin to skin contact with your baby because that is what I would want from my parents. I always think on behalf of my baby, would I like it if I am my newborn and am not allowed to touch and feel the person who I called Mom? or Dad? I am hungry and scared, but this new world is letting me cry and I feel Abandoned. and If I feel abandoned, I released so much toxic in my brain I am not able to function and grow up as a happy human being .

    People, just need to relaxed and believe in your own instinct. My grandma gave birth to all 8 of her children at home and breastfeed them and co-sleep with them. We have not heard of anyone dying from co-sleeping in that era of time ( at least not amongst the friends and family or the whole of the community for the matter of fact ) The most natural thing to do is to have your child closes to you.

    Because my mom grew up in a city , and instead of her own instinct, she believed and let those ” professionals” at that time to convince her feeding her children cow’s milk and never ever to c-sleep with her kids to avoid any inconvenient to her working schedule is the best for her. She was unable to teach me how I was suppose to care for my child. For the longest time , when I was a child ,I wish my mom had co-sleep with me , as I was always in the care of my grandparents , I co-sleep with my grandma and I had the most amazing bonding with my grandma that me and my mother never had. I felt so lost when my grandma pass, and so lonely, despite how much effort my mother tries to get into my world . I refused her , until I had my 1st child, we reconnected and I told her I wished she had co-sleep with me and hold me when I had those nightmares and wanted to feel someone beside me. I now co -sleep with my kiddo and I love it because he loves it. I had a kangaroo wrap and he was literally stick to me 24hours right after he was born, I have NO PROBLEM with my milk flow and he is so healthy that our doctor / friends / family were impressed. He was the one who “told” me he wanted his own “space” and not being wrap up too much with me by the 3rd month , where he happily sleeping and playing and we would talk , sing and laugh together, I would need to go back to work , but co-sleeps feels like the best way to tell him I am here for him, and no matter how busy I am in the night, he has me and papa here. He is now 2 years old and he is talking about having his own bed ! I am a little sad but proud to know that I have waited for the right time for him to move on to his own space when he thinks he is ready. And that to me its independency.

  144. […] of whether they feel they have to or not, which is a completely valid choice. There are definitely benefits to cosleeping/bedsharing, and there are excellent resources where parents can get information on safe cosleeping/bedsharing […]

  145. […] James J. McKenna, Ph. D., and Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C. Chair in Anthropology, both with the University of Notre Dame, were cited in an an on-line article titled Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone back in 2008. Here are some pretty interesting quotes from the article, which you can read at http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-no… […]

  146. […] * For more information about safe co-sleeping and its benefits, please visit the following websites: http://cosleeping.nd.eduhttp://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-no…http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/9261495/?i=2&from=/18046747/relatedhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/9346985/?i=5&from=/18046747/related […]

  147. […] * For more information about safe co-sleeping and its benefits, please visit the following websites: http://cosleeping.nd.eduhttp://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-no…http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/9261495/?i=2&from=/18046747/relatedhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/9346985/?i=5&from=/18046747/related […]

  148. […] rituals have become much more pleasant since we decided to co-sleep around 3 months old or so. We already were for the most part so when we finally decided to […]

  149. […] Some co-sleeping resources: Dr. Sears Reasons babies cry at night Why human babies should not sleep alone […]

  150. Rich said

    Babies sleeping in the same bed as an adult is a very bad idea. When adults sleep they can roll over on the child and smother it. I’ve seen a few of these and heard of more types of calls in my 20 yrs in public safety. Children that are allowed to sleep with their parents cause separation issues when the parents go out of town. I see thst first hand with friends of mine and their 6 yr old.

    • speakeasy25 said

      It is actually the only historically supported idea. Certainly, adults who are impaired should never share a bed with their children, but, otherwise, the precedent just isn’t on your side. And knowing one family with one child who has separation issues does not an argument make–there are many factors which lead to anxiety issues and there is no reason to accept the idea that a child who has regular close contact with their parent(s) will develop separation issues. In fact, the research says the exact opposite.

