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Department ofAnthropology

Jim McKenna

Jim McKenna

Dean’s Executive Professor

Professor McKenna pioneered the first behavioral and electro-physiological studies documenting differences between mothers and infants sleeping together and apart and has become known worldwide for his work in promoting studies of breastfeeding and mother-infant cosleeping (what he coined as breast sleeping)   in relation to the prevention of the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).  As a biological anthropologist, he created and directs the first Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory, Emeritus, an informational website at the University of Notre Dame continuing to provide millions of new parents information on safe infant sleep. He has published over 165 scientific articles and six books including a popular parenting book Sleeping With Your Baby: A Parents Guide To Co-sleeping ad a more recent book (out in 2020) entitled: Safe Infant Sleep: Expert answers to your cosleeping questions. He has co-edited Ancestral Landscapes In Human Evolution, Evolutionary Medicine, and a more recent co-edited volume Evolution and Health: New Perspectives (Oxford University Press. He won the prestigious Shannon Award from the National Institutes of Child Health and Development for his SIDS research and is one of the nation's foremost authorities and spokesperson to the national press on issues pertaining to infant and childhood sleep problems, sleep development, and breastfeeding. In 2008 he was inducted as a Fellow into the Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 2019 he was awarded the highest honor a faculty can achieve, the Presidential Award, for his excellence in teaching, service, and research from the University of Notre Dame where he taught for 22 years before coming to Santa Clara University. Presently he continues to teach and conduct research serving as the Dean’s Executive Professor. 

In the News

February 2, 2023

James McKenna talks about the science of healthy baby sleep: Sleep regressions aren't real. Night wakes are normal, and protect against SIDS. And 12 hours of sleep isn't a gold standard.

February 8, 2022

Jim McKenna explained proper baby sleeping in an article about the science of healthy baby sleep.

June 3, 2021

Jim McKenna speaks on how sleep training is detrimental for children as well as other related parenting techniques.