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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Prof Helen L. Ball

Ball, H.L. (2002). Reasons to bed-share: why parents sleep with their infants. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 20(4): 207-222.

Author(s) from Durham


The pros and cons of parent-infant bed-sharing have been hotly debated in both the academic and professional literature concerning infant health and early parenting. Much of the debate has focused on data from the US, and little research has examined parents' motives for sleeping with their infants. This paper examines parental bed-sharing practices with young infants in North Tees, UK. We found that bed-sharing was a common night-time care-giving strategy, and the reasons articulated by parents for bed-sharing with their small infants were varied. There was a particularly strong association between bed-sharing and breastfeeding; however, infant irritability or illness was also a frequently given reason for bed-sharing, and a number of other reasons emerged.We conclude it is important that circumstance and motivation are considered in assessments of bed-sharing safety, and parental reasons for bed-sharing are acknowledged in formulating advice for parents regarding bed-sharing.