Aims: To investigate the characteristics of parent–infant bed-sharing prevalence in England.
Methods: Data on night-time sleeping practices from a two year, local, longitudinal study and a three-year, national, cross-sectional study were obtained. A total of 261 infants in North Tees were followed up at 1 and 3 months of age, as were 1095 infants aged 1 week to 1 year from five English health regions.
Results: Data from both studies found that almost half of all neonates bed-shared at some time with their parents (local = 47%, 95% CI 41 to 54; national = 46%, 95% CI 34 to 58), and on any one night in the first month over a quarter of parents slept with their baby (local = 27%, 95% CI 22 to 33; national = 30%, 95% CI 20 to 42). Bed-sharing was not related to younger mothers, single mothers, or larger families, and was not more common in the colder months, at weekends, or among the more socially deprived families; in fact bed-sharing was more common among the least deprived in the first months of life. Breast feeding was strongly associated with bed-sharing, both at birth and at 3 months. Bed-sharing prevalence was uniform with infant age from 3 to 12 months; on any one night over a fifth of parents (national = 21%, 95% CI 18 to 24) slept with their infants.
Conclusion: Bed-sharing is a relatively common practice in England, not specific to class, but strongly related to breast feeding.