Parents, doctors, and pediatric experts have debated forever on the merits of various sleep strategies for their infants. Let them cry it out at a certain age? Always soothe them? Provide a plushy blanket or simply soft baby crib sheets?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) solidly insists that babies up until age one sleep in the same room as their parents to facilitate easy nighttime feeding and observation of the child. Remember, the newborn period is the most high-risk period for tragedies like SIDs and suffocation, so AAP recommends newborns always being in easy reach while they sleep to keep a better eye on the state of the baby.
A new study published in Pediatrics and conducted out of Penn state by professors Ian Paul and Emily Hohman followed 249 mothers and their newborn babies to test if room sharing with a child as old as one year is beneficial for parents and baby.
The findings? Nine-month-old babies who slept in their own room slept an average of 40 minutes longer per night than those who still shared a bedroom with their parents. The results were consistent when they checked in with the babies at 30 months; those who slept in their own room by nine months slept more than 45 minutes on average than their room-sharing peers.
Even more concerning? Room-sharing babies were four times more likely to end up sharing a bed with their parents than those who eventually moved into their own room before turning a year old. There's a reason AAP recommends only a firm mattress and fitted baby crib sheet for young infants. Pediatricians have often discouraged this practice, called co-sleeping, because of the potential risk of bodily harm to the infant and the less quality sleep that parents and children who co-sleep get on average.
Kids in the first through fifth grades tend to get 9.5 hours of sleep on average, lower than the recommended 10-11 hours. Often, anxiety over sleeping arrangements can chop a bit of time off a young child's night of sleep. It's theorized that nighttime anxiety can stem from underdeveloped self-soothing habits as infants and toddlers. The babies who co-sleep or room share longer have a higher risk of underdeveloped self-soothing.
So break out the pastel paint and matching baby sheets -- it may be beneficial for you and baby to have your own room once they reach four months!