From the Journals

Choice of infant sleep location is multifactorial



Despite expert recommendations promoting room-sharing but not bed-sharing for the first 6 months of life, most mothers don’t follow this advice, according to a recent nationally representative study.

Stanislav Fridkin/

Of 3,260 mothers surveyed, 59% of mothers said that they intended to room-share without bed-sharing, but only 45% practiced – and also had the intent to practice – room-sharing without bed-sharing. Of the 41% who said that they did not intend to bed-share, 24% actually did intend to practice at least some bed-sharing with their infants, who were all aged 2-6 months at the time of survey administration.

Mothers who were African American and those who were breastfeeding exclusively were most likely to report that they intended to bed-share, reported Ann Kellams, MD, of the department of pediatrics at the University of Virginia,Charlottesville, and coauthors. Mothers who were exclusively breastfeeding had a nearly threefold higher rate of intending to bed-share than mothers whose infants were fed formula.

How mothers perceived social norms about bed- and room-sharing practices also plays a role. Women who considered that social norms supported bed-sharing and discouraged room-sharing had almost 200 times the odds of intending to bed-share, compared with those who perceived that social norms supported room-sharing without bed-sharing.

Conversely, being advised by a doctor to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics–recommended practice of room-sharing without bed-sharing made it less likely that mothers would plan to share a bed with their infant (adjusted odds ratio, 0.56). Yet women who intended to room-share without bed-sharing but who actually did bed-share some of the time, their doctor’s advice to room-share only had no impact (aOR, 1.01).

The investigators noted that, “although other studies have investigated factors influencing maternal decisions, no studies to date have examined maternal intention regarding sleep location and what factors influence intention.”

The Study of Attitudes and Factors Effecting Infant Care drew from 32 U.S. hospitals, and asked mothers about feeding and care practices, including the infant’s usual sleep locations and all sleep locations over the 2 weeks preceding the survey. Additionally, the survey asked about future intent for sleeping practices, looking ahead to the next 2 weeks.

The survey design and the analysis performed in the study were based on the theory of planned behavior (TPB), “which hypothesizes that attitudes, subjective social norms, and perceptions about control over behavior impact one’s intention, which leads to actual behavior,” explained Dr. Kellams and coinvestigators. They reported that they had previously used TPB to analyze mothers’ intentions and actions regarding supine sleep position for infants, finding that a variety of behavioral and social facets accounted for by TPB affected maternal intention and decision making.

Additionally, the study’s design captured partial-night bed-sharing, where an infant may start the night in a separate bed but be brought to bed for feeding or comforting, then share a bed with the mother for the remainder of the night. “Unintended bed-sharing may explain our finding that there is frequent inconsistency between those whose near-future intention is to room-share without bed-sharing but whose actual practice includes bed-sharing,” the authors wrote.

“Attitudes, social norms, and doctor advice are associated with infant sleep location and may be potential targets for educational interventions,” concluded Dr. Kellams and coinvestigators.

Dr. Kellams and associates reported no relevant financial disclosures. The study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institutes of Health.

SOURCE: Kellams A et al. Pediatrics. 2020 Feb 7;145(3):e20191523.

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