James McKenna

Faculty Emeritus
Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, CSC, Professor of Anthropology


B.A., University of California at Berkeley, 1970
M.A., San Diego State University, 1972
Ph.D., University of Oregon, 1975

Research and Teaching Interests

Evolution of human behavior, evolutionary medicine, human parenting and infancy with special emphasis on infant sleep, breast feeding. mother infant co-sleeping, and risk factors for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).


A world-renowned expert on infant sleep – in particular the practice of bed sharing or “co-sleeping,” especially in relation to breastfeeding, McKenna is a widely quoted authority on this frequently debated parenting issue. As director of Notre Dame’s Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory, he is known for conducting the first ever physiological and behavioral studies of the differences between solitary and co-sleeping mother-infant pairs. McKenna is a strong proponent of co-sleeping and focuses his research specifically on the relationship between sleeping arrangements, feeding method and risk factors for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The author of “Sleeping With Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Co-sleeping," McKenna also has published more than 130 refereed articles in medical, anthropology and psychology journals and completed two monographs on SIDS and infant sleep.