  151. Elisabeth Gold said

    maybe Japan also has lower SIDS rates as a result of changing the age of first vaccination from 2 months to 12 months, SIDS is defined as sudden unexplained infant death from age 2 months (when first vaccine usually given) to 1 year

  152. Jeanne said

    Wow! An article from 2008, still circulating and getting comments all these years later. I’ll chime in and say that only because my baby was in the bassinet right next to me, days after we brought him home from the hospital, is he alive today. I woke with a start one day, looked at my baby and he was turning blue. He had sticky stuff stuck in his throat and was choking. It had happened in the hospital too so we had the suction handy to get it out, but after that we spent about two weeks with my Mom and Dad rotating night shifts to keep someone awake with him until we were sure he was out of danger. Later, since I was breastfeeding I ended up bringing him into our bed to nurse during the night and I got so much more rest than when he had been in the crib. With my second child, we had the brilliant idea to put a king sized mattress in the middle of her room where we began our lives together. Then, with a monitor, I was able to keep track of her needing me and still get up and have some adult time with my husband in our own room. But if she called to me in the night, I could go to her comfortably nurse, even sleep there the rest of the night if I was tired. But this eliminated the need to have her transition anywhere. Her room has always been her room. Later, I talked her into switching to a daybed, so she’d have more floor area to play, but that was long after she stopped nursing.

  153. […] http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-no… […]

  154. Laurie said

    I never considered not sleeping with my babies…
    It seemed quite natural for them to continue being close to me.

  155. Pat said

    Its unfair to infants and unfair to mothers to force them to remove themselves from their infants like nesting eagles to go hunt for food rather than as humans where food can be brought to her by her mate, or by mate substitutes. Humans are not animals with litters who must forage for food, for their infants or for themselves.

    How can humans be so foolish as to misunderstand the biogical realities of human reproduction? Cosleeping is better than no sleeping, or intermittent sleeping, and acknowledges the unique mammal method of the human reproductive cycle that begins with pregnancy, and ends with weaning, some 18 months-2 years thereafter? Dividing it up into parts does injustice to the overall reality of maternity.

  156. cholbert21 said

    I feel far safer having my baby sleep next to me than in a bassinet. I find that I am more paranoid when he sleeps in a bassinet. When he wakes up while sleeping with me I wake up. Co sleeping ad breastfeeding makes me more in tune to his body. We get way more sleep also because he refuses to sleep in the bassinet.

  157. Andrea Jackson said

    As a breastfeeding mother of a 7 month old and a bedsharer, I find that it helps in the BF relationship. It doesn’t just help with that but it helps with us both getting sleeping. Since it’s just my child and me we can safely do that. He doesn’t move a lot and neither do I. He’s able to latch on his own at night and we both get a full nights sleep. However, since we do ultimately share a room, this upcoming weekend we are going to work on transitioning him into his own bed. Just because I am having a medical procedure done in a few months and he will have to sleep in a pack and play at our friends house and he needs to know it’s okay to do that. I would NOT change co-sleeping with him at all. It’s been great for the both of us!

  158. […] To read the complete article, please visit here. […]

  159. […] Ah, motherhood. Such a beautiful, tricky journey! I could totally relate to this article! And on the subject of parenting – my favourite topic I love to hate – sleep! […]

  160. JustAMom21 said

    I am a mother of 2. There is no way in hell I would allow my kids to sleep in bed with me. That is mommy and daddys bed and time. Yes when they were 4 months and younger they did sleep in a bassinet beside me for nursing purposes etc. They are not attached to my hip, they are secure in themselves, independent and not completely emotionally and physically clinging to my being. I raised two wonderful boys with minds of their own and they love having their own rooms and things. I don’t recommend cosleeping in the same bed, never have never will.

  161. Vicki said

    I am curious as to how these co-sleeping infants have their naps? Do the moms lay down in bed with them for naps too?

