Bed-sharing does no harm – and no good – to a child’s behavioural or social development, says a new American study that begs the question, is co-sleeping all about the parent?
The study followed 944 low-income parent-toddler pairs from the time the child was one to three years old. The researchers asked about the children’s sleeping arrangements and examined a number of behavioural, social and cognitive outcomes when they turned five, as well as maternal parenting style.
“After statistical adjustment for socio-demographic characteristics, there were no behavioural or cognitive differences at age 5 between children who bed-shared with a parent during their toddler years and those who did not,” study researcher Lauren Hale, of Stony Brook University, told LiveScience.
Proponents argue that co-sleeping makes breast-feeding and bedtimes easier, and that it promotes bonding between mother and child. Detractors such as Erica Jong suggest that co-sleeping (and breastfeeding and baby slings) have trounced parents’ sex lives.
Meanwhile, other studies have shown that bed-sharing with a child can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), under certain conditions.
The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that for the first year of life, “the safest place for babies to sleep is in their own crib, and in the parent’s room for the first six months.”
“Parents should also be aware that room-sharing is protective against SIDS and that this type of sleeping arrangement is a safer alternative to bed-sharing. This may be particularly appealing to mothers who breastfeed and want their baby to be near them without sharing the same bed surface.”
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