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Evolution for Everyone: Mother-Infant Cosleeping: Evolutionary No Brainer or Prosecutable Offense?



Date and Time

Wednesday, April 4, 2012
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM


  • Loutit Lecture Halls


Wed Apr 4 – Mother-Infant Cosleeping: Evolutionary No Brainer or Prosecutable Offense? (James McKenna, Notre Dame) 4pm, LTT 102


Abstract: Sleeping with one’s baby throughout the night to breastfeed, protect and nurture is normative human behavior, biologically appropriate and inherently beneficial for the overwhelming number of human infants, especially given the human infant’s extreme neurological immaturity and helplessness at birth. Why then is it such a controversial practice in the United States and in other industrialized societies? Indeed, throughout our country safe infant sleep has become synonymous with absence of the mother, and prosecutors in some counties warn parents that if their baby dies while sleeping with them, they will be prosecuted for murder. If mother infant co-sleeping is normal and healthy for infants why do, in fact, the outcomes seem to vary between protection and benefits on one side of a continuum and infant deaths on the other side? This lecture begins with a biological perspective on infant sleep and feeding and moves to the recent cultural setting within which this controversy unfolds. Research is used to provide a discourse by which a reconciliation of these two conflicting realities becomes possible.


Bio: Dr. McKenna is Professor of Anthropology at Notre Dame and is recognized as the world’s leading authority on mother-infant co-sleeping, in relationship to breastfeeding and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 2008 he received the “Anthropology in the Media Award” in recognition of his distinguished work in educating the public to the importance of anthropological concepts. He has won numerous teaching awards, published more than 140 peer-reviewed papers, and co-edited two books. His first trade book for parents was published in 2008 entitled, “Sleeping With Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide To Co-sleeping.”


Robert O. Deaner, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Psychology

Grand Valley State University

2140 AuSable Hall

1 Campus Drive

Allendale, MI 49401-9403  USA

Office: (616) 331-2423

Dept: (616) 331-2195

Fax: (616) 331-2480



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