When should babies sleep in their own rooms?

- Nicolas Belisle

One of the questions that parents often have is to decide when their baby should sleep in his or her own room. This is an important question because it has consequences on the children and the parents and the answer to this question is a hard one to answer for many reasons.

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) baby should share the room with their parents for a period of 6 months to a year. They also recommend that the baby sleeps on a different surface than their parents to avoid any accident. So the easy and fast answer could be 6 to12 months old.

However, because this concerns humans, the answer can vary depending on research and parental philosophies. Here are other aspects to take into consideration in this continuum of choice.

A study made at Penn State University used data taken from the "Intervention Nurses Start Infants Growing on Healthy Trajectories" (or INSIGHT). In the data of this document, they found out that 230 mothers didn’t sleep with their baby. They asked them to fill a survey when their baby reached the age of 4, 9, 12 and 30 months old.

In this questionnaire, the mothers were asked numerous questions about:

  • Sleep duration and awakenings (and how parents responded when it happened)
  • Bedtime routines
  • Night hunger and feedings
  • Sleeping behaviors

The researchers then separated the babies in 3 groups. The first group was the one where babies slept in their own room before the age of 4 months old. This group represented 62% of all babies. The second group was the one where babies slept in their own room between the age of 4 and 9 months old. This group represented 27% of all babies. Finally, the third group was composed of babies who were sleeping in the same room than their parents until at least 9 months old. This group represented 11% of the babies in this study.

When they compared the results of the questionnaire, they found out that all 4 months old baby slept the same amount of time but babies that slept in their own room snoozed a little longer (46 minutes to be precise) than those who shared their room with their parents.

Also, researchers noticed that the 4 month-old babies that slept in the room with their parents had those characteristics:

  • They woke up more often during the night to fee (1.1 VS 1.4 times)
  • They were twice as much likely to need to be feed to go back to sleep
  • They were less likely to have a sleep routine
  • They were less likely to be put to bed at 8 PM compared to babies that slept in their own room.

At 9 months old, babies who slept in their own room before they were 4 months old had those characteristics:

  • They slept 40 minutes longer than babies who were sharing their room with their parents
  • They also slept 26 minutes longer than babies who began sleeping on their own between 4 months old and 9 months old.

The rest of the parameters were the same for all three groups except for the fact that babies that shared a room with their parents were more likely to be put to bed after 8 PM.

At 30 months old, all babies who had transitioned to their own room before 4 months old were sleeping more than 45 minutes than those who were still sharing a room at the age of 9 months old.

The authors of this study finished by saying that “the findings raise questions about the well-intentioned AAP recommendation that room-sharing should ideally occur for all infants until their first birthday…”

Giving your baby his or her own room at 4 months or younger raises other questions like the temperature, the humidity and other aspects of the infants room to optimize his or her psychological and physical comfort.

On the other hand, the book The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff pushes a complete different point of view on the repercussions of this choice. The information provided in this book comes from the fact that the author came into contact with a tribe called the Yequana, who live isolated deep in the Amazon in their native way. The indigenous method of child raising among the Yequana is based on a continuum of care in which the children are never “abandoned”.

To know a bit more about the philosophy of the author of this book, here’s an interview:

With this contradicting information, what is the right answer? The answer is that it depends on your values and the way you want to live your parenting! 

 

 Nicolas Belisle