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Beginnings Parents Guide Update: Parent–Infant Bed Sharing

Dare we talk about bed sharing?  “There is insufficient evidence to recommend any
bed-sharing situation.…” So says ACOG in its latest (2011) Recommendations for a Safe
Sleep Environment.  This continues earlier official recommendations aimed at preventing
SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome.  Some practitioners interpret this to mean the
“family bed” should not be discussed, except to instruct against it.  A few have refused
to use Beginnings Parents Guide because it describes how to make bed-sharing as safe as

Dare we not talk about it?  To me this is the more salient question.  Around the world
and among US families, bed-sharing is common.  Despite two decades of dire warnings,
nearly half of parents (45%) reported sharing a bed with their infants at some time during
the previous two weeks.  Researchers believe routine bed-sharing is even more common
among certain racial/ethnic groups. 

So it is clear that parents are going to bring their babies to bed with them; for breastfeeding,
for bonding, for safety, for the pure joy of it. Simply telling them not to do it or attempting
to scare them into compliance disrespects and underestimates parents with no affect on
behavior. Not talking about bed-sharing is not going to prevent it.  So Beginnings Parents
Guide’s forthcoming fourth edition will not recommend bed-sharing, but will continue to
offer parents information they need to make decisions about their family sleeping arrangements,
including how to reduce the risk of bed sharing when that’s their choice.
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