    • Heather said

      Nurse the baby to sleep before you lay him down, or for older babies and toddlers, lay down with them and nurse them to sleep, then get up. That’s what I’ve done with 3 kids so far.

  162. Jenny Baker said

    I’m a Labor and delivery nurse and this is something that I struggle with. I know the benefits from experience but I’ve seen bad outcomes too! However, we do know babies should be slept on their backs so this picture of baby on his/her belly sleeping in bed with mom is disappointing! Great points in the article though!

    • Lauren said

      I had to fight tooth and nail, as well as sign a waiver, to get my daughters in the bed with me in the hospital. Just 3 days before my youngest was born, another mother fell asleep with her newborn on her stomach and rolled over, tossing the baby onto the floor. The mother was on heavy pain medications, and was also only 15 years old.

      It’s refreshing to read that an L&D nurse recognizes the benefits…and I agree about the picture. Although, we don’t know the age of the baby in the image. My youngest is now 8 months and has been stomach sleeping, per her own tendency to roll over, since she was 4 months. We just removed the fitted sheet from the mattress and didn’t use pillow cases or thick blankets until she was strong enough to push them away from her face.

  163. lAk said

    What is the suggested amount of time children should sleep with you, as this is not easy to break?

    • Winlawomyn said

      We still sleep with our kids (have since day 1 for both of them) and they are now 5yrs and 8yrs. We have two mattresses side by side on the floor. We love sleeping with them and they are secure, happy, children, and we are very happily married. It’s worked very well for us and when the children are ready they will ask for their own sleeping area. We are not concerned about the “when” of it.

  164. […] Why Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone […]

  165. […] Why your baby won’t (and shouldn’t) sleep alone  […]

  166. […] now writing regularly about the damage such detachment can cause to the infant. The benefits of ‘co-sleeping‘ are being debated. The term ‘family bed‘ is rapidly gaining currency and I would […]

  167. […] attempt to reduce their infant mortality rate.  However, campaigns like these go against what is biologically normal and ignore research and evidence.  Bedsharing can be done safely, but the Milwaukee Health […]

  168. […] McKenna & Joyce – “Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone“ […]

  169. […] Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone […]

  170. Some of the ‘facts’ spouted here are scaremongering BS, ‘studies have shown’ blah blah blah correlation studies prove nothing concrete. Common sense is a gift few on these websites seem to have.
    How about letting people do what they feel comfortable doing and leave everyone alone. Women can be so judgemental and vindictive. Stop it. Your men don’t want to hear ur bitchy comments and frankly some of them can be damaging to women or men whom may be unsure if what they are doing is right. Be nice, you will feel better for it!

  171. Magda Peisert said

    My baby sleep in bassinet next to me up to 5 months than after in her own room in crib she is fine happy little munchkin …its good when baby cry it teach them u not going to go every minute to her or him ..if u know its feed change and not sick whyshould u go once twice and u wuill never stop I was same way till I stop and she fall asleep .. But I never sleep with her never will with my second

  172. […] also:  James McKenna, “Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone” on […]

  173. […] Such a clear and informative article, worth a repost. Where a baby sleeps is not as simple as current medical discourse and recommendations against cosleeping in some western societies want it to be. And there is good reason why. I write here to explain why the pediatric recommendations on forms of cosleeping such as bedsharing will and should remain mixed. I will also address why the majority of new parents practice intermittent bedsharing despite governmental and medical warnings against it. http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-no… […]

