Objective. Because breastfeeding is thought to be protective against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), environmental or child care factors that promote breastfeeding might reduce infant vulnerability to SIDS. The effect of mother-infant bedsharing on nocturnal breastfeeding behavior was studied in 20 routinely bedsharing and 15 routinely solitary sleeping Latino mother-infant pairs when the infants were 3 to 4 months old.

Methodology.  All pairs were healthy and exclusively breastfeeding at night. The videotape portion of all-night laboratory polysomnographic studies was used for the analyses. For each pair, an adaptation night was followed by one night each of bedsharing and solitary sleeping.

Results. The most important finding is that when tested in their usual sleeping conditions, routinely bedsharing infants breastfed approximately three times longer during the night than infants who routinely slept separately: this reflected a two-fold increase in the number of breastfeeding episodes and 39% longer episodes. Breastfeeding was also facilitated on the bedsharing night relative to the solitary night within the routinely bedsharing group: the number and total duration of breastfeeding episodes were significantly larger on the bedsharing night.

Conclusions. We suggest that, by increasing breastfeeding, bedsharing might be protective against SIDS, at least in some contexts. Furthermore, maternal reproductive physiology could be impacted because nursing frequency affects ovulation. This is the first study to directly measure nocturnal breastfeeding behavior in any cultural group.

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