The UNICEF UK baby-friendly initiative encourages maternity units to adopt policies which support motherinfant bed-sharing under appropriate circumstances and in line with the available evidence (letters, page 22, 29 March).
Most parents will share a bed with their baby at some point after discharge from hospital, often despite efforts to discourage bed-sharing.
This is perhaps due to the fact that it is associated with longer and more restful infant and maternal sleep and with successful breastfeeding.
Babies who share a bed with their mother feed more frequently and are more likely to be breastfeeding at three months of age.
Hospital policies should therefore allow mothers and healthy babies to derive the benefits of bed-sharing in a safe environment.
Staff will then be in a position also to alert parents to the known contra-indications to bed-sharing and other risk factors for sudden infant death.
Such policies will support efforts to ensure that bedsharing in the home is carried out safely and appropriately, thereby encouraging successful breastfeeding, while reinforcing the recommendations against co-sleeping for parents and babies who fall into the risk categories.
Andrew Radford Programme director Baby-Friendly Initiative UNICEF UK London WC2