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updated: 3/2/2012 2:25 PM

Rolling Meadows conference to focus on benefits of co-sleeping

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Is it safe for breast-feeding mothers to sleep with their babies?

Dr. James McKenna, a leading expert on breast-feeding, co-sleeping, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, will answer that and other questions about safe sleeping habits during the La Leche League of Illinois' Area Conference March 9 through 11 at the Holiday Inn in Rolling Meadows.

The issue of bedsharing has become controversial in the wake of a few recent unexpected baby deaths, including one involving a 3-month-old in Hoffman Estates.

According to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, cases of infants dying unexpectedly in their parents' beds due to accidental smothering or possible suffocation from bedding are becoming more common. The agency and child protection advocates are trying to educate parents to end that habit.

McKenna, director of the University of Notre Dame's Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory and author of "Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent's Guide to Co-Sleeping," has published studies on the benefits of co-sleeping.

"We want to make sure we educate the community with safe guidelines on co-sleeping," said Loretta McCallister, spokeswoman for La Leche League Illinois, which provides support for breast-feeding mothers.

McCallister said the "Breastfeeding: Roots to Wings" conference will address other topics relevant to breast-feeding moms, such as the importance of vitamin D.

Organizers are expecting roughly 200 people will attend, including league members and volunteers, health care professionals, lactation consultants from area hospitals, and people from other states.

On Friday, March 9, McKenna will speak on topics including, mother and infant co-sleeping and its cultural history, bedsharing versus crib sleeping, breast-feeding and bedsharing, and whether it is safe for babies to sleep alone.

On Saturday, March 10, McKenna will give the keynote address on "Stone Age Babies in a Space Age World? Nighttime Physiological Behavior and Physiological Adaptations in the Mother-Baby Dyad."

For information or to register, visit

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