Can you comment on this article, which reports on a study about how babies sleep better if they’re in their own room after four months?—Anonymous
One of the most contentious things I discuss in Cribsheet is bed- and room-sharing. I’ll put aside bed-sharing for now, which is among the true third rails. But room-sharing can feel nearly as fraught. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation has been for infants to be in the parents’ room for at least six months, ideally through a year. The reason is the claim that SIDS rates are lower for infants who are in their parents’ room.
The evidence for this recommendation is not strong. The studies it relies on are very sensitive to the assumptions made, and they rely on a research design that has problems. Of course, one could make the argument for an abundance of caution in these cases — if there is no downside to room-sharing, then why not do it even if the evidence is somewhat limited?
One clear reason to consider sleeping apart is to preserve parental sleep. Many parents sleep better if they are in their room alone. Current parenting, though, often seems to dismiss these types of arguments in favor of the sacrifice in all things for your baby attitude.
This is why I think the study underlying that NPR article is extremely relevant; you can see the full study here. What the authors do is compare child sleep quality for children sleeping in their parents’ rooms or not. They find that four-month-olds who sleep in another room have more consolidated sleep (though sleep for a similar time). At nine months, infants who slept alone slept longer, an effect that was most pronounced for those who were sleeping alone by four months. Perhaps most notably, children who slept away from their parents by nine months were sleeping longer even at the age of 2 and a half.
Is this necessarily causal? No. But it is suggestive, and as evidence it is more compelling than much of the evidence for the increased safety of room-sharing. Does this mean you shouldn’t share a room with your child? Of course not; for many families, that is desirable or a necessity. However, it does offer a counterpoint to the need for this type of room-sharing. Sleeping apart may mean sleeping better, for everyone.