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There is debate about the practice of bed sharing, which is defined as sharing a sleep surface with an infant. Most public health guidance in Canada, including the 2011 Joint Statement on Safe Sleep, advises parents against it because of an association with infant injury and death. However, proponents cite potential physical and psychological benefits, and evidence suggests that the risks associated with bed sharing are low in the absence of other risk factors. Until now, little has been known about the prevalence of and reasons for bed sharing in Canada.

Data and methods

Canadian Community Health Survey data from 2015 and 2016 were used to estimate the prevalence of and reasons for bed sharing by selected characteristics among women aged 15 to 55 who had given birth in the past five years. Multivariate analysis examined factors independently associated with frequent bed sharing.


An estimated 33% of women reported that their infant had frequently (every day or almost every day) shared a sleep surface with someone else; 27% had bed shared occasionally (once or twice a week, a few times a month or less than once a month) and 40% had never bed shared. Breastfeeding was the most common reason for bed sharing (39%), followed by facilitating the mother’s or infant’s sleep (29%). In multivariate analysis, age group, marital status, province or territory of residence, region of mother’s birth and breastfeeding were significantly associated with frequent bed sharing.


The data indicate that bed sharing is relatively common and suggest that parents are doing it for practical reasons. The results of this study will provide baseline data and inform policies and programs related to safe sleep practices.


cross-sectional study, health survey, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, socioeconomic status

DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.25318/82-003-x201900700002-eng


There continues to be debate about bed sharing—the practice of an infant sharing a sleep surface with an adult or other child. Some studies suggest there is an increased risk of infant death, while others find no increased risk in the absence of hazards such as soft surfaces, extra bedding or pillows, smoking, impairment or sleeping with a non-caregiver. Proponents of bed sharing point to potential physical and psychological benefits, such as facilitating breastfeeding and promoting bonding. Some guidelines aim to eliminate the risks by advising against any form of bed sharing. Others focus on harm reduction by educating parents so that they can make informed decisions to minimize the risks associated with bed sharing. [Full article]


Heather Gilmour (Heather.Gilmour@canada.ca) and Pamela L. Ramage-Morin (Pamela.Ramage-Morin@canada.ca) are with the Health Analysis Division, Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. Suzy L. Wong (Suzy.Wong@canada.ca) is with the Division of Children and Youth, Public Health Agency of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

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