Infants should sleep in own room, not with parents
- Author: Joanne Flowers Jun 07, 2017,
Jun 07, 2017, 3:44
"Perhaps our most troubling finding was that room-sharing was associated with overnight transitions to bed-sharing, which is strongly discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics", Paul said. Also, those who slept on their own at 9 months slept 45 minutes more a night at the age of 30 months compared to other babies, the study found. Those differences disappeared at 12 months but reappeared later. At nine months, the gap widened: those who learned to sleep independently by 4 months had sleep stretches that averaged 1 hour and 40 minutes longer than babies who were still sleeping in their parent's room, 542 minutes vs. 442 minutes respectively.
Dr. Paul said that while there's evidence recommending parents to share their rooms with their newborns for 3 to 6 months, their study simply does not support continuing the practice beyond that age.
AAP guidelines suggest allowing infants to sleep in their parents' room (but not their bed) for at least six months and "ideally for a year" in order to reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) - a condition which the CDC says was responsible for 1,600 infant deaths in 2015. "Many pediatricians and sleep experts question the room-sharing recommendation until one year because infants begin to experience separation anxiety in the second half of the first year, making it problematic to change sleep locations at that stage".
Now, a recent study led by Ian Paul made a decision to analyze the best sleeping conditions for babies aged four months to nine months old. Poor infant sleep has also been linked to problems down the line, such as behavioral issues and childhood obesity.
"Our research suggests that parents respond to these brief awakenings, which interrupts both parent and child sleep when they are room-sharing, but not as much when the baby is sleeping in a separate room", Paul said by email. In fact, he said he was "baffled" when the Academy issued its recommendation previous year.
They are twice as likely to be "fed back to sleep", which can get young children into the habit of needing attention, a bottle or breastfeeding before they can fall asleep again.
On the whole, infants who slept in their own rooms after four months of age remained asleep for longer periods of time, according to NPR. They also 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 customs have been linked to sudden infant death, including by suffocation.
The study appears online June 5 in the journal Pediatrics. "We don't have enough info about downstream effects about what we've recommended". Over 3,700 babies die from unexpected and sudden causes each year in the U.S. Risks for SIDS include loose bedding, sleeping in the same bed as parents, sleeping face-down and living at home with a smoker.
Dr. Moon warned in response to Paul's study that just because sleep is uninterrupted it does not mean it's better. Moon noted that the Penn State study was also not terribly diverse regarding socioeconomic or racial diversity, which raised questions for her regarding the findings speaking for the general population. Basically, families in this study were overwhelmingly white and wealthier than the average American.
And because the current study was a survey, parents' perception of sleep might also be different from the number of hours actually slept, Moon said.
"But that's the point", he said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendations - which Paul says run counter to the advice of many pediatricians and sleep specialists - may leave some parents unsure of when to cut the proverbial cord to their bedroom.
At the end of the day, there's still so much to learn about what's good for babies, and there are both pros and cons for room sharing.
"If we know that this is happening, then we can do a better job of providing proactive guidance for families", she said.