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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Prof Helen L. Ball

Ball, Helen L. (2007). Bed-sharing practices of initially breastfed infants in the first 6 months of life. Infant and Child Development 16(4): 387-401.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper explores the manner in which bed-sharing is practised by breastfeeding infants in the UK, and examines how alternate definitions and interpretations of breastfeeding and bed-sharing can lead to confusion in understanding what bed-sharing entails. Longitudinal studies on parent-infant bed-sharing practices are scarce, but are vital to our understanding of normative bed-sharing behaviour. We present data from a longitudinal study of sleeping and feeding practices in England involving 97 initially breastfed infants from birth to 6 months of age whose behaviour was monitored weekly for a 6-month period. Results demonstrate that bed-sharing practices covary with breastfeeding practices, and that a single model of bed-sharing behaviour does not adequately reflect the experience of all infants. Our findings have ramifications for the way in which case-control studies attempt to measure bed-sharing, and our understanding and interpretation of bed-sharing risk factors.