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. Sleep is a precious commodity for babies and their parents alike. 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 and parents are different and will have different sleep needs.

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 and when a baby should sleep in their own room.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies should share a room until 6 months old, but not a bed with their parents. This meant having a crib, bassinet, or play yard in a parent's room, but not co-sleeping. But a 2017 study made headlines by questioning that advice and recommended that babies sleep in their own room after four months old. Learn more about what research says about where babies should sleep.

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.

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.

However, it's important to note that this study was just observational. It may be that the parents with babies who were naturally better sleepers transitioned those kids into their own bedroom sooner (and the parents with kids who were poor sleepers and woke frequently kept the child in their room longer).

It's also possible that the parents who moved babies into their own room sooner were ones who could tolerate the child crying longer. When babies room-share with parents, the parents may be less likely to let the baby cry.

Lastly, the parents in the study who chose room-sharing had other reasons to sleep poorly: They were poorer, had less help, and lived in more crowded (and likely noisier) home environments.

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 the parents' room instead of the baby's own room. For example, they found that babies who shared a room had four 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. The risk of falls is greater, and there is also a greater risk of the child being trapped and suffocated.

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.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Paul IM, Hohman EE, Loken E, et al. Mother-infant room-sharing and sleep outcomes in the INSIGHT Study. Pediatrics. 2017;140(1):e20170122. doi:10.1542/peds.2017-0122

  2. Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162938. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2938

By Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN
Chaunie Brusie is a registered nurse with experience in long-term, critical care, and obstetrical and pediatric nursing.