It’s an age-old question, should your newborn sleep in his or her own bed in the parents’ bedroom for a while or start their sleeping habits in their own room?
A new study suggests infants benefit from sleeping in their own room, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says the dangers may offset the benefit.
Recent research from a hospital in Philadelphia says babies go to sleep earlier, take less time to fall asleep, get more total sleep over the course of 24 hours, and spend more time asleep at night when they don’t share a bedroom with their parents. Parents also report that they get more rest as well.
“There are a number of possible reasons that babies sleep better in their own room,” said lead study author Jodi Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“One main reason is that they are more likely to self-soothe to sleep,” Mindell said by email.
During the study, researchers found that parents who put babies to sleep in a separate room were less likely to feed infants to help them fall asleep at bedtime or when they awoke during the night.
When babies had their own rooms, parents also perceived bedtime to be less difficult.
The study focused on infants 6 to 12 months old. Researchers examined data from a questionnaire completed by parents of 6,236 infants in the U.S. and 3,798 babies in an international sample from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand. All participants were users of a publicly available smartphone app for baby sleep. The researchers noted that because of the use of the smartphone app, results might not be the same for a larger population of households.
The AAP recommends that newborns sleep in their own bed in their parents’ bedroom till the infant is at least 6 months of age to minimize the risk of sleep-related death. Ideally, babies should stay in their parents’ rooms at night for a full year, AAP advised
The reason for the AAP recommendation is because babies sleeping in the same room as parents, but not the same bed, may have a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The safest spot for infant sleep is on a firm surface such as a crib or bassinet without any soft bedding, bumpers or pillows, the guidelines stressed.
“Pediatric providers have been struggling with what to tell parents since the release of the AAP recommendations,” Mindell said. “Once a baby is past the risk of SIDS, by 6 months of age, parents need to decide what works best for them and their family, which enables everyone in the family to get the sleep they need.”
SIDS deaths occur most often from birth to six months but can also happen in older babies that were the focus on the study, said Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a coauthor of the AAP guidelines and pediatrics researcher at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, New Jersey.
“If the only goal is to increase sleep, then the results may be compelling,” Feldman-Winter said in an email to Reuters Health. “However, since we don’t know the causes of SIDS and evidence supports room sharing as a method to decrease SIDS, giving up some sleep may be worth it.”
The study was published online in the journal Sleep Medicine.