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19 July 2011

Bed-sharing may be good for toddlers

Letting a toddler share mom's bed won't harm the child's intellectual or social development, researchers say.

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Letting a toddler share mom's bed won't harm the child's intellectual or social development, researchers say.

"Parents can do what works best for their family and not feel guilty if they choose to share a bed, because there probably aren't lasting impacts," said Dr Lauren Hale of Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York, who led the study.

"When they are smaller, the concerns are greater for suffocation or for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Sids), and that is why the AAP recommends against bed-sharing," Dr Fern Hauck of American Academy of Pediatrics, who was not involved in the new work, said.

But there hasn't been much research into the health or psychological effects of bed-sharing after age one.

To investigate, Dr Hale and her colleagues looked at data on 944 financially strapped mothers who reported whether they shared their bed with their toddlers at ages one, two and three. Their findings are scheduled to appear online in Pediatrics.

When the kids' behaviour and intellectual development were tested at age five, initially those who slept with their moms appeared to be worse off than the rest.

But that didn't hold up on multivariate analysis, after the researchers had accounted for other characteristics of the mothers and children.

No psychological impact

"It's just reassuring to know that it doesn't appear to be dangerous" in terms of the psychological impact, Dr Hauck said.

Still, she said, "We have concerns about children up to two to three years because there have been deaths occurring in that age group."

And the new study did not test whether bed-sharing caused people to wake up more often during the night, which some researchers have found, according to Dr Hale.

She said a couple of earlier studies had come to the same conclusion as the new work, but they included fewer minority women and could have missed important effects.

"Thankfully the results were consistent," Dr Hale said.

(Reuters Health, Frederik Joelving, July 2011) 

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