Ethnic differences in parent/infant co-sleeping practices in New Zealand

N Z Med J. 1998 Sep 25;111(1074):364-6.


Aim: This study was designed to monitor changes in the prevalence of risk factors for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in the New Zealand population. The behaviour of interest is parent/infant co-sleeping. This paper reports parent/infant co-sleeping arrangements of different ethnic groups in New Zealand.

Methods: A stratified random sample of 6268 infants attending Plunket clinics for their three and six-month visits was taken over the years 1995-1996. Maori and Pacific infants were oversampled. Parents who shared a bed with their infant were asked how they arranged the babies sleeping place according to pre-coded diagrams. Routine parent/infant co-sleeping was defined as "bed sharing at least four nights over the last two weeks".

Results: There were 2693 infants who shared the bed with their sleeping parents during at least one of the previous 14 nights. Of these infants, 1060 routinely shared the parents' bed. At three months, 56% of routinely co-sleeping infants slept directly in the bed, 29% slept in a raised position, 3% slept in a carrycot or basket, and 5% in other positions. At six months, 60% of the routinely co-sleeping infants slept directly in the bed with their parents, 23% slept in a raised position, 1% slept in a carrycot or basket, and 7% in other positions. There were significant differences in the co-sleeping locations by ethnicity.

Conclusion: There is still some ongoing dispute as to whether parent/infant co-sleeping is a risk factor for SIDS. This study has identified differences in the way infants co-sleep with their parents and this can be used to clarify infant care practices in relation to SIDS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bedding and Linens
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • New Zealand
  • Parenting / ethnology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep*
  • Sudden Infant Death / prevention & control*