New Survey Shows Cosleeping Families Double In Past Decade; Is Backlash Inevitable?

Discover the science of co-sleeping in the Kindred video series with Dr. James McKenna, executive director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, below and on Kindred’s New Story YouTube Channel.


Editor’s Note: Since publishing this article in October 2013, a coordinated effort to provide money to state and local agencies to “educate” parents on “safe sleeping” practices by the United States Department of Health and Human Services was initiated, see information here.  Also, states have begun to pass laws requiring practitioners to “educate” parents on “safe sleeping” practices – as in the law passed in Virginia in 2015, see law here.  Have you felt pressured by a practitioner to NOT sleep with your baby?  Has your state passed laws to pressure practitioners to discourage parents from co-sleeping?  Let us know and tell your story at 

Does a new survey showing a doubling of co-sleeping families from 1993 to 2010 predict a doubling down of pediatricians pressuring parents to forego the family bed?

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Despite research showing co-sleeping supports higher and longer rates of breastfeeding, medical policy enforcement to counter the upward trend is possible considering the the survey’s real concern, according to Time Magazine, is the  “weak penetration of public messaging”, aka, the anti-family bed position of the American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP.

The National Institutes of Health, NIH, funded survey of 20,000 families published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA, shows the greatest increases in co-sleeping were among minority groups, the same groups at greatest risk for low breastfeeding rates.  According to the survey, the percentage of co-sleeping families rose from 7% in 1993 to 14% in 2010, while the increase was highest among African American infants:  from 21% in 1993 to 39% in 2010.

Is this how the United States is guaranteed its bottom of the pack rankings among other industrialized nations: defend status quo policy that does nothing to advance maternal and infant wellness through breastfeeding support?  (The United States ranks last on The Breastfeeding Policy Scorecard of the Save the World’s Mothers Report 2013, here.)

Dr. James McKenna, of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, has a different recommendation for policy makers.  “If we’re going to be a breastfeeding culture, then we will need to be a co-sleeping culture,” says Dr. McKenna in the Kindred interviews below.

Dr. McKenna agrees  there is a a great need for education of parents, physicians and most imperatively, policy makers.  But the across the board discouragement of co-sleeping by the AAP, and its hope for more “penetration” of its unrealistic message through its members to new parents is misguided at best and undermining of breastfeeding efforts and parents’ civil rights at worst.

With all of the hang-wringing this survey has inspired in mainstream press, like the Time article, is a backlash inevitable?  Maybe.  But even if pediatricians double down on their anti-family bed messaging, it is unlikely co-sleeping will reverse its upward trend. As Dr. McKenna states in the interviews below, “breastfeeding and co-sleeping are biologically and functionally intertwined.”  And with the national push to increase breastfeeding rates, co-sleeping will continue to be a part of informed parents’ discussions.

Kindred TextAs attachment researchers and parents know, breastfeeding support isn’t the only incentive for co-sleeping.  Considering the economic challenges US parents face in working in the only only developed nation without a Family Leave Act, it is more likely that families will continue to find ways to preserve their bond and ignore outdated, institutional advice from pediatricians.

Want to find out more about the science and safety guidelines of co-sleeping?  In the video series below, listen to Dr. McKenna explain the science of co-sleeping and the more intelligent approach to teaching safe co-sleeping practices to parents, who will then teach their physicians and policy makers.  As Dr. Mckenna says, it is parents who advance real health and wellness policies.

“I like to remind parents that the only power some of these people have over us is what we choose to give them,” says Dr. McKenna in the interviews below.

Kindred’s Co-Sleeping Video Series includes: 1.What Is Co-Sleeping; 2. How Science and History Support You Co-Sleeping With Your Baby; 3. Safety Guidelines for Co-Sleeping;  and 4. Co-Sleeping: Science, Public Policy and Parents’ Civil Rights.  (The interviews were filmed at a conference, so please excuse any background noise.)

1. What Is Co-Sleeping? Getting Our Definitions Right: Co-Sleeping, Bed Sharing and Family Bed

2. How Science and History Support You Sleeping With Your Baby

3. Safety Guidelines for Co-Sleeping

4. Co-Sleeping: Science, Public Policy and Parents’ Civil Rights

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