Bed-sharing practices of initially breastfed infants in the first 6 months of life


  • Helen L. Ball

    Corresponding author
    1. Parent–Infant Sleep Lab & Infant and Child Research Group, Department of Anthropology, University of Durham, Stockton-on-Tees, UK
    • Parent–Infant Sleep Lab and Medical Anthropology Research Group, Department of Anthropology, Durham University, 43 Old Elvet, Durham DH1 3HN, UK
    Search for more papers by this author


This paper explores the manner in which bed-sharing is practised by breastfeeding infants in the UK, and examines how alternate definitions and interpretations of breastfeeding and bed-sharing can lead to confusion in understanding what bed-sharing entails. Longitudinal studies on parent–infant bed-sharing practices are scarce, but are vital to our understanding of normative bed-sharing behaviour. We present data from a longitudinal study of sleeping and feeding practices in England involving 97 initially breastfed infants from birth to 6 months of age whose behaviour was monitored weekly for a 6-month period. Results demonstrate that bed-sharing practices covary with breastfeeding practices, and that a single model of bed-sharing behaviour does not adequately reflect the experience of all infants. Our findings have ramifications for the way in which case–control studies attempt to ‘measure’ bed-sharing, and our understanding and interpretation of bed-sharing risk factors. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.