September 29, 2013
Breastfeeding lasts longer for bed-sharers, risk of SIDS still high
New research shows two sides to bed-sharing coin. Some parents believe sleeping in the same bed as their infant allows for better bonding and easier access to breastfeeding. Researchers now say that while it’s true, sharing the bed with the baby could improve the longevity of breastfeeding, there is still a greater risk of SIDS than when an infant sleeps the whole night in his bed.
The study’s author, Dr. Fern Hauck from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, said, “My bottom line is that yes, we now see with more evidence that breastfeeding is supported by bed-sharing, however we don’t recommend it, because the risk of SIDS and sudden death is still there.”
Baby close but not co-sleeping
A compromise the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests is putting the baby to bed in the same room as the parents. This enables parents to be close by but without the risk of their baby smothering beneath the blankets or in the pillows at night. The risk of SIDS is real: 2,500 babies die of it each year in the U.S.
WHO suggests breastfeeding for 2 years
However, the flip side is that low breastfeeding rates also plague the U.S., despite the well-known and publicized benefits of breastfeeding. The World Health Organization has said exclusive breastfeeding is best for the first 6 months of a baby’s life, after which it can be supplemented with solid food. They suggest a child be breastfed for her first two years of life in order to reap the most benefits of the practice.
Bed-sharers breastfeed more consistently
Statistics in the U.S., however, show, “only one in six U.S. babies is breastfed exclusively for six months.” In Hauck’s study, 1,800 mothers reported on their breastfeeding practices for the first year of their baby’s life. Hauk found that “among all women, the average duration of any amount of breastfeeding was about seven months. Breastfeeding exclusively lasted just under 10 weeks on average.” Interestingly, though, over half of all bed-sharers were still breastfeeding by the end of a year, in contrast with those who never bed-shared, half of which demographic wasn’t breastfeeding at all by 30 weeks postpartum.
The reason for this discrepancy is pretty clear. Hauk told Reuters Health, “You can understand this in terms of convenience for moms. The baby is lying in bed with them, they don’t have to get up and get the baby in and out of the crib or bassinet.”