Parents have been told how healthy newborns should sleep in the same bed as their mother or father until “at least” three or four years old.

The doctor from South Africa’s research has been called “preposterous” and “nonsensical” by many concerned over cot death and smothering.

But Dr Nils Bergman, from the University of Cape Town, responded: “When babies are smothered and suffer cot deaths, it is not because the mother is present.

“It is because of other things: toxic fumes, cigarettes, alcohol, big pillows, and dangerous toys.”

The new study has analysed 16 different newborns.

It found when the babies slept alongside their mother in bed, their heart endured three times less stress than when he or she slept alone.

As babies slept in a cot, a more disrupted sleeping pattern was found to occur. Their brains were far less likely to properly transition through phases of sleep.

And, while left in cots, fewer than half of the research subjects endured any quiet sleep whatsoever.

That means that their sleep quality was far worse than those sleeping with their mothers.

According to Dr Bergman, children sleeping with their parents have far more benefits than simply to improve sleep.

Bergman explains that when a baby sleeps alone in a cot, it changes the part of the brain affected by stress hormones. This causes it more difficult for the brain to form relationships or close bonds in future life.

The benefits
The research adds: “Children receiving [skin-to-skin contact] showed attenuated stress response, improved RSA, organized sleep, and better cognitive control.

“RSA and maternal behavior were dynamically interrelated over time, leading to improved physiology, executive functions, and mother-child reciprocity at 10 years.”

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