Human infants are the most neurologically immature of all primates at birth, yet infant care practices in many Western industrialised societies fail to acknowledge the implications of this immaturity, especially at night. Babies sleep very differently from their parents: they don’t sleep exclusively at night; they don’t sleep all night; they fall asleep differently, have shorter sleep cycles and experience much more REM.
However, most paediatric knowledge and popular beliefs about babies’ sleep maturation and regulation is based upon studies of formula-fed infants sleeping alone.
In this session the Euro-American preoccupation with infant sleep independence is traced historically and compared with infant care practices across cultures. We will examine the prevalence and nature of parent-infant sleep contact, parental reasons for choosing to sleep with their infant, and the intricate association between breastfeeding and bed-sharing.
We will critically evaluate the complex relationship between infant sleep location and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and argue that there is no single simple message about bed-sharing that is appropriate for all families and all situations.
The case for informed parental choice will be made, and sources of useful guidance will be shared.
- Prof Helen Ball
- Human infants are the most neurologically immature of all primates at birth, yet infant care practices in many Western industrialised societies fail to acknowledge the implications of this immaturity, especially at night. This presentation addresses the vexed issue of where a baby should sleep to ensure his physical safety, while supporting his neurological development.
- 1 L CERPs / 1 Lactation Specific Hours
- Access period:
- One week
- Lecture recorded at:
Helen Ball is Professor of Anthropology at Durham University (UK) and directs the Parent-Infant Sleep Laboratory there. She has been teaching and conducting research about night-time infant care and breastfeeding for 14 years and supervises a team of 11 PhD and postdoctoral researchers. Together they conduct research in the sleep laboratory, local hospitals and the community. Prof Ball contributes to national and international guidelines on bed-sharing, infant sleep and SIDS, advises hospitals on bed-sharing policies, and is invited to speak at conferences around the world.