  174. rachel said

    My husband and I coslept with our daughter until she was about 4 months old, being that I breastfed her it really did help my PPD side effects getting the extra sleep cosleeping offers. However, im not a deep sleeper nor is my husband and we DID have a scare. People commenting saying that you would have to be under the influence and/or sleep deprived to find yourself on top of your little one is false. One night I awoke and found her snuggled just underneath my right side being I had rolled onto my tummy in my sleep, I hadnt felt her go there and I definitely was partially on top of her. It was the most horrifying feeling knowing if I had been less than 1inch closer to her..I cant even put that horror into words. I dont think people should be put down for not cosleeping because as much as I am for it, its a personal preference. If you are a worst case scenerio thinker as i turned into unfortunately, it will only make you sleep less (as was in my case). Granted after that incident we only moved her from our bed to her crib which was 5 feet from our bed, I dont think another room at such a young age is appropriate. I just hope people who are so passionate about other moms snugging upto their infants can maybe see this side of things. Once she reached 10 months she did rejoin us in our bed and waking up to her sweet face was the best medicine anyone could have. So mothers, please dont be so quick to think we arent caring for our children by not being right next to them, there may be underlying issues for us to wait a few months until the children have better strength/reflexes.

  175. jessica said

    I co-sleep/bed-share, whatever you want to call it!! Why? Because i can! I gave birth to MY baby 8 months old also my 7 year old daughter slept with me too until she was 3 or so…. As long as your safe and responsible DO IT!! I love it and even more so my husband doesnt mind!! When your breastfeeding its so much more convenient!! Co-sleep on!!!!

    • Carrie said

      I co-sleep/bed-shared with my son who is now 3 years old and I would do it all over again!!! How did your little one at 3 in her own bed? We are at the point of it’s time for him sleep in his big boy bed.

  176. […] I am a huge proponent of safe co-sleeping. It helps keep both you AND baby sleeping better, since Baby needs to be close to Mommy, and it makes nursing so much easier when you don’t have to get up and walk across the room […]

  177. […] This is a recent report on the subject. I recommend it. […]

  178. Miroslava Nagygeller said

    I’m also from Costa Rica and I have 6 children to whom I have cosleep with all of them. My baby girl is 15 months and still sleeps with us. I no longer breastfeed her cause we are TTC one last time. But I’m a huge supporter of co-sleeping. It’s natural, healthy, and rewarding for both mother and child.

  179. Heather said

    My husband and I co-slept with all of our four children, to different degrees and for varying lengths of time – ie less with the twins as they had each other and so on. My husband is a very “energetic” sleeper and has been known to whack me in his sleep at times. However, I have witnessed him being extremely gentle with the babies in his sleep, arresting mid-roll and turning back etc so I never feared for their safety.
    They are all grown up now – well adjusted and wonderful members of society.
    We made the decision to co-sleep because in the culture I grew up in it is considered cruel and nasty to make your children sleep alone ! :)

  180. Angel said

    I LOVE this article! Thank you

  181. […] *For the full article from Prof. McKenna please click here. http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-no… […]

  182. […] seems maybe a little less judgmental. This article sums him and his argument up pretty well, and this one is nice if you like more research details. His website is a great resource for things like safe […]

  183. bev ward said

    Curious how long you feel cosleeping is appropriate. Also, how do you recommended transitioning them into their own bed/room.

  184. […] When done safely, mother-infant cosleeping saves infants lives and contributes to infant and maternal health and well being. Merely having an infant sleeping in a room with a committed adult caregiver (cosleeping) reduces the chances of an infant dying from SIDS or from an accident by one half!  http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-no… […]

  185. […] Er zijn natuurlijk voor- en tegenstanders zoals altijd, en zoals altijd heeft iedereen wel een beetje gelijk, maar toch ik ben alvast een beetje fan van Dr McKenna ;o) http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-no… […]

  186. Stephanie said

    I am writing a research paper on the topic of co-sleeping. I am also the mother of a seven month old baby girl. I was nervous in the very beginning, just because she was so small, but I can’t imagine things any other way. Just as breast feeding is the most natural way to feed your baby, keeping them close at night is the natural way to sleep. My hope is that more and more parents will read about the benefits and continue this trend. I know a ton of people who are fans of the more natural approach. It is crazy to me that things got so far off course, I am just happy to be part of the shift back in the right direction. I spread the word to all who will listen! :))

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