It’s every parent’s dream to recapture that pre-baby moment in time when sleep wasn’t just some abstract intangible…but a real, nightly possibility. One study may have the answer – but it isn’t all that it seems.
According to research conducted by Penn State College of Medicine, babies who sleep in separate rooms get more sleep – and have less fitful nights – than those who room-share with their parents.
Study co-author Ian M. Paul and colleagues looked at data from 230 mother-infant pairs between 2012 and 2014, and discovered that mothers who did not room with their 4 and 9-month-olds reported that their babies stayed in lalaland around 46 and 40 minutes longer, respectively, and also woke for fewer feeds.
Sounds blissful, right? Except that sleeping apart from mum is in direct contravention of safe sleep guidelines.
The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) – the NHS, too – strongly advise that, to help safeguard against the risk of SIDS, infants be in the same room as their parents for sleep (day and night) for the first six months–at least.
Commenting on the Penn State study, the AAP writes that the total number of hours the test subject infants slept (an average of seven) remained the same – whether in a separate room or not; it was only the nature of the sleep that was different – and less deep sleep (and more wakings) can actually serve a protective function: “The ability to arouse is critical physiologically, and a leading hypothesis is that failure to arouse makes an infant vulnerable to SIDS,” they write. “Longer sleep durations in young infants, which Paul et al present as being preferable, may be problematic from a physiologic perspective.”
In short, the choice to keep baby close for the first year (or more) is about risk management; your child might be fine in his own room, but there’s always that small chance. Is it worth the little extra shuteye?
As with most things, that’s down to parental prerogative.
The AAP writes, “We recognise that optimal parental rest is desirable. However, the primary objective of safe sleep recommendations will always be to minimise risk of SIDS.”