Sleep Choices in African American Homes – Exploring the Decision-Making Process

When it comes to infants, one of the biggest questions parents grapple with is where their baby should sleep. This question becomes even more critical given the higher risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and accidental suffocation associated with African American infants. Researchers Brandi L. Joyner, Rosalind P. Oden, Taiwo I. Ajao, and Rachel Y. Moon aimed to shed light on this vital issue.

The Study

The researchers conducted focus group discussions and individual interviews involving 83 African American mothers. The aim? To understand the factors influencing these mothers’ decisions regarding where their infants sleep, both in terms of the room location and sleep surface.

Findings: Roomsharing and Bedsharing

A majority of the mothers in the study opted to share the room with their infants. The reasons were diverse, including limited space, convenience, and safety concerns. When it came to the choice of sleep surface, considerations included availability of crib space, comfort, convenience, and safety. Many mothers chose roomsharing and bedsharing to make feeding and checking on the baby easier.

Those who decided against bedsharing often expressed concerns about maintaining privacy, fears about the baby getting used to the parent’s bed, and worries over suffocation risks. Meanwhile, mothers who preferred bedsharing felt it allowed them to be more vigilant, even while asleep. Interestingly, low-income mothers also viewed bedsharing as a protective measure against environmental dangers.

For the African American mothers in this study, both roomsharing and bedsharing were seen as strategies to keep their infants safe. This highlights the importance of addressing these concerns when advising parents on safe sleep practices. The focus should be on guiding families on how to practice safe bedsharing, taking into account their specific circumstances and concerns.

Joyner, B. L., Oden, R. P., Ajao, T. I., & Moon, R. Y. (2015). Where Should My Baby Sleep: A Qualitative Study of African American Infant Sleep Location Decisions. Available online 30 December 2015, Version of Record 30 December 2015.

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