MYTH “Bed sharing and co-sleeping is dangerous”

Last week I was forwarded an alert with the news that “Dr Bergman says Bed-Sharing is not dangerous

“Interesting, did I really” I thought … but the actual website reads “Original SIDS Researcher says Baby Bed-Sharing is Not Dangerous”. This is Dr Abraham Bergman, and this Dr Bergman – Nils, myself – wants to salute his courage. The alert comes from an editorial in response to a research article in the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association, very prestigious), which very strongly discourages parents from bed-sharing and co-sleeping. He points out that the data and the evidence used to make this statement is totally absent, and his title is clear enough: “Bed-sharing per se is not dangerous. And I like his comment:   “Equal time in counseling should be given to the benefits to bed sharing, such as more sleep for the parent, easier breastfeeding when the infant is nearby, ease of pacifier reinsertion, and the intangible satisfaction of skin-to-skin contact. In its admonition against bed sharing, the AAP has overreached,” Bergman concludes.

I believe he is absolutely correct. ”. Mary Elizabeth Williams is very blunt, stating “But if the data says co-sleeping is on the rise but SIDS is on the decline, it’s a no-brainer that the conclusion is not that co-sleeping causes SIDS.”

One of the key issues concerns breastfeeding, and the natural way in which this should happen. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine commented on this issue likewise, supporting the detailed discussion of Melissa Bartick and Linda Smith, in “Speaking Out on Safe Sleep: Evidence-Based Infant Sleep Recommendations” . Quite wittily, rather than ask whether babies should sleep alone, Melissa asks whether the “AAP should sleep alone”. Actually in so far as its position on co-sleeping and bedsharing – it is alone. The rest of the world realises that a more nuanced message is essential. Bed sharing and co-sleeping needs to be done safely. Yes, there are risks with bed sharing, and the AAP makes a big deal about quantifying this accurately, but the risks of NOT bedsharing can be even greater. And this is glossed over by the AAP. In the UK, just as an example, recent publications (Peter Fleming et al) have actually done some of this quantification, and their article concludes “This analysis is important in allowing us to give parents accurate and unbiased information on which to make their own choices about optimal night time care of their infants without demonising normal parental behaviour or practices”.

Finally I recommend the book “Sweet Sleep” written specifically for parents wanting to make their own informed choices, with clear advice as to how to minimise the risks and maximise the benefits all round.