Although research in safe sleep, breastfeeding, skin-to-skin care, and general sleep guidelines is still in its infancy, there are several researchers responsible for the best information on these subjects.
Professor Helen L Ball is Head of Anthropology at Durham University in the UK. She has been researching infant sleep for the past 20 years, concentrating on the sleep ecology of infants, young children and their parents. She has conducted research in hospitals and the community, and contributes to national and international policy and practice guidelines on infant care.
Professor James J. McKenna is recognized as the world's leading authority on mother-infant co-sleeping in relationship to breastfeeding and SIDS. In recognition of his work in 2009 he was admitted as a Fellow into the select body of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's most prestigious scientific society. Professor McKenna has published over 139 refereed scientific articles in diverse medical and anthropological journals on co-sleeping, breastfeeding, evolutionary medicine and SIDS both here and abroad. He also regularly gives lectures on over 20 specialized topics relating to co-sleeping and breastfeeding especially to pediatric medical professionals and parents. Here in the United States he remains a primary spokesperson to the media on issues pertaining to infant-parental sleeping arrangements, nighttime breastfeeding and SIDS prevention.
Dr. Nils Bergman graduated at the University of Cape Town, and has worked in South Africa, Ciskei and Sweden before working seven years as Medical Superintendent and District Medical Officer at Manama Mission, Zimbabwe. Here he, together with Midwife Agneta Jurisoo, developed and implemented Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) for premature infants right from birth. This resulted in a five-fold improvement in survival of Very Low Birth Weight babies. He introduced KMC to South Africa in 1995, and after 5 years, KMC became official policy for care of prematures in the hospitals of the Western Cape province. He has given keynote addresses on KMC at International Conferences in six continents, and published articles on a variety of subjects in medical journals. He now researches and promotes KMC full-time.
Dr. Susan Ludington Hoe founded and heads the US Institutes for Kangaroo Care, whose mission is to promote the Family Friendly Hospital Initiative and utilization of Kangaroo Care for all newborns in the Americas by providing education, resources, links to additional resources, consultation, a comprehensive annotated bibliography of all publications about Kangaroo Care from around the world, and recognition of excellence in Kangaroo Care by certification. The USIKC is the only authorized certifying entity in the Americas.
The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) brings together research in all aspects of safe sleep, risk factors, etc. In 1994, the NICHD - in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration, the SIDS Alliance (now First Candle), and the Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Program - launched the Back to Sleep campaign to educate parents and caregivers about ways to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Linda J. Smith, Kathy Kendall-Tackett, and others continue to work at policy level as well as parental education level to increase the knowledge of safe sleep arrangements.
Controversy arose when the guidelines were released that condemned having the breastfeeding infant in the same sleep space as the breastfeeding mother. McKenna states, "A second factor that has a strong influence on safe infant sleep is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding significantly helps to protect infant from death including deaths from SIDS/SUID and from secondary disease and/or congenital conditions. Post-natally safe infant sleep begins especially with the presence of an informed, breastfeeding, committed mother, or an informed and committed father,” (Safe Co-sleeping Guidelines, downloaded 6/22/17 from http://cosleeping.nd.edu/). Research has found a backlash to this messaging, in which mothers (and other adults) are sleeping on the couch or in a recliner, which are not safe sleep environments.
(Image taken from "Sweet Sleep”, LLLI.org)
Access to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine protocols is free, and their Protocol #6 on Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding can be downloaded here http://www.bfmed.org/Media/Files/Protocols/Protocol_6.pdf
Kathy Parkes, MSN-Ed, BSPsy, RN, IBCLC, RLC, FILCA
Professional Development Educator, Step 2 Education International
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