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A new study suggests that mothers who frequently bedshare with their infants are more likely to breastfeed for longer, even though bedsharing has been previously linked to heightened risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
A team of researchers, led by Yi Huang from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, analyzed data from the Infant Feeding Practices Study II, which enrolled pregnant women and followed them over their infant's first year of life.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, looked at whether bedsharing had an effect on the duration of any, and exclusive, breastfeeding.
Bedsharing is defined as the mother lying down and sleeping with the infant in the same bed or other sleeping surfaces, for nighttime sleep or during a major sleep period.
Mothers were required to complete postnatal questionnaires detailing their breastfeeding and bedsharing activity and duration at 2 weeks, then at 1, 2, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months.
Other underlying factors were also taken into consideration, including maternal age, higher education, marital status, prior breastfeeding experience and whether a mother returned to work in the first year after birth.
Mothers who bedshared more often with their infants were more likely to breastfeed longer, compared with mothers who bedshared less frequently or not at all.
The study authors say these results were more pronounced in mothers who carried out any breastfeeding than for mothers who conducted exclusive breastfeeding.
However, the researchers note that other factors predicted longer breastfeeding duration, such as older maternal age, higher education, not returning to work within the first year after birth and prior breastfeeding experience.
When eliminating these other influencing factors, it was found that the duration of any and exclusive breastfeeding was longer for mothers who bedshared for longer periods. Additionally, the researchers found that infants who began bedsharing at a younger age had longer breastfeeding durations.
The study authors say that although these results provide strong evidence that bedsharing promotes breastfeeding by increasing breastfeeding duration, parents should take the potential risks of bedsharing with their infants into account.
In updates to the safe sleep and SIDS risk reduction guidelines published by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2011, bedsharing with infants is not recommended based on previous data suggesting that bedsharing increases the risk of SIDS.
Instead, the AAP recommends that infants sleep in a crib in the parents' room to prevent SIDS and other sleep-related deaths.
The study authors say:
"As representatives of the public health and policy community, we are supportive of the recommendations to place infants to sleep in a separate but proximate location rather than sleeping in the same bed.
We are all also highly committed to breastfeeding. Parents need to know that bedsharing may make breastfeeding easier to maintain and therefore it is tempting for them to do it. On the other hand, they deserve to know that it comes with a risk to their infant's safety."
They add that health professionals need to address these two sides when educating parents, so that informed decisions can be made.
Furthermore, they note that future guidelines on safe sleep for infants should identify the link between bedsharing and longer breastfeeding duration as a potential barrier to following the advice of public health policy and offer ways to overcome them.
"In addition," they note, "studies have not evaluated whether a separate but proximate sleeping arrangement promotes breastfeeding to the same extent as does bedsharing."
The researchers conclude that further research is needed to determine this possibility, and that other strategies to promote breastfeeding should also be developed and tested.
Medical News Today recently reported on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that showed the number of US mothers choosing to breastfeed their babies is on the rise.
Written by Honor Whiteman
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without the permission of Medical News Today.
Influence of Bedsharing Activity on Breastfeeding Duration Among US Mothers, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, 23 September 2013.
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13 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266463>
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