Safe Infant Sleep: Expert Answers to Your Cosleeping Questions by James J. McKenna

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Product Overview

In the world of pediatric care, sleep safety guidelines are controversial and often misguided. Health professionals broadly discourage all forms of cosleeping, which, along with the potentially devastating consequences, makes deciding how and where your baby should sleep both confusing and frightening. Parents who cherish the closeness, security, and warmth of cosleeping are finding themselves conflicted, concerned, and exhausted. 


Cosleeping, a term which encompasses sleeping in the same room or on the same bed as your infant, is a common parental instinct driven by physiology and seen throughout human history. Despite mainstream opposition, thousands of parents continue the practice, whether intentionally, accidentally, or out of necessity.


So, why do current medical guidelines insist that cosleeping is unsafe? What is the difference between SIDS and SUID, and are they related to cosleeping? What should parents do to make a safe sleep space for their infant? If a family chooses to cosleep, how should they respond to reproach from friends, family, or medical professionals?


In Safe Infant Sleep, the world’s authority on cosleeping breaks down the complicated political and social aspects of sleep safety, exposes common misconceptions, and compares current recommendations to hard science. With the latest information on the abundant scientific benefits of cosleeping, Dr. James J. Mckenna informs readers about the dangers of following over-simplified recommendations against the age-old practice, and encourages parents to trust their knowledge and instincts about what is and is not safe for their baby.


This book offers a range of options and safety tips for your family’s ideal cosleeping arrangement. These include variations of roomsharing and bedsharing, and introduce the concept of “breastsleeping.” This term, coined by Dr. McKenna himself, is based on the inherent biological connection between breastfeeding and infant sleep, and provides readers with everything they need to know about safely sharing a bed with their baby. Complete with resource listings for both parents and professionals, this book teaches you how to confidently choose a safe sleeping arrangement as unique as your family.





“Dr. McKenna’s work provides the canvas and background upon which we have been able to illustrate the safest way to care for infants. His work in his sleep lab has led us to understand why mothers and infants do what they do, and his sheer exuberance, energy, and enthusiasm has made this such an enjoyable lesson along the way.” —Peter S. Blair, Ph.D., Professor of Epidemiology and Statistics, Centre for Academic Child Health, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol “This is a very detailed and comprehensive narrative about everything to do with cosleeping, through the unique lens of a dedicated academic who has devoted most of his professional career to this topic. Parents who are keen to understand the historical controversies around cosleeping, and to know more about how SIDS epidemiology and sleep science are conducted, will find much to think about here.”


—Helen Ball, Ph.D., M.A., B.Sc., Professor of Anthropology, Durham University, Director of the Durham Infancy & Sleep Centre, Co-Director of the Baby Sleep Information Source


“Once you have read James McKenna’s satisfying and intuitive book, you will finally get a good night’s sleep: He will free you of worrying about ‘creating bad sleep habits’ and help you stop feeling unsure about breastfeeding your baby to sleep.” \


—Jack Newman, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., I.B.C.L.C., and Andrea Polokova, M.A., M.Ed.,co-authors of Breastfeeding: Empowering Parents


“Dr. McKenna seamlessly integrates his own scientific research and that of others with history, anthropological concepts, and maternal instinct, while demonstrating how the Western cultural bias of independent sleep actually increases the risk of SIDS and poor long-term adjustment.”


—Nancy E. Wight, M.D., I.B.C.L.C., F.A.B.M., F.A.A.P., Neonatologist, Medical Director for Sharp HealthCare Lactation Services


“[Cosleeping] is not for everyone, but Dr. McKenna has brought it into focus as a good choice for many parents, and has rightly questioned official attempts to suppress it based on rare and avoidable events. In this easy-to-read, thoroughly informed book, parents will find what they need to know to cosleep safely. An important contribution to the literature on baby care, and especially to the attachment parenting movement.”


—Melvin Konner, M.D., Ph.D., Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology and of Neuroscience & Behavioral Biology, Emory University, author of The Evolution of Childhood


“A detailed explanation of what cosleeping is, what it implies for the health of mother and baby, and how to practice it safely.  An indispensable reading for all parents who want to decide in a conscious and well-informed way where and how their baby should sleep….”


—María Berrozpe Martínez, Ph.D., author of ¡Dulces Sueños! (Sweet Sleep!), co-author of Una Nueva Maternidad (A New Motherhood), instructor for La Leche League International


“Dr. McKenna will show you your options and teach you how to reduce the risk of infant death and prolong breastfeeding. This book is a must-read for every new parent.”


—Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., I.B.C.L.C., F.A.P.A., co-author of Breastfeeding Made Simple and The Science of Mother-Infant Sleep


“I have been a pediatrician for over 40 years. There has never been an occurrence of SIDS in my practice. I might be good… but I’m not that good. Virtually every single family in my practice safely cosleeps. They all are breastsleeping families.”


—Jay Gordon, M.D., Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, co-author of Good Nights: The Happy Parents’ Guide to the Family Bed (and  a Peaceful Night’s Sleep!)


“As the father of four sons and as a practicing pediatrician, developmental physiologist, and epidemiologist, I can strongly support the ideas presented by Dr. McKenna in this debunking of much of the arrogant, ill-informed, and misleading advice that has in the past been given to parents by professionals who should have known better. I wholeheartedly commend this book to parents and to healthcare professionals.”


—Peter J. Fleming, C.B.E., F.R.S.A., Ph.D., M.B.Ch.B., F.R.C.P. (Canada, London), F.R.C.P.C.H., Professor of Infant Health and Developmental Physiology, Consultant Paediatrician, Centre for Academic Child Health, Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol


“Dr. McKenna is the world’s leading expert on cosleeping, its evolutionary story, and its importance to parents. In his new book, he shares that knowledge with parents in our society. I strongly recommend it to new parents.”


—Robert A. LeVine, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Education and Human Development, Harvard University


“This book is a greatly-needed resource that provides evidence for families to make educated decisions when trying to balance their instincts about breast-sleeping and bedsharing with the advice given to them by American society.”


—Anne Eglash M.D., I.B.C.L.C., F.A.B.M., Director of Lactation Services, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Founder and President of The Institute for the Advancement of Breastfeeding and Lactation Education (IABLE)


“Professor McKenna is not afraid to take a stand on this controversial issue, presenting the view that bedsharing in the absence of hazardous circumstances can bring many benefits to infants and families; that it is the way infants sleep, not where they sleep, that is important. The review of the subject is likely of benefit to anyone considering bedsharing.”


—Sally Baddock, B.Sc., Dip. Tchng., Ph.D., Professor and Researcher, School of Midwifery, Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand


“With overwhelming evidence and unparalleled heart, the brilliant Professor McKenna shreds the conventional misguidance to reclaim the mammal universal of safe cosleeping for better health and well-being of mothers and babies.”


—Katie Hinde, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Center for Evolution and Medicine, Arizona State University


“To cosleep or not to cosleep? That‘s the question vexing so many new parents. From over 20 years of groundbreaking research in his Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab, biological anthropologist James McKenna knows more than anyone about the risks and benefits of cosleeping. If you’re looking for a sound, scientific basis for deciding about whether, when, where, how, and why to cosleep safely with your baby, look no farther—this book will tell you all you need to know.”


—Alma Gottlieb, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, co-author of A World of Babies: Imagined Childcare Guides for Eight Societies


“Brilliant! Dr. McKenna, a research scientist who has spent much of his academic career studying bedsharing and its relationship to maternal and child health, has provided us with a vital resource to all who care about infants, parenting issues, public health issues—both mental and physical—and our society in general. It is with great pride that I recommend this book to the breastfeeding world and the world at large.”


—Chele Marmet, B.S., M.A., F.I.L.C.A., pioneer of the lactation consultant profession


“Dr. McKenna presents the benefits and risks of shared sleeping with babies and proposes strategies to create safer shared sleeping environments that support a risk minimization approach, which is evidence-based and practical for families to tailor to their individual needs and circumstances.”


—Jeanine Young, F.A.C.N., Ph.D., R.G.N., Registered Midwife, Professor, University of the Sunshine Coast, Member of the Red Nose National Scientific Advisory Group 


“So far as behaviors go, mother-infant cosleeping is one of the few primate universals. The main exceptions are found in a relatively small subset of human primates, among Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic societies, sometimes referred to as WEIRD. In this comprehensive, humane, very clear and also brave book, James McKenna strives to renormalize our segment of humanity.”


—Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Ph.D., author of Mother Nature and Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding


“In this book, Professor McKenna distills his decades of anthropological work on normal human infant sleep into an accessible form. His clear explanations on the importance of nighttime closeness and ‘breastsleeping’ in human evolution and culture, paired with practical guidance, are sure to empower and support families.”


—Cecilia Tomori, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Durham University, Durham Infancy & Sleep Centre (DISC)






















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