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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Prof Helen L. Ball

Ball, H., Hooker, E. & Kelly, P.J. (2000). Parent-Infant Cosleeping: fathers' roles and perspectives. Infant and Child Development 9(2): 67-74.

Author(s) from Durham


Dyadic co-sleeping (mother-baby) is a common strategy for night-time infant care in the majority of world cultures. Triadic co-sleeping (mother-father-baby) is less common, although still widely practised cross-culturally. This paper examines triadic co-sleeping in an opportunistic sample of parents from the North Tees region of England, and explores fathers' expectations and experiences of sleeping with their babies. Using a prospective study design, 36 sets of parents, pre- and post-natally, were interviewed about infant care strategies, particularly at night. Although they did not anticipate sleeping with their infants at the pre-natal interview, the majority of fathers (81%) had done so by the time of the second interview. First-time fathers were afraid that they would squash or suffocate the baby in their sleep, and some were concerned that the infant's presence would adversely affect their own sleep. Fathers used a variety of strategies to help overcome their initial fears of co-sleeping. Among those for whom triadic co-sleeping became a regular night-time infant care strategy, the pleasures of prolonged intimate contact with their infant were clearly apparent. It is suggested that the experience of sleeping with their infant ameliorates some of the distancing effects felt by fathers outside the breast-feeding relationship, and helps encourage paternal involvement in night-time infant care-giving.