Abstinence-Only Bedsharing Campaigns: Why they’re an ineffective public health strategy

Candace St. John

You will learn:

  • Effectiveness of abstinence-only bedsharing education as a public health measure
  • Challenges when trying to abide to abstinence-only bedsharing guidelines
  • How a shift towards risk reduction bedsharing education might positively impact parents and their nighttime parenting practices
  • Advocating for your child’s sleep needs within the daycare setting


  • Blair, et al. (2014). Bed-Sharing in the Absence of Hazardous Circumstances: Is There a Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? An Analysis from Two Case-Control Studies Conducted in the UK: https://www.ncbi. nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4169572/
  • CDC Vital Signs (2018): https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/ index.html
  • Erck Lambert AB, Shapiro-Mendoza CK, Parks SE, Cottengim C, Faulkner M, Hauck FR; Characteristics of Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths on Shared and Nonshared Sleep Surfaces. Pediatrics March 2024; 153 (3): e2023061984. 10.1542/peds.2023-061984
  • Hornik R, Jacobsohn L, Orwin R, Piesse A, Kalton G. Effects of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign on youths. Am J Public Health. 2008 Dec;98(12):2229-36. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.125849. Epub 2008 Oct 15. PMID: 18923126; PMCID: PMC2636541.
  • Moon RY, Carlin RF, Hand I, THE TASK FORCE ON SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME and THE COMMITTEE ON FETUS AND NEWBORN; Evidence Base for 2022 Updated Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment to Reduce the Risk of Sleep-Related Infant Deaths. Pediatrics July 2022; 150 (1): e2022057991. 10.1542/peds.2022-057991
  • NICE Guidelines No. 194, UK (2021). Benefits & harms of bedsharing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK571557/
  • Parks SE, Erck Lambert AB, Hauck FR, Cottengim CR, Faulkner M, Shapiro-Mendoza CK. Explaining Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths, 2011-2017. Pediatrics. 2021 May;147(5):e2020035873. doi: 10.1542/peds.2020-035873. PMID: 33906930; PMCID: PMC8132195.
  • Santelli JS, Kantor LM, Grilo SA, Speizer IS, Lindberg LD, Heitel J, Schalet AT, Lyon ME, Mason-Jones AJ, McGovern T, Heck CJ, Rogers J, Ott MA. Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage: An Updated Review of U.S. Policies and Programs and Their Impact. J Adolesc Health. 2017 Sep;61(3):273-280. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.05.031. PMID: 28842065.
  • Stanger-Hall KF, Hall DW (2011) Abstinence-Only Education and Teen Pregnancy Rates: Why We Need Comprehensive Sex Education in the U.S. PLOS ONE 6(10): e24658. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0024658
  • Williams T, Sleap V, Pease A, Fleming P, Blair PS, Stoianova S, Ward J, Speed N, Kerslake A, Cohen M, Luyt K. Sudden and Unexpected Deaths in Infancy and Childhood: National Child Mortality Database Programme Thematic Report. National Child Mortality Database (NCMD) Programme. 2022 Dec. https://www.ncmd.info/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/SUDIC-Thematic-report_FINAL.pdf
  • Zimmerman D, Bartick M, Feldman-Winter L, Ball HL, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. ABM Clinical Protocol #37: Physiological Infant Care—Managing Nighttime Breastfeeding in Young Infants. Breastfeeding Medicine. Mar 2023.159-168.http://doi.org/10.1089/bfm.2023.29236.abm

Candace is a mom of one, public health professional (MPH), pediatric sleep specialist, & Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC, #34044). She worked as an Epidemiologist for 5.5 years in a rural hospital setting – with experience ranging from conducting community health program evaluation to standing up COVID-19 data systems & reporting. After becoming a mother, she created Public Health for Parents to provide parents & healthcare professionals with nuanced, evidence-informed information to help fill gaps in parenting guidance.


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