What Research Says About When Babies Sleep in Their Own Room

baby sleeping in crib

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One of the most important things for any new parent is learning the best way to get their baby to sleep at night. I mean, let's face it—sleep is a precious commodity for babies and their parents alike, right? So tips for infant sleep are always a great idea. Except there's just one teeny, tiny little problem when it comes to babies and sleep. No one can quite seem to agree on the best way to get babies to sleep.

For one thing, there is no such thing as a "best" way to get babies to sleep, because all babies are different and will have different sleep needs. Some babies may sleep long stretches at night from birth, while others will have more complex medical needs and may not be able to sleep long stretches at night.

Another issue that has interfered with parents making decisions about baby sleep, however, is that they may be getting conflicting advice from experts about where babies should sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies should share a room, but not a bed with their parents. This meant having a crib or a playpen in a parent's room, but not co-sleeping. But a 2017 study in Pediatrics made headlines by questioning that advice.

Should Babies Sleep in Their Own Room?

In guidelines updated in 2016, the AAP recommended that infants share a room, but not a bed, as part of safe sleep practices to try to prevent SIDS and sleep-related deaths. In the "A-level" recommendation—the Academy's strongest evidence rating—the AAP said that room-sharing should continue at least until the baby is 6 months old, ideally until 12 months.

But some experts think it's actually not that simple. And the 2017 study suggests that it may actually be better for babies to have their own rooms starting at the age of 4 months old.

In that study, babies with separate rooms actually slept longer than babies who shared a room with their parents. At 4 months, the babies slept an average of 46 more minutes; at 9 months, 40 more minutes; and at 30 months, infants who slept in their own rooms earlier tended to sleep more too.

And although a few minutes here and there might not sound like that big of a deal, not getting enough sleep has been associated with many negative outcomes, such as poor physical, cognitive, and emotional development as well as relationships with parents. It's also been shown that sleep habits set as an infant tend to remain later in childhood, so it's important to start safe sleep practices early on.

Can Parent-Baby Room-Sharing Be Dangerous?

In addition to finding that room sharing might mean less sleep for both parents and babies, the study also found that room sharing might be associated with some dangers. They found that sharing a room was actually associated with unsafe sleep practices that were previously linked to sleep-related deaths in babies.

This may be because parents and caregivers are more likely to lapse into unsafe sleep practices, like putting the baby in their own bed or falling asleep with the baby during a feeding if the baby is in their room instead of his or her own room. For example, they found that babies who shared a room had 4 times the risk of bed-sharing than babies in their own rooms.

On the other hand, the AAP guidance factored in evidence that parents who go to another room to feed or put a baby to sleep are more likely to fall asleep with the baby in an unsafe place, such as a chair or sofa. Co-sleeping in a chair or sofa is even more unsafe than in a bed, the AAP says.

A Word From Verywell

Every baby is different, so every family will need to take their own needs into consideration before deciding what sleep environment will be best for their baby. Not all families, for example, have a choice about room-sharing because they may simply not have the space. You should talk to your doctor about what is the safest choice for you and your baby.

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  1. Paul IM, Hohman EE, Loken E, Savage JS, et al. (2017, June). Mother-Infant Room-Sharing and Sleep Outcomes in the INSIGHT Study. Pediatrics, e20170122; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2017-0122.

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics.SIDS and Other Sleep-Related infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping EnvironmentPediatrics.October 2016.