The Midwives' Cauldron

An interview with Prof Helen Ball - SIDS, bed sharing and an anthropological look at motherhood and infancy

February 13, 2023 Katie James, Dr Rachel Reed and Prof Helen Ball Season 4 Episode 7
The Midwives' Cauldron
An interview with Prof Helen Ball - SIDS, bed sharing and an anthropological look at motherhood and infancy
Show Notes

In this episode we talk to Prof Helen Ball. Helen is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Durham Infancy & Sleep Centre. Helen studies infant sleep and the parent-infant sleep relationship from a biosocial perspective. Broadly defined, her research examines sleep ecology, of infants, young children and their parents. This encompasses attitudes and practices regarding infant sleep, behavioural and physiological monitoring of infants and their parents during sleep, infant sleep development, and the discordance between cultural sleep preferences and biological sleep needs.

Helen has conducted research in hospitals and the community, and contributes to national and international policy and practice guidelines on infant care. She pioneers the translation of academic research on infant sleep into evidence for use by parents and healthcare staff via Basis-- the Baby Sleep Information Source website. She serves as Associate Editor of the journal Sleep Health, and is on the Ediotial Board of the Journal of Human Lactation. She is Chair of the Lullaby Trust Scientific Committe, and an elected Board Member of the International Society for the Study and Prevention of Infant Deaths (ISPID).

In 2013 Helen received an award for Outstanding Impact in Society from the Economic and Social Research Council, and in 2018 Durham University was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for her research and outreach on parent-infant sleep.

In this episode we discuss:

·       Where on earth did the myths come from which tell us we will do harm to our baby if we pick them up too much - Rachel tells what horrendous thing she was told with her first baby

·       Helen takes us on an anthropological look at motherhood and infancy 

·       We find out were the ‘well-baby’ nurseries in hospitals came from 

·       We discuss the old, current and quite frankly shocking SIDS safety messaging around the globe – Using a meat cleaver in bed with a baby to shock you out of bed sharing! Yes, you need to hear about this!

·       And find out how Helen played an incredibly crucial role ensuring that the UK, and now many other countries, actually discuss safe bed sharing with parents instead of a blanket rule against it, in doing so saving many a breastfeeding relatio

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