Anthropological definition of co-sleeping

Anthropologist and infant sleep expert Dr. James McKenna, PhD, explains the definition of co-sleeping from an anthropological standpoint. What is co-sleeping, and what how does it affect a baby's physiology?
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Anthropological definition of co-sleeping

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In the context of infant care practices, mother-infant co-sleeping refers to any situation in which mother and baby are close enough in proximity to one another to be able to detect the sensory signals and cues of the other. And by that I mean such things as the mother's movement or the baby's movement, sounds, smells, various kinds of touches, even soft whisperings of the mother. And the reason that's so important is it changes the physiology of the babies in clinically important and protective ways.

Anthropologist and infant sleep expert Dr. James McKenna, PhD, explains the definition of co-sleeping from an anthropological standpoint. What is co-sleeping, and what how does it affect a baby's physiology?

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James McKenna, PhD

Anthropologist & Author

Professor James J. McKenna is recognized as the world’s leading authority on mother-infant co-sleeping, in relationship to breastfeeding and SIDS. In recognition of his work in 2009 he was admitted as a Fellow into the select body of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's most prestigious scientific society. That same year and in recognition of his extensive work with television, radio, and print media he received from the American Anthropological Association the “2008 Anthropology In The Media Award” one of the top three awards presented to anthropologists by the association in recognition of his distinguished work in educating the public to the importance of anthropological concepts. He received his undergraduate degree in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1970, his Master's Degree from San Diego State University in 1972, and his PhD in biological anthropology from the University of Oregon, Eugene, in 1975. Professor McKenna has published over 139 refereed scientific articles in diverse medical and anthropological journals on co-sleeping, breastfeeding, evolutionary medicine and SIDS, and both here and abroad he gives over 20 lectures especially to pediatric groups and parents. Here in the United States he remains one of the primary spokesperson to the media on issues pertaining to sleeping arrangements, nighttime breast-feeding and SIDS prevention. He has also published two monographs on SIDS and infant sleep, and co-edited two books:  Evolutionary Medicine and Evolutionary Medicine And Health: New Perspectives. His first trade book for parents was published in 2008 entitled: Sleeping With Your Baby: A Parents Guide To Co-Sleeping, and was recently translated and available in Spanish and Dutch.

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