According to UQ School of Nursing and Midwifery honours student, Cassia Drever-Smith, there is almost no research, nationally or internationally, that investigates what guides co-sleeping education and practice as implemented by midwives in hospital maternity units.
Co-sleeping or “bed sharing” is the practice of a mother and her infant sharing the same sleeping surface.
Ms Drever-Smith said co-sleeping was common in developing nations and was at some point in time, practiced by the majority of western families.
“Most women to give birth in Australia will share a sleep surface with their baby at some point during the first 24 months of the child’s life and for some, this practice will begin in the hospital maternity unit setting,” she said.
“The current debate on co-sleeping appears to rest with the SIDS issue, into which co-sleeping practices have become inextricably linked.”
Ms Drever-Smith’s research focuses on the practices and beliefs of midwives surrounding co-sleeping in hospital maternity units and its subsequent impact on parental co-sleeping practices.
She said women were approaching motherhood with fewer examples of birth and parenting.
“A lack of guidance, combined with an increasing incidence of smaller families and later parturition, has lead to little exposure to pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and child rearing,” Ms Drever-Smith said.
“For many, the initial, and sometimes the only exposure they have to these skills is from the observation of midwives involved in their care,” she said.
According to Ms Drever-Smith, midwives receive little, if any education on co-sleeping, and may rely on their own experiences and cultural norms to educate mothers, or may not raise the topic at all.
“The majority of Australian maternity units don’t have publicly available clinical practice guidelines about co-sleeping to guide midwives,” she said.
“Early findings have indicated that in order to provide safe care and informed education, midwives need to have the means to access current, evidence-based research to assist with education.
“This would provide parents with the correct information to allow them to make informed decisions about infant sleeping practices.”
Media: Lya McTaggart (School of Nursing and Midwifery; 07 3365 5084; firstname.lastname@example.org)