Mother-Baby Sleep Experts Offer Advice on Safe Bedsharing and Alternatives to Cry-In-Out for National Sleep Awareness Month

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New parents often find that infant sleeplessness is hard to cope with and end up taking their babies to bed, despite warnings not to. Praeclarus Press has compiled a listing of free resources for parents and professionals on safe bedsharing practices from experts in the field, giving parents an alternative to letting their babies cry it out.

The majority of U.S. parents sleep with their babies at least part of the night. It's important that they do it safely.

When parents are faced with a crying baby at 2 a.m., most parents will do something--anything--to get some sleep. Some "experts" will advise new parents to let their babies cry. Many parents find that approach to be cruel, and report that it does not work. In reality, many families cope with crying babies by bringing them into bed with them. In a 2010 study by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Zhen Cong, and Thomas Hale, more than 60% of 4,789 new mothers reported that their babies spent at least part of the night in their beds. According to lead author, Kathleen Kendall-Tackett,

"When we asked parents where babies spend most of the night, only 30% indicated that their babies sleep with them. However, when we asked where their babies ended the night, a full 60% indicated that their babies were in their beds. I think this finding reflects two things. First, it shows that sleep arrangements are fluid throughout the night. A baby may start sleep in one place and end up somewhere else. That is very important to keep in mind when talking to parents about safe sleep. All the sleep surfaces need to be safe--not just the ones that babies start in.

Second, I believe our finding also reflects a certain amount of hedging among the parents in our study about where their babies sleep. Parents have heard the 'never bedshare' message loud and clear. They are choosing to ignore it, but also know they can be criticized for their decision. So they keep their sleep arrangements to themselves. That is also unfortunate--and potentially tragic--since healthcare providers won't be able to talk with them about safe bedsharing."

In honor of National Sleep Awareness Week, Praeclarus Press has assembled a number of important free resources for both parents and professionals on the nature of infant sleep, how to safely bedshare, and on the dangers of cry-it-out approaches. The authors of the materials are international experts in mother-baby sleep. These materials are available on the Praeclarus Press site.

Kathleen Kendall-Tackett further reports that:

"One of the most disturbing trends I have seen in response to the anti-bedsharing campaigns is that new parents respond by sleeping with their babies on couches or recliners. In terms of SIDS risk, this behavior is off the charts. We need to be able to have frank conversations with parents about where their babies are sleeping, and what parents can do to ensure their safety. We wanted to put together these resources in one place so that they are easy to find and so that parents and professionals could access them. How parents cope with night wakings is a critically important topic that we need to talk about."

The materials on the Praeclarus Press website will help them do just that. Praeclarus Press is a small press specializing in women's health.

Other helpful sites:
James McKenna's Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab at University of Notre Dame

Helen Ball's Parent-Infant Sleep Lab, University of Durham, UK

Kathleen Kendall-Tackett's Uppity Science Chick sleep page

Webinar on current SIDS research and the 2011 AAP Statement on Infant Sleep Location, Sense and Sensibility in Mother-Infant Sleep

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Scott Sherwood
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