Bed sharing not required for babies to develop strong infant-mother attachment

July 7, 2021
Bed sharing not required for babies to develop strong infant-mother attachment

The practice of bed-sharing is neither associated with positive nor negative outcomes related to infant attachment and maternal bonding, according to new research led by the University of Kent (Kent), UK. Parents quite often share their bed with their baby due to several reasons such as breastfeeding, practicality, or because they follow the idea of ‘attachment parenting’ – however, there is no apparent link between bed sharing and infant-mother attachment, or specific infant behavioural outcomes.

This new study, led by Dr. Ayten Bilgin from Kent’s School of Psychology, alongside Professor Dieter Wolke, Professor of Developmental Psychology and Individual Differences at the University of Warwick, followed 178 infants and their parents, at term, three, six and eighteen months.

The researchers found no associations between bed sharing during the first six months and infant-mother attachment and infant behavioural outcomes (attention levels/hyperactivity and task persistence) at eighteen months. Similarly, there were no associations between bed sharing during the first six months and maternal bonding and sensitivity in interacting with the infant at consequent assessment points.

“A lot of people think that bed sharing is necessary to promote secure attachment with infants,” Dr. Bilgin said. However, there is little research in this area and quite mixed evidence. “More insight into the outcomes of bed sharing is required to better inform parents, guardians and practitioners.”

Around a third of all parents share their bed with their infant during the first 18 months of life on most nights in the UK study, most likely because of breastfeeding and dealing with night waking of the baby. Researchers and practitioners nevertheless recommend against bed sharing, particularly before four months of age due to the increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – it is largely associated with sleep, and is sometimes still called “crib death.”

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Category: Education, Features

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