Booby Traps Series: How “never bedshare” leads breastfeeding moms to more dangerous sleep arrangements

This is the 50th post in a series on Booby Traps, made possible by the generous support of Motherlove Herbal Company.

You’ve probably heard the sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:  Sleep with your baby in the same room, but never on the same surface.  Go ahead and breastfeed your baby in bed, but don’t fall asleep with the baby in the bed.

But research by Dr. Kathleen Kendall Tackett shows that mothers, worried that they’ll fall asleep in bed while breastfeeding and endanger their their babies, is actually leading them to behaviors that pose far greater risks.

Dr. Kendall-Tackett has found, through her extensive surveying of breastfeeding mothers about their sleep patterns, that more than 50% of mothers breastfeed their babies at night in places other than the bed, such as chairs, recliners and couches.  And she found that over 40% of these mothers say that they fall asleep during these feedings, and that the more educated and higher income mothers were more likely to say they’d fallen asleep in those settings.

“The concern,” she says “is that this greatly increases the chance of accidental infant death. In one study, it was 67 times more likely if baby was sleeping with anyone on a couch, recliner, or other place where they are feeding their babies in the middle of the night.”

The AAP shares this concern, stating in their sleep policy:  “Because of the extremely high risk of SIDS and suffocation on couches and armchairs, infants should not be fed on a couch or armchair when there is a high risk that the parent might fall asleep.”

“My objection to the “never bedshare” message,” says Dr. Kendall-Tackett, “is that mothers who are trying to avoid it are engaging in a far more dangerous behavior–and that is genuinely frightening.”

Of course, there are some situations in which co-sleeping is considered unsafe, too:  when people in the bed are using sedatives, medications or drugs, or are intoxicated (for a complete list and safe co-sleeping guidelines, please see Dr. James McKenna’s safe co-sleeping site).

But for most nursing mothers who are trying to follow the “never bedshare” rule, and fall asleep with their babies on a couch or a chair, they’re finding themselves caught in one big sleeper of a Booby Trap.

Did you co-sleep with your baby?  Did you try to feed him in another place at night because you were afraid to co-sleep?  Did you fall asleep while feeding your baby on the couch, in a chair, or elsewhere other than your bed?


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17 Comments | Last revised on 07/24/2012

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