To determine whether postnatal mother–infant sleep proximity affects breastfeeding initiation and infant safety.
Randomised non‐blinded trial analysed by intention to treat.
Postnatal wards of the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVI), Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
64 newly delivered mother–infant dyads with a prenatal intention to breastfeed (vaginal deliveries, no intramuscular or intravenous opiate analgesics taken in the preceding 24 h).
Infants were randomly allocated to one of three sleep conditions: baby in mother's bed with cot‐side; baby in side‐car crib attached to mother's bed; and baby in stand‐alone cot adjacent to mother's bed.
Main outcome measures
Breastfeeding frequency and infant safety observed via night‐time video recordings.
During standardised 4‐h observation periods, bed and side‐car crib infants breastfed more frequently than stand‐alone cot infants (mean difference (95% confidence interval (CI)): bed v stand‐alone cot = 2.56 (0.72 to 4.41); side‐car crib v stand‐alone cot = 2.52 (0.87 to 4.17); bed v side‐car crib = 0.04 (−2.10 to 2.18)). No infant experienced adverse events; however, bed infants were more frequently considered to be in potentially adverse situations (mean difference (95% CI): bed v stand‐alone cot = 0.13 (0.03 to 0.23); side‐car crib v stand‐alone cot = 0.04 (−0.03 to 0.12); bed v side‐car crib = 0.09 (−0.03–0.21)). No differences were observed in duration of maternal or infant sleep, frequency or duration of assistance provided by staff, or maternal rating of postnatal satisfaction.
Suckling frequency in the early postpartum period is a well‐known predictor of successful breastfeeding initiation. Newborn babies sleeping in close proximity to their mothers (bedding‐in) facilitates frequent feeding in comparison with rooming‐in. None of the three sleep conditions was associated with adverse events, although infrequent, potential risks may have occurred in the bed group. Side‐car cribs are effective in enhancing breastfeeding initiation and preserving infant safety in the postnatal ward.