Bed-sharing by breastfeeding mothers: who bed-shares and what is the relationship with breastfeeding duration?

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To explore the link between breastfeeding duration and bed-sharing frequency among women reporting a prenatal intention to breastfeed.


About 870 participants in a randomised breastfeeding trial, recruited at mid-pregnancy, provided weekly snapshots of breastfeeding and bed-sharing behaviour for 26 weeks following birth. Strength of prenatal breastfeeding intent was recorded at recruitment using Likert-type scales.


Outcomes were frequency of bed-sharing at home for at least one hour per week, and time to cessation of breastfeeding. There were insufficient data to classify bed-sharing pattern in 192/870 (22%) of mothers. Of the remainder, 44% (299/678) of participants ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ bed-shared, 28% (192/678) did so ‘intermittently’ and 28% (187/678) did so ‘often’. These three groups did not differ significantly in marital status, income, infant gestational age, maternal age or delivery mode. Significantly, more participants who bed-shared ‘often’ reported strong prenatal breastfeeding intent (70% vs. 57% and 56% for ‘intermittent’ and ‘rare’ bed-share groups) and attached high prenatal importance to breastfeeding (95% vs. 87% and 82%). Significantly, more women who bed-shared frequently were breastfeeding at 6 months (p < 0.0001) than those who intermittently or rarely/never bed-shared.


Women with strong motivation to breastfeed frequently bed-share. Given the complex relationship between bed-sharing and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) appropriate guidance balancing risk minimisation with support for breastfeeding mothers is crucial.

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