First Candle’s position on new protocol from Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine


The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) has recently issued a 2019 revised protocol around the benefits and risks of bedsharing for breastfeeding mothers and their infants.

First Candle realizes this may raise questions for some families, so we would like to put it in context with our approaches to infant safe sleep, which adhere to the safe sleep guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The protocol — which the ABM notes is a guideline only — is the result of an examination into existing research regarding bedsharing and breastfeeding.

Although it suggests that safe bedsharing may be possible, it notes there are nonetheless risk factors that could render bedsharing hazardous for the infant, such as sofa or chair sharing, sleeping in a prone (face down) position, soft bedding, or co-sleeping with an adult impaired by alcohol or drugs. We support breastfeeding, which is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS, and although we do not agree that bedsharing, even if it may promote breastfeeding, is worth the risk of SIDS providing the cited hazards are not present, we do agree with the ABM on open and honest dialogue between parents and providers.

Our Straight Talk for Infant Safe Sleep workshops focus on educating the health care and infant care provider community in partnering with parents to discuss family practices, beliefs, customs and experiences that may influence their decisions around infant safe sleep. This includes bedsharing and breastfeeding. We continue to advocate the AAP guidelines, which recommends breastfeeding and also that infants room share with parents but not bed share, instead sleeping on their backs on a separate surface designed for infants.

The ABM protocol does not change what the AAP or we advocate for infant safe sleep, but we support their interest in continuing to look at the complex issues worldwide around maternal and infant health.

First Candle is a 501 (c)(3) committed to ending Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and other sleep-related infant deaths while providing bereavement support services for families who have lost a baby. Your donation will help support our bereavement program.