The sweet sound of silence. It's a glorious thing that many people take for granted - until they become parents. Then, it turns into a difficult thing to find, especially when you're room sharing with your little one.
How long should a baby sleep in your room? For parents who are wondering when they can move their adorable little roommate to their nursery, expect to share your space for about six months. While they're there, discover some tips for both you and your baby to get better sleep.
How Long Baby Should Sleep in Your Room, According to the AAP
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an infant should sleep in the same room as their parents for at least the first six months of their life. However, they note that a full year is even better. This should be in a crib, bassinet, or co-sleeper, but never in the same bed as mom and dad. While room sharing makes night feedings a lot easier, it's also one of the main reasons parents lose an average of 109 minutes of sleep a night throughout their baby's first year of life. This may leave parents wondering why this guideline is so important.
Room Sharing Keeps Your Baby Safe
Every year, an average of 3,500 American children under the age of one die suddenly and unexpectedly in their sleep or in their sleep area. Experts have determined that most of these deaths are caused by a condition called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Recent research shows that the children impacted by this devastating health condition have extremely low levels of a protein called butyrylcholinesterase (BChE). This protein controls a baby's ability to arouse themselves from sleep, and without it, they are more likely to die from SIDS. Unfortunately, unless you have a documented family history of this deficiency, most hospitals will not administer tests for this condition.
Therefore, health professionals recommend safe sleep guidelines to serve as a second line of defense. These include sleeping on a firm, flat surface with no additional bedding, laying your child on their back to sleep, and having them sleep in your room for at least the first six months of life.
How does room sharing help? The theory is threefold:
- First, it promotes breastfeeding, which can also prevent SIDS.
- Second, we all make sounds in our sleep, and these small disruptions can help to stir a sleeping baby. While this may seem like a bad thing, it forces an arousal from periods of deep sleep. This ensures that the infants who have trouble with this task can stay safe.
- Finally, room sharing makes certain that you are there to watch over them. Even if your baby stays asleep, their little noises will wake you (and your significant other), allowing for regular monitoring throughout the night.
Do Babies Sleep Better in Their Own Room?
This is the question that sleep deprived parents might be asking themselves. The answer is typically yes. In fact, studies show that by moving your child to their own room sooner, they will not only sleep for longer stretches, but they will also be better sleepers in the long run. The same research also found that by keeping your baby in your room and consistently dealing with periods of interrupted sleep, however, parents are four times more likely to engage in unsafe sleep practices like bed sharing. This leads many parents to transition their infants to the nursery prior to the AAP's recommended guideline.
Although this decision works out for many parents, statistics show SIDS peaks between two and four months of age and the risk does not decline until at least their half birthday. It is only after your baby's first birthday that this risk almost completely disappears. What this means is that it is up to you to decide what is best for your family. If you cannot function, then you cannot properly care for your baby. However, if your child has a BChE deficiency, monitoring them is imperative. Since there is no way of knowing if your child has this condition, room sharing is the safest option the first six months of baby's life.
How to Get Better Sleep When Room Sharing
Every good parent wants to do what is best for their baby, but your mental and physical health matters too. For the moms and dads who can't seem to get a moment's rest, try these simple techniques for getting a better sleep while room sharing with your baby.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
Newborns will not have a set schedule, but within a few weeks, they will slowly get into a routine. Over time, sleep windows will increase and a schedule will become possible.
Creating a regular nighttime pattern can help make this transition easier:
- Give them a warm bath and an infant massage.
- Engage in tummy time before bed each night.
- Finally, offer them one more feeding session right before you put them down.
For babies with reflux, allot a little extra time to let their food settle while sitting in an upright position. This routine can help to tucker your baby out and let them quickly drift off into dreamland.
Also, start a routine for yourself. Avoid caffeine late in the day, turn off blue-light devices an hour before bedtime, and go to bed at the same time every night.
Put Your Baby Down When They're Drowsy
If your baby always needs you to fall back asleep, then you're going to be losing a lot of Zs. To prevent this dependency, practice putting them down when they are drowsy. This better ensures that if they wake up, and are not hungry or wet, that they can fall back asleep without your help. When you do this, place your hands gently on their chest to help them settle down and then walk away. They may cry briefly, but if they are tired, fed, and dry, they will fall asleep.
Invest in an Air Filter
Not only can improved air quality give you a better sleep, but the noise that a typical air filter makes can help drown out the louder noises that you will make while you are getting ready for bed. Since your baby will probably go down before you do, this can make a big difference for the parents who desperately want to get some shut-eye without bothering the baby. However, it's recommended that you shut off this device once you are situated to ensure that you can hear them and they can hear you throughout the night.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Overnight feedings shouldn't be a solo mission. If you're breastfeeding, take some time to pump during the day so that your partner can take on a dream feeding at night. A dream feeding is when a parent feeds their baby while they are sleeping or extremely drowsy. By doing this, you ensure your baby goes back to sleep immediately, instead of needing a repeat of your evening routine. Thus, set a time to wake up every night to feed the baby before they wake themselves.
Similarly, for formula-fed babies, prep multiple bottles before you go to bed each night so that you can start your baby's dream feed immediately. The less time and energy you waste, the more sleep you will get!
Double Up on Pacifiers
If your baby needs a binky to get to sleep, then make sure they have a surplus in the crib. This allows them to better find their pacifier when it pops out in the night.
Wake Up Your Baby
While age-old advice tells us to never wake a sleeping baby, if they nap too late in the day, then they will probably not go down at night. Between two and four months, your baby will need to stay awake for approximately two hours before bedtime. As they get older and more active, this window will expand. Pay attention to the clock and don't be afraid to get your little one up prior to when they want to greet the remainder of the day.
Safe Sleep Is What Matters Most
A baby should not sleep in their own room from birth. It's important for parents to monitor them throughout the night, making room sharing the best choice. However, if you feel like your sanity is slipping through your fingertips, consider talking to your child's pediatrician to rule out other issues that cause sleep disruptions. Colic, acid reflux, ear infections, and teething are all common issues that all interfere with normal sleep habits. Finally, remember that this whole sleeping thing is brand new to your baby. It will take a little time for them to adjust, but it will happen before you know it!