How does co-sleeping affect my baby?

James McKenna, PhD, shares the evidence and benefits that co-sleeping with parents can have on a baby
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How does co-sleeping affect my baby?

There probably is not one single variable that ordinarily is studied in the context of infant sleep and/or maternal sleep that is not changed in the bed sharing environment. The sensory proximity actually asserts a physiological regulatory effort, a mutual regulatory effect on the mother´s heart rate and on the baby´s heart rate, on breathing patterns, on apnea patterns, the baby´s blood pressure, the mother´s blood pressure, how many times she breastfeeds, how many times she awakens, both in terms of short little transient arousals and in terms of actually prolonged awakenings that are associated with breastfeeding. There is an entire cascade of hormonal events that affect the mother, such as the production of Oxytocin and Prolactin precipitated by the fact that her baby is breastfeeding more frequently. Similarly, in so far as the baby´s body is concerned, the baby´s production of estrogen and neurotransmitters are completely affected. In so far as the mother´s motivation, her feelings, what might be considered her psychological interpretation, it is very much influenced by the cascading effects of this wonderful hormone called Oxytocin and the neurotransmitters that have the mother interpret what is happening to her as being satisfying and/or something that makes her happy. That so many variables are so extraordinarily affected by the mother sleeping next to her baby is really evidence, further evidence, of the fact that we have never up to presently understood the normative experiences of the human baby when they sleep.

James McKenna, PhD, shares the evidence and benefits that co-sleeping with parents can have on a baby


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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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