Study finds the perfect age from when parents should let their babies sleep on their own
New parents are always in a dilemma when it comes to their child's sleeping arrangements. As of now, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to sleep in the same room (but not in the same bed) as their babies for a year. If not a year, they advise parents to have their child sleep with them for the first six months. However, there are many who do not seem to agree with this as some infants also struggle to adjust to a new sleeping environment after an entire year. In a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers led by Dr. Ian Paul, professor of pediatrics and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine decided to see the effects that sleeping arrangements have on young children.
For their study, they chose 249 pairs of moms and their first-born infants, as reported by Time. Nurses visited the moms at home when the babies were one, four, six and nine months old. Moms were asked to answered details questions about their child's sleeping arrangements. This included where they slept, how often they woke up at night and their longest stretch of slumber. After observing, Paul found that at nine months, babies who had slept in their own rooms before they were four months old slept on average 40 minutes more than babies who were still sleeping in their parents’ room at nine months.
Meanwhile, babies, who went to their room after four months slept about 26 minutes more and the effects seemed to last. The AAP based its recommendation that newborn babies should sleep close to their parents by considering a number of different factors. This included feeding newborn during the night, the safety of the child, and others.
It is reported that the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), in which babies die for unknown reasons, often in their sleep, is highest for the infants under six months old. While allowing the baby to sleep in the room, parents are able to keep an eye on their child and react if they feel that there is some difference in the breathing pattern of their child. Paul believes that AAP guidelines are "overreached".
Paul believes that waiting too long to move an infant to his own room can increase anxiety about sleep and disrupt a toddler’s sleep even more. He also believes that keeping the baby in the parent's room can also give rise to soothing behavior. “Studies done on SIDS are done across the first year, and they found no difference between room sharing and independent sleeping once the babies got past 120 days or four months,” he said. “The sleep location doesn’t really matter beyond that point.”
However, there are still people who support the AAP guidelines. Dr. Rachel Moon and Dr. Fern Hauck from the department of pediatrics and family medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine state that while some more research is required in this topic, “the primary objective of safe sleep recommendations will always be to minimize the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths.”
Meanwhile, according to Paul, at six months, parents should talk to their pediatricians about sleeping arrangements. He thinks that the pediatrician should educate the parents on how one can make the sleeping arrangement a perfect fit or the child. “In this case, the AAP just went a little too far,” he said. “For a variety of reasons the recommendation doesn’t make sense when you consider all of the adverse consequences that occur when the baby doesn’t sleep well and the parent doesn’t sleep well. It’s not good for baby and not good for the family.”