Making informed choices on co-sleeping with your baby

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h563 (Published 02 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h563

BMJ illustrates hazardous cosleeping

I was pleased to see BMJ publish this commentary on the new NICE SIDS/cosleeping guidance which I read online -- but was less happy to see the print version which is illustrated with a particularly hazardous example of parent-baby cosleeping.

During my research career I have made and analysed hundreds of night-time videos of cosleeping parents and babies. Readers of the print journal should note that the illustration of a baby sleeping face down on a pillow next to his/her mother is not a typical or safe scenario -- and is not what the authors are describing when they suggest that cosleeping by breastfeeding mothers carries minimal risk. A typical depiction of 'safe' cosleeping involves a baby on his/her back flat on a mattress, well away from any pillows, with the mother curled-up facing the baby, one arm above the baby's head, and knees tucked up below the baby's feet.

The juxtaposition of a photo of a co-sleeping baby face down on a pillow with the heading 'Making informed choices on co-sleeping with your baby' might lead readers to assume this depicts an informed co-sleeping choice. It does not. Interested readers can find more information at the Infant Sleep Info Source website (www.isisonline.org.uk) and in the publications cited therein.

Competing interests: I founded and direct the Durham University Parent-Infant Sleep Lab which studies (among other things) how and why parents implement co-sleeping. I am also co-founder of the Infant Sleep Info Source (www.isisonline.org.uk) which disseminates research evidence on infant sleep.

12 February 2015
Helen L. Ball
Professor of Anthropology
Durham University
Dawson Building, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE