According to the AAP, to reduce the risk of SIDS, parents should share a room with their baby for the first year. But, should you really share a room with your baby that long?
Sharing a room with your baby certainly has its advantages. Let’s review:
Advantages of Sharing a Room With Your Baby
As I mentioned, it is considered safest to share a room with your baby, because it reduces the risk of SIDS. It enables you to act quickly if something is happening to your baby such as labored breathing, too. When my first baby was just 3 months old, he caught RSV which can be particularly dangerous for young infants. I barely slept those few nights listening to him breathe and made sure I kept him sleeping on an incline.
It is clearly more convenient to share a room with your baby rather than trek down the hall or even upstairs or downstairs to feed them every 2-3 hours (depending on age), change their diaper, or just check on them, in general. If you have to walk down the hall or to a different floor of your home, you are far more likely to co-sleep or bed-share which is inherently riskier than room-sharing. The convenience of using a bedside bassinet is a wonderful thing and can help many new parents get far more sleep in those early days.
Although there are advantages to sharing a room with your baby, there are sometimes drawbacks:
Drawbacks to Sharing a Room With Your Baby
Sometimes having your baby in your room can almost be too convenient. Every noise or sniffle can make new, nervous parents jump at every sound. This can leave you feeling even more tired than necessary. My son was a very noisy sleeper. Even in another room with a monitor, I could hear every noise he made, even when he didn’t need anything from me. The main problem is every time I was awakened, I couldn’t simply go right back to sleep.
In addition to waking you often, sometimes babies make noises between sleep cycles, but actually don’t need any help. The problem is when you hear your baby making sounds, you might think he needs help and you can inadvertently create sleep associations, which are the primary reason a baby wakes excessively at night aside from hunger. If you had to walk down the hall, you may wait a few minutes to see if he or she settles back to sleep but when your baby is just a foot away, it’s easy to react too quickly.
Disruption of Your Baby’s Sleep
Just like your baby can accidentally wake you, when you’re sharing a room with the baby, you might accidentally wake your baby. Your spouse could snore, you can talk in your sleep, you can get up to go to the bathroom, etc. There are many ways you can disrupt your baby’s sleep. If you’re breastfeeding, even the scent of your breast milk may lead to more frequent night-waking.
How Long to Share a Room With Your Baby
For the utmost safety, you should share a room with your baby for the first year. Many of the families with which we work typically share a room for the first 4-6 months, at minimum, some until a year old. In the end, your unique factors as a family will dictate how long you should share a room with your particular baby. If your baby has health issues, you may be inclined to share a room longer than a perfectly healthy baby. If your baby is a noisy sleeper and very mobile, you may be inclined to move your baby to his or her own room sooner. If your baby’s room is right next to yours, you may not feel as anxious as a family whose baby’s room is on a different floor of the house. You know your situation best and should trust your own instincts when it comes to what’s right for you and your family. And, if you don’t know how long you’ll share, simply continue sharing until you find a reason to re-evaluate.