Is it a good idea for new mothers to share the bed with their babies? That question has proven hard to definitively answer in recent years. Some believe bed sharing can be beneficial in terms of bonding mother and infant, but studies have linked it to otherwise easily avoidable health risks. Now, new research finds those complex benefits of bed-sharing may be nothing but hype.
Researchers from the University of Kent say their work indicates there is no link at all between bed-sharing, stronger infant-mother attachment, and infant behavioral outcomes. In other words, this study suggests bed-sharing has no ties to either good or bad qualities when it comes to forming a closer bond between mother and child or encouraging certain behaviors.
“A lot of people think that bed-sharing is necessary to promote secure attachment with infants. However, there is little research in this area and quite mixed evidence. More insight into the outcomes of bed-sharing is required to better inform parents, guardians, and practitioners,” says study leader Dr. Ayten Bilgin from Kent’s School of Psychology in a university release.
Study authors analyzed data pertaining to 178 infants and their parents during this project. The analysis identified no associations whatsoever between bed-sharing during the first six months and either infant-mother attachment or infant behavioral patterns (such as attention levels and hyperactivity) at 18 months. At the same time, the team did not find any connection between bed-sharing during the first six months of a child’s life and maternal bonding or sensitivity in interacting with an infant at later follow-up points.
The team published their study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.