Breastfeeding has been shown to offer newborns a variety of health benefits and has even been linked to higher IQ scores and a lowered risk of childhood leukemia. Breastfeeding may be a healthy practice, but many mothers do not reach their breastfeeding goals and finish breastfeeding earlier than planned.

Seeking to improve breastfeeding, a new study researched the relationship between bed-sharing and breastfeeding, and questioned whether or not doctors’ advice against bed-sharing stunts breastfeeding in mothers. New mothers are often advised by their doctors not to share a bed with infants due to research that has linked the practice to an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The study analyzed the breastfeeding habits of 678 women and found that mothers who frequently bed-share with their children consistently breastfed for longer than mothers who do not.

"Mothers who bed-share were twice as likely to breastfeed their baby for at least 6 months than mothers who began breastfeeding but didn't bed-share,” said Professor Helen Ball, lead author of the study.

Additionally, pregnant women who expressed a strong motivation to breastfeed were also more likely to share a bed with their baby once it was born.

“Mothers with the strongest intent to breastfeed are the ones who sleep with their babies the most," Ball said.

The study suggests that mothers who bed-share with their infants will breastfeed for longer than mothers who do not. Therefore, if mothers avoid bed sharing, it could potentially prevent women and children from experiencing all of the benefits of breastfeeding. In addition to benefits for the baby, mothers who breastfeed are at lower risk for type 2 diabetes than mothers who don’t.

Ball concludes: “These mothers therefore need information on how to make bed-sharing while breastfeeding as safe as possible."

Source: Ball HL, et al. Bed-sharing by breastfeeding mothers: who bed-shares and what is the relationship with breastfeeding duration? Acta Paediatrica. 2016.