Room Sharing for the First Year: Is it Right for You?
The current American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends to “room share for the first 6-months, or ideally, the first year.” Not the most straight forward instruction, right? I want to give you clarity. I cannot tell you how strongly I feel about finding a sleep solution that feels right for you , even if it wasn’t what you’d planned, hoped or expected. With this article, I am going to try and give you all the facts about room sharing for the first year. Ultimately, you need to make whatever decision is right for your family. Read on to find out my take on:
- What’s best for the baby?
- What’s best for the family?
- Safe sleep guidelines
- How can you get more sleep?
Room Sharing for the First Year: The AAP Recommendation
Like any topic involving babies and sleep, there are many opinions about room sharing. When I say room sharing, I mean room sharing with a parent, not sleeping in the same room as a sibling or sharing a bed with a parent.
The recommendation from the AAP is room sharing for the first year, or at least six months. This is because they want to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS — and of course we want to follow any precaution that prevents that! However, some babies don’t sleep as well while room sharing after six months.
Why Do Babies Older Than Six Months Have Trouble Room Sharing?
Some babies over six months don’t sleep as well while room sharing. Why?
No one, especially babies, sleeps solidly and straight through the night. Whether we remember it or not, we all wake-up in the night and check with our surroundings before going back to sleep.
Babies do the same thing, except as they grow, they become more aware of what is around them during these wake-ups. If they wake-up and see or hear mom or dad, or can feel that you’re close, it may turn into a full-on night waking. Then they’ll need to be coaxed back to sleep from that close-by parent. These little wake-ups can happen as often as every 45 minutes! Waking up that often is exhausting for everyone in the family
Tired? Tired of Night Wakings?
Check out our eCourse: Gentle Sleep Solutions
So, What About SIDS?
You may be reading this even more confused — asking yourself if you should help yourself and baby get more sleep, or risk something happening to your baby. That is an impossible choice and something no parent should ever have to deal with.
Rest assured, a study from 2017 in Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics can put a lot of these worries at rest. The study says that there is not any substantial evidence that room sharing prevents SIDS for older babies. Beyond that, the study shows that room sharing beyond 4-9 months results in less nighttime sleep and more night wakings. The study states “inadequate sleep affects nearly every health domain, including emotional regulation, mood, and behavior in infancy and childhood.”
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Infant Safe Sleep
This study also helps paint a bigger picture of infant sleep safety issues. The lead author, Dr. Ian Paul, points out that SIDS isn’t the only infant sleep safety issue. There are many risks that can result from sleep deprivation such as: lack of baby and parent bonding, marital struggles, postpartum depression and more. Our sleep deprived brains can be dangerous! In addition, here are some additional precautions to take, whether room sharing for the first year, or not, to avoid SIDS:
- Have baby sleep on a firm, flat surface with a tight fitting sheet.
- Avoid using soft bedding like crib bumpers, pillows, blankets and soft toys. The crib should be bare.
- Avoid baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs
Wondering about postpartum depression and anxiety?
Read: Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression? Learn the Difference
Room Sharing Can Result in Unplanned Cosleeping
It’s also important to mention that the study shows that room-sharing increases the probability of co-sleeping (or bedsharing). While we will help you through any sleeping option you choose, unplanned co-sleeping due to room-sharing can lead to unsafe sleep environments, which increases the risk of SIDS and suffocation.
Want to know more about cosleeping?
Read: Co-Sleeping and Room Sharing – Tips for Sleeping Safely
Making a Decision About Room Sharing for the First Year
The AAP recommendation is a little unclear as stated plainly, but hopefully with the facts and studies above you’ll be able to make the best choice for your family.
Please keep in mind that I definitely promote room sharing in the first few months of infancy.
Once your baby reaches about six months-old, and if you genuinely want to stop room-sharing with your baby, take in all the information and weigh the risks and benefits. You know how everyone talks about “parents intuition”? Now is the time to follow it. Do whatever is best for you, your baby, and your family.
Want to know more about room sharing for the first year?
Read: Chapter 12 of The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight
What Can Our Family Do to get More Sleep?
Regardless of whether you decide to move your baby to their own room or continue room sharing, there is no reason to stay sleep deprived past 6 months. I can help you!
The Sleep Lady Blog is filled with hundreds of articles to help. I have a new-and-improved eCourse, Gentle Sleep Solutions to help you and your child sleep without crying it out.
I’m the most experienced sleep coach out there with over 25 years of experience. There is nothing I haven’t seen when it comes to baby and child sleep. So, whatever you choose in room-sharing, know that I have the tools and resources to support you, and think that you’re doing a fantastic job.