Intended for healthcare professionals


Making informed choices on co-sleeping with your baby

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (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 ( 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 ( 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