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Mother-infant bed sharing is associated with an increase in infant heart rate

April 9, 2003 (San Diego, CA) -- More than ever, parents are willing to share their bed with their baby. A study from the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that nearly 13 percent of parents reported sharing their bed with their baby in 2000, up from 5.5 percent in 1993. Almost half of parents said their infant spent at least some time sleeping on an adult bed during the previous two weeks, and 20 percent of parents said their infant slept with them in an adult bed more than half the time.

Studies in this maternal behavior may be motivated in part by claims that bed sharing is a significant independent risk factor for the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Mother-infant bed sharing may also impact other types of infant health issues, apart from SIDS. Despite this concern, many mothers believe that the infant's sensory and social environment during bed sharing is enriched compared to that found during solitary sleeping.

The study of mother-infant bed sharing is still a nascent area of research; therefore the actual risks or benefits of bed sharing on infant health and development are largely unknown. Since so many aspects of infant physiology and behavior are subtly influenced by the presence of the mother during sleep, any one effect, considered in isolation, could be seen as clinically beneficial, deleterious or neutral. Of course, the overall effect of bed sharing on the infant could be completely opposite to the effect of any one physiological or behavioral response.

As data accumulates on the various physiological effects of bed sharing on infant physiology, more specific explanations will emerge of the way the mother's presence during sleep affects her infant. For example, increases in heart rate could be an indication of increased sympathetic activity, possibly resulting from some specific feature of the bed sharing sensory or psychological environment. In addition, it is almost a certainty that primary ph
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Contact: Donna Krupa
djkrupa1@aol.com
703-967-2751
American Physiological Society
9-Apr-2003


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