Many parents choose to have their newborn sleep in the same room as they do, so a common question is what is the right age to move baby into his or her own room? The answer may depend on who you ask.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) recommends that babies share their parents’ room – but not their bed- for at least 6 months and preferably, until their first birthday. The guidelines are meant to lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, which may occur while an infant is sleeping.
But if you are ready for your little one to sleep for longer periods of time, then a new study suggests moving your baby into his or her own room by 4 months of age.
For the study, Dr. Ian Paul, the chief of academic general pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine. analyzed surveys from 230 first-time mothers. He found that babies slept for longer stretches if they didn't sleep in the same bedroom as their parents.
At 4 months, babies who slept alone had the longest stretches of uninterrupted sleep -- by about 45 minutes, on average -- though they slept about the same amount of time as babies who slept in their parents' rooms.
At 9 months, babies in their own rooms slept 40 minutes longer at night and over 20 minutes longer overall, compared with those who were still sharing a room with their parents. Those differences disappeared at 12 months but reappeared later. When the researchers followed up at 2½ years, toddlers who began sleeping alone by 9 months slept 45 minutes longer per night, though total sleep time was roughly the same.
As most parents can attest to, when a baby doesn’t sleep well it has an impact on the parents’ stress level and mental health. Paul notes that he believes the AAP recommendation is excessive and that most parents are ready for a room to themselves before 6 months to a year. "Most parents don't want their baby sleeping in their room until 1 year," Paul said. "I've got three of them myself."
Some experts also agree that moving an infant out of the parents' bedroom sooner could help babies sleep better before they develop separation anxiety, said Paul.
The difference in recommendations has led to tension between the two groups.
"This is important information," said Dr. Rachel Moon, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia who co-authored the AAPs’ latest recommendation. "We don't have enough info about downstream effects about what we've recommended."
Moon, a SIDS researcher, cautioned in response to Paul's study that just because sleep is uninterrupted doesn't mean it's better.
"We think that a lot of the problems with SIDS is that babies don't arouse," she said, adding that if babies sleep too deeply or for too long, some experts believe this could put them at risk.
Room sharing has been estimated to lower the risk of SIDS by as much as to 50%, according to the report Moon co-authored.
The researchers also found other differences between babies that slept in their own room and those that shared a room with their parents: Infants who slept in a room alone were also more likely to have a consistent bedtime routine, and they were more likely to go to bed by 8 p.m. Babies that shared a room were more likely to have something in their bed that shouldn’t be there, such as a blanket, pillow or stuffed animal, and were more likely to be brought into their parents’ bed sometime in the night. Both of which have been linked to sudden infant death, including by suffocation.
Instead of changing the guidelines, Moon said, doctors can use the new study to give better guidance to room-sharing parents who may be more likely to bring their baby into bed overnight, putting them at risk.
"If we know that this is happening, then we can do a better job of providing proactive guidance for families," she said.
If you’re still confused about when to move your little one into his or her room, talk with your pediatrician, for guidance, about any concerns or questions you have.
Story sources: Michael Nedelman, CNN http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/05/health/babies-room-sharing-study/index.html