Where should my baby sleep: a qualitative study of African American infant sleep location decisions

J Natl Med Assoc. 2010 Oct;102(10):881-9. doi: 10.1016/s0027-9684(15)30706-9.


Background: African American infants are of higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and accidental suffocation than other infants and are up to 4 times more likely to bedshare with their parents.

Objective: To investigate, using qualitative methods, factors influencing African American parents' decisions regarding infant sleep location (room location and sleep surface).

Methods: Eighty-three mothers participated in focus groups or individual interviews. Questions probed reasons for infant sleep location decisions and influences on decision making.

Results: Most of the mothers in this study slept in the same room as their infant. Reasons for roomsharing included space, convenience, and safety. Mothers largely decided on infant sleep surface because of space for/availability of crib, comfort, convenience, and safety. Both roomsharing and bedsharing were often chosen to make feeding and checking on the infant more convenient. Mothers who chose not to bedshare cited privacy, concern that the infant would become attached to the parents' bed, and fears about suffocation. Mothers who chose to bedshare often cited the ability to maintain vigilance while asleep. Low-income mothers also used bedsharing as a defense against environmental dangers.

Conclusion: African American mothers in this study viewed both roomsharing and bedsharing as strategies to keep their infants safe. Efforts to encourage roomsharing without bed-sharing must address parental concerns about space for/ availability of a crib, convenience, infant and parent comfort, and infant safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Care / standards*
  • Mothers*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sleep*
  • Supine Position