newborn home for the first time can be terrifying. They are
itty-bitty, delicate creations that may or may not remember how to breathe in
the middle of the night
But that arrangement can't—and for the sake of quality sleep for everyone—shouldn't last forever.
But when is it time to move babies into their own rooms?
In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that of the 3,700 infant deaths in the United States, 1,600 were caused by sudden infant death syndrome. Those are frightening statistics and, because of it, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents' share a room (but not a bed) with infants for the first 6 months to 1 year. This, the doctors believe, reduces the risk of SIDS.
Except here's the problem: The AAP guidelines keep changing, and there seems to be a gray area in the timeline for when it comes to serving that final eviction notice to those sweet, non-paying, renters. Or, at least, there had been a gray area.
He and his team analyzed data from 230 participating families where half of the moms were encouraged to consider moving the crib when their baby turned 3 months old, and the other half received intensive advice on reducing SIDS risk from nurses who visited the home and provided specific feedback on improving the safety of the sleep environment.
What they discovered was that more than half the infants were sleeping in their own room by 4 months old, and just over a quarter were sleeping independently between 4 and 9 months.
What's more, infants who slept in their own rooms after 4 months slept longer. For example, 9-month-old infants who shared a room slept an average of 9.75 hours per night, while those who began sleeping alone at 4 months slept 10.5 hours.
That's a big win for moms and dads and just about everyone.
"One of the reasons we wanted to explore this is that the evidence is really weak for 6 to 12 months," Paul said about the AAP's guidelines. "I think in [the Academy's] strong desire to prevent every single case of SIDS, they have looked at the data with a biased perspective."
Paul said that continuing to encourage parents to keep children in their room until 1 year old may be counterproductive, because that is the same age when separation anxiety peaks.
"There are so many other factors in child and parent health that are consequences of this decision. That's the worst time to make a change from a developmental perspective," he said.
And experts like Jodi Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, could not agree more.
"We want babies and parents to get a good night's sleep because we know that will affect infant safety, infant development and family well-being," she said. "It's a balance of trying to make sure babies are safe, everyone's getting enough sleep and everyone's developing appropriately."
In the end, it is up to parents to decide what is best for their kids, and everyone else can run their own child-rearing enterprises.