Dr. James McKenna, PhD, leading infant sleep researcher and professor of anthropology, photographed in his office at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN.
Leading infant sleep researcher and professor of anthropology Dr. James McKenna, PhD, discusses his extensive research on mother-baby sleep and cosleeping, bedsharing, and the new term “breastsleeping.” We talk about the science of the mechanisms behind infant sleep, cosleeping around the world, the mysterious sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), sleep training, and the neurological effects of separation. He discusses how cultural ideologies interfere with infant sleep practices, and the huge gap in what mothers are doing with sleeping & breastfeeding, versus what is being recommended to families by the American Academy of Pediatrics and local governments. Jim also discusses his new research on SIDS and colic/inconsolable crying, as well as the new field of psychoanthropediatrics.
Show notes and links:
In the mother-baby sleep lab– Dr. McKenna and his team have done infrared filming and polysomnigraphic studies
Cosleeping: “A committed caregiver and baby are within close enough proximity so that each can detect and respond to the signals and cues of each other. Cosleeping is a generic, taxonomic rubric within which lots of different types and forms of cosleeping can be found- safe, unsafe, bedsharing, sofa sleeping that isn’t safe, water bed sleeping, recliner sleeping. It has to be further broken down on whether it’s safe or unsafe.” Room sharing is also a form of cosleeping.
Bedsharing: “Refers specifically to what most western people do. It has a bed structure and mattress”
Breastsleeping: “A very different form, because of the functional interdependence and sensitivity of the baby to the mother and the mother to the baby.” Read about breastsleeping here in Dr. McKenna’s new article in Acta Paediatrica: “There is no such thing as infant sleep, there is no such thing as breastfeeding, there is only breastsleeping“
Read about safe cosleeping/breastsleeping guidelines here, and here for the “Safe Sleep Seven” guidelines, and check out a ton of great frequently asked questions answered by Dr. McKenna here.
Most women do end up bedsharing with their infants (check out the chart!)– so why does the rhetoric of government agencies in the U.S. say otherwise?
McKenna’s new academic article explores the idea that SIDS and colic/inconsolable crying may be a result of failure of infants to be able to control breathing, due to separation.
Helen Ball is infant sleep researcher at Durham University in the U.K. And an here’s an interesting interview with her.
Separation can cause high stress and high cortisol levels
You can connect with Dr. McKenna on his website.