Sleeping position, orientation, and proximity in bedsharing infants and mothers

Sleep. 1996 Nov;19(9):685-90. doi: 10.1093/sleep/19.9.685.


The impact of mother-infant bedsharing on infant sleeping position, orientation, and proximity to the mother was assessed in 12 breast-feeding Latino mother-infant pairs. Six routinely bedsharing and six routinely solitary-sleeping pairs slept 3 nights in the sleep laboratory. The first night matched the routine home condition, followed by 1 bedsharing night and 1 solitary-sleeping night in random order. During bedsharing infants were never placed prone, regardless of their routine sleeping condition. On the bedsharing night, mothers and infants spent most of the night oriented toward each other; seven of 12 infants remained oriented toward their mothers the entire night. While sleeping in a face-to-face orientation, most pairs slept most of the time less than 30 cm apart with appreciable amounts of time at less than 20 cm. This orientation and proximity should facilitate sensory exchanges between mother and infant which, we hypothesize, influence the infant's sleep physiology and nocturnal behavior. We conclude that bedsharing minimizes the use of the prone infant sleeping position, probably in part to facilitate breast feeding. By promoting nonprone positions, bedsharing may protect some infants from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), since prone sleeping is a known risk factor for SIDS. The large percentage of the night that mothers spent oriented toward their infants suggests that a higher degree of maternal vigilance may also result from bedsharing.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding
  • California
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Care*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Orientation*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Prone Position / physiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sudden Infant Death / prevention & control
  • United States