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Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing


Prof Helen L. Ball, BSc, MA, PhD

Personal web page

Member of the Sleep Lab

(email at


Regional Visibility Poster

Helen Ball obtained her PhD in Biological Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1992. Her undergraduate degree was in Human Biology, and her interests span both biology and anthropology. Helen spent several years in the Caribbean where she conducted her PhD fieldwork. Following her appointment as a Lecturer in Anthropology at Durham in 1993 Helen began a programme of research on night-time infant care, established the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab in 2000, and was promoted to Professor of Anthropology in 2007. Broadly defined, her research examines sleep ecology, particularly of infants, young children and their parents. This encompasses attitudes and practices regarding infant sleep, behavioural and physiological monitoring of infants and their parents during sleep, infant sleep development, and the discordance between cultural sleep preferences and biological sleep needs. She has conducted research in hospitals and the community, and contributes to national and international policy and practice guidelines on infant care. See She pioneers the translation of academic research on infant sleep into evidence for use by parents and healthcare staff via ISIS -- the Infant Sleep Information Source website (

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2014: National Institute for Health & Care Excellence: Topic specific member for Clinical Guidance Update: Postnatal Care -- Cosleeping and SIDS (CG37).
  • 2013: ESRC Celebrating Impact Award: Award for Outstanding Impact in the Community from Economic and Social Research Council.
  • 2011: Appointed Consulting Editor, Journal of Human Lactation:
  • 2011: Appointed to Editorial Board, Journal of Human Lactation:
  • 2011: Durham University Award for Excellence in Doctoral Supervision:
  • 2011: Invited Speaker: UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Conference:
  • 2010: Appointed to ESRC Peer Review College:
  • 2010: Invited Keynote Speaker: International Lactation Consultants' Association (ILCA):
  • 2010: Invited Speaker: UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Conference:
  • 2009: Appointed to Advisory Board of Attachment Parenting EU:
  • 2009: Appointed to La Leche League Panel of Professional Advisers:
  • 2009: Appointed to NCT Research Advisory Board:
  • 2009: Invited Keynote Speaker: New Zealand Lactation Consultants' Association:
  • 2007: Invited Keynote Speaker: Australian National Breastfeeding Conference:
  • 2007: Invited keynote speaker: French Academy of Paediatrics: St Malo, June, 2007
  • 2006: Healthy Children Award (US) for Research: Award for contribution to breastfeeding research from Healthy Children (US), presented Jan 15th 2006, Orlando, Florida
  • 2006: Invited speaker, Primary Care Conference 2006: Invited speaker: Mother & Baby Programme of Primary Care 2006 Conference for GPs and Health Professionals at NEC, Birmingham, 5th May 2006.
  • 2006: Invited speaker: UNICEF UK Baby-friendly Conference 2006: Invited speaker at UNICEF UK BFI Annual Conference, Cardiff, November 29th & 29th 2006
  • 2005: Invited Keynote Speaker: La Leche League Italia National Conference:

Research Groups

Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

Department of Anthropology

Research Projects

Department of Anthropology

Research Interests

  • Behaviour and physiology of infant sleep
  • Child sleep and obesity
  • Development of sleep patterns and circadian rhythms
  • Evolutionary medicine
  • Human behaviour: parenting, infant care, infant mortality, SIDS, infanticide
  • Midwifery and postnatal care
  • Infant feeding and sleeping

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

Conference Proceeding

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

Other (Print)


  • Ball, H.L. (2002). Risks to infants of sharing the parental bed: a physiological & behavioural study. Final report to Scottish Cot Death Trust. Glasgow.
  • Ball, H.L., Hooker, E. & Heslop, E. (2000). Night-time caregiving and parent-infant sleep strategies in the North East of England. Final Report to Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths. London.

Show all publications

Related Links

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Subject specialists: Evolutionary paediatrics
  • Medical and health research topics: Breastfeeding
  • Human biology and development: Infant care practices
  • Infant and child health: Sleep and obesity
  • Medical and health research topics: Health consequences of sleep loss

Selected Grants

  • 2011: Infant Sleep Information Source (ISIS) Project (£96087.00 from ESRC)
  • 2008: BradICS (£10122.00 from Foundation for Study of Infant Deaths)
  • 2008: Foundation for the Study of Infant Death (FSID): Bradford Infant Care Study (£78,554)
  • 2007: KTP - REDCAR & CLEVELAND PCT (£114416.00 from Redcar & Cleveland PCT)
  • 2007: NECOT (£229875.45 from Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust)
  • 2007: NIHR Research for the Patient Benefit Programme: NECOT Trial (£263,104)
  • 2003: IMPACT OF BEDDING-IN ON BREASTFEEDING RATES (£1240.00 from The Wellcome Trust)
  • 2003: NEW DATA COLLECTION METHODOLOGY (£5825.62 from Foundation for Study of Infant Deaths)
  • 2003: THE ROLE OF PARENTS (£4950.00 from Foundation for Study of Infant Deaths)
  • 2002: BEDDING-IN ON THE POSTNATAL WARD (£144558.00 from Babes in Arms)
  • 2001: BEDDING IN ON THE POST-NATAL WARD - PILOT STUDY (£2710.00 from Community Foundation)
  • 2000: Co-bedding in twins (£70358.00 from Foundation for Study of Infant Deaths)
  • 2000: FELLOWSHIP - DR H.L. BALL (£4532.00 from The Leverhulme Trust)
  • 1999: RISKS TO INFANTS OF SHARING THE PARENTAL BED (£64607.00 from Scottish Cot Death Trust)
  • 1998: PARENT-INFANT SLEEP STRATEGIES (£59004.00 from Foundation for Study of Infant Deaths)