Why Babies Should Never Sleep Alone

Published on 18 June 2024 at 15:49

Why Babies Should Sleep Next to Their Mothers: Embracing Our Biological Design

As parents, we often find ourselves navigating through a sea of advice and recommendations about the best practices for raising our little ones. One of the most hotly debated topics is whether babies should sleep next to their mothers. Despite modern society's push towards solitary sleep, there's compelling evidence suggesting that co-sleeping, or bed sharing is deeply rooted in our biology.

The Evolution of Contact Sleeping

Professor James McKenna of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame has spent years studying the intimate connection between breastfeeding and co-sleeping. He describes breastfeeding as a "hidden regulator" that naturally keeps mothers and infants close during the night. This close proximity is not just a modern-day choice but an evolved behavior meant to support the physiological needs of both mother and baby.

Babies Expect to Be Close

Babies are born expecting to be close to their mothers most of the time. American anthropologist and primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy states that for species like primates, the mother is essentially the baby's environment. Human infants, born with what many call "exterogestation," continue their gestation outside the womb, relying heavily on their mothers for warmth, nourishment, and regulation of vital functions.

Shared Sleep and Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding and co-sleeping are mutually reinforcing practices. Dr. Helen Ball found that babies who sleep away from their mothers tend to breastfeed significantly less during the night. In contrast, those who bedshare maintain breastfeeding longer. A study in Brazil showed that 75% of children who bedshared at three months were still being breastfed at twelve months, compared to only 52% of those who did not bedshare.

More Sleep for Mothers

One of the most significant benefits of co-sleeping is more rest for mothers. A study by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett revealed that mothers who exclusively breastfed and co-slept reported better sleep quality, physical health, and lower rates of depression compared to those who mixed or formula-fed. The reason? Co-sleeping mothers can respond to their baby's needs more quickly and efficiently, often falling back asleep faster.

Autonomy in Nighttime Parenting

It’s essential to recognize that nighttime parenting choices belong to parents, not doctors. The medical community often lacks specific training in infant sleep, and their advice may sometimes reflect personal opinions rather than evidence-based practices. Parents should feel empowered to make choices that align with their instincts and the biological needs of their babies.

The Importance of Contact

Human touch is crucial for a baby's development, especially during sleep. Skin-to-skin contact promotes the formation of neural connections in the brain, supports emotional regulation, and reduces stress. Dr. Ruth Feldman's research highlights the long-term benefits of maternal-newborn skin-to-skin contact, demonstrating improved cognitive and physiological outcomes for children even ten years later.

Creating a New Normal

This discussion is not about fueling the "mommy wars" but about supporting mothers in making informed choices. Recognizing that human babies are biologically designed to sleep next to their mothers allows us to better align modern parenting practices with our evolutionary roots. For mothers who cannot or choose not to co-sleep, understanding this can help them find alternative ways to bridge the gap, ensuring their babies still receive the necessary closeness and comfort.


Co-sleeping isn't about following trends or succumbing to peer pressure. It's about understanding and embracing our biological design to foster a deeper connection and well-being for both mother and baby. By re-evaluating modern practices and creating a supportive environment for mothers, we can ensure healthier, happier beginnings for our little ones.

 Let’s empower each other to make the best choices for our families, grounded in both science and intuition.


  1. Article: https://raisedgood.com/why-babies-should-sleep-with-their-mothers/
  2. Why babies should never sleep alone: a review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bedsharing and breast feeding, McKenna J, Dade T, Paediatr Respir Rev. 2005 Jun;6(2):134-52.
  3. Ball, H, Reasons to bed-share: why parents sleep with their infants, Journal Of Reproductive And Infant Psychology, Vol. 20, No. 4 2002 
  4. Santos IS, Mota DM, Matijasevich A, Barros AJ, Barros FC. Bed-sharing at 3 months and breastfeeding at 1 year in southern Brazil. J Pediatr. 2009;155(4):505-9. 
  5. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., IBCLC, RLC, FAPA1, Zhen Cong, Ph.D. Thomas W. Hale, Ph.D. 2011 The Effect of Feeding Method on Sleep Duration, Maternal Well-being, and Postpartum Depression, Clinical Lactation, Vol. 2-2, 22-26
  6.  Ruth Feldman, Zehava Rosenthal, Arthur I. Eidelman. Maternal-Preterm Skin-to-Skin Contact Enhances Child Physiologic Organization and Cognitive Control Across the First 10 Years of Life. Biological Psychiatry, 2014; 75 (1): 56 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.08.012

Add comment


There are no comments yet.