Reasons mothers bedshare: A review of its effects on infant behavior and development

Elaine S. Barry, James J. McKenna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Bedsharing is controversial for nighttime caregiving in the U.S. today, as in most of the West. However, from the standpoint of evolutionary pediatrics, anthropology, and cultural psychology, bedsharing is not controversial at all, representing the context for human infant evolution and conferring a host of physiological benefits to the infant as well as the mother. In an effort to understand the rise in Western bedsharing in recent decades (and following Ball, 2002; McKenna & Volpe, 2007), Salm Ward (2015) systematically reviewed the literature on mother-infant bedsharing and identified ten reasons why mothers choose to bedshare: (1) breastfeeding, (2) comforting for mother or infant, (3) better/more sleep for infant or parent, (4) monitoring, (5) bonding/ attachment, (6) environmental reasons, (7) crying, (8) cultural or familial traditions, (9) disagree with danger, and (10) maternal instinct. The current paper offers the “review behind the review,” highlighting the scientific evidence behind the reasons mothers give for their decision to bedshare, focusing on how mothers’ decisions about infant sleep location influence infant behavior and development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101684
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
StatePublished - Feb 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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