While debate on effects of bed sharing continues, now there are numbers that indicate what mothers prefer. For the first time, national population-based data on bed sharing in Canada is available,
Based on the 2015 and 2016 Canadian Community Health Survey, an estimated 497,000 women (33%) aged 15 to 55 who had given birth in the past five years reported that their infant child had frequently shared a bed. An estimated 27% had occasionally shared a bed and 40% had never shared it.
Infants of mothers aged 15 to 24 at the time of birth were more likely than those of mothers aged 25 to 29 (38% vs. 29%) to be frequent bed sharers. Mothers from households with lower annual incomes (less than $80,000) and renters were more likely than those from higher-income households and homeowners to report frequent bed sharing.
Frequent bed sharing was significantly higher than in the rest of the country in Manitoba (41%), British Columbia (45%), Yukon (67%), the Northwest Territories (51%) and Nunavut (67%). Percentages were significantly lower in New Brunswick (11%) and Quebec (23%).
Infants of immigrant mothers were more likely to bed share frequently than infants of Canadian-born mothers (47% vs. 26%). In particular, the practice was more prevalent among mothers born in Asia, compared with mothers born in North America (57% vs. 26%).
Mothers who breastfed or gave their infants breast milk were two to three times more likely than those who never did so to report that their infants frequently bed shared. Furthermore, exclusive breastfeeding for a longer period (six months or more) was associated with a higher likelihood of frequent infant bed sharing.
There were no significant differences in the prevalence of frequent bed sharing by household education, main source of household income or Indigenous identity. However, in the territories the practice was significantly more prevalent among Indigenous people than non-Indigenous people (67% vs. 49%).
Breastfeeding was the most commonly cited reason for infant bed sharing (39%), followed by facilitating sleep for the infant or mother (29%). Frequent bed sharers were more likely than occasional bed sharers to do so to breastfeed (46% vs. 31%) or because they believe that bed sharing is best for the child (13% vs. 2%). Occasional bed sharers were more likely to do so to sleep (35% vs. 24%) or because the child was sick (15% vs. 1%). Few reported not having or being able to afford a crib as the reason for bed sharing (1%).
According to Statistics Canada, 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.