The Study and Its Significance
- Helen L. Ball, Elaine Hooker, and Peter J. Kelly launched a study to explore the attitudes and practices of new and experienced parents regarding cosleeping with their newborns.
- Their research suggests that cosleeping, often overlooked in Western parenting ideologies, could hold numerous benefits when practiced safely.
Cosleeping as a Common Practice
Despite not having considered it before the birth, many parents found cosleeping to be a convenient solution, especially during early morning feeds.
Flexible Sleeping Arrangements
Infants often began the night in their cribs but were brought to sleep with their parents post the early morning feeding, signifying the adaptability of cosleeping.
Full Family Involvement
Infants were found to sleep with both parents, not just mothers, indicating an increased opportunity for paternal involvement in newborn care.
Potential Benefits of Cosleeping
Easier Nighttime Caregiving
Having the baby within arm’s reach makes nighttime feeds easier and less disruptive.
Encourages Parental Involvement
Cosleeping can help both parents be equally involved in newborn care, especially during the night.
Adaptable to Family’s Needs
Cosleeping can be flexible, accommodating the unique sleep patterns and needs of the family.
In recent years, the subject of infant sleep and cosleeping has become a topic of considerable debate. A study titled “Where Will the Baby Sleep? Attitudes and Practices of New and Experienced Parents Regarding Cosleeping with Their Newborn Infants” has offered some intriguing insights into this subject. The research was conducted by Helen L. Ball, Elaine Hooker, and Peter J. Kelly and was first published in March 1999.
The researchers’ primary aim was to investigate the attitudes and practices of both new and experienced parents regarding cosleeping with their newborns. This investigation took place in a community in northeast England.
In mainstream parenting ideologies in the United States and the United Kingdom, cosleeping is often considered unconventional, and data on its prevalence is scant. However, the researchers found that, contrary to these beliefs, cosleeping emerged as a surprisingly popular choice among the participants, even if they hadn’t considered it before the birth of their child.
The evolutionary perspective on human infant sleep physiology suggests that cosleeping, when practiced safely, could be beneficial for both mothers and infants. The concept of cosleeping is based on the premise of facilitating easier nighttime caregiving. The convenience of having the infant within arm’s reach, especially during early morning feeds, is appealing to many parents.
The study found that the participating newborns often started the night in their crib (or “cnb”) and were then brought to sleep with their parents after their early morning feeding session. This pattern suggests that cosleeping can be a flexible arrangement and can adapt to the family’s sleep patterns and needs.
In some cases, infants even became habitual all-night cosleepers, implying that, over time, cosleeping could transition from a practical solution to a regular practice. Notably, this wasn’t limited to mothers. Infants slept with both their parents, suggesting that cosleeping could also be a means to encourage paternal involvement in newborn care.
So, this study challenges the prevailing notions about cosleeping in Western societies. It underscores the potential benefits of cosleeping, such as facilitating easier nighttime caregiving, while also emphasising the importance of maintaining safe conditions. Parents, both new and experienced, may want to reconsider cosleeping as a viable and beneficial option for their newborns.
While further research is needed to fully understand the implications of cosleeping, this study serves as a starting point for a meaningful conversation about nighttime parenting practices. As always, it’s important for each family to find the approach that works best for their unique circumstances and ensures the health and safety of their child.
Ball, H. L., Hooker, E., & Kelly, P. J. (1999). Where Will the Baby Sleep? Attitudes and Practices of New and Experienced Parents Regarding Cosleeping with Their Newborn Infants. American Anthropologist, 101(1). https://doi.org/10.1525/aa.19126.96.36.199