Tips for room sharing with your baby
Room sharing is popular for good reason: sharing a bedroom with your newborn is considered both safe and convenient. Alas, there are some downsides too. We’ll explore the pros and cons of room sharing with your baby, so you’ll be armed with all the information you need to decide whether it’s right for you.
IN THIS ARTICLE:
What is room sharing?
It’s pretty much all in the name! Room sharing is simply the practice of sharing a bedroom with your child. It’s especially popular in the first year of life; the practice reduces sleep-related infant deaths and can make it easier to care for young infants.
When and how to room share with baby
When: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends room sharing (but not bed-sharing) right from the start.
How: Becoming roommates is pretty straightforward. Place your baby’s sleep space (e.g., their bassinet, play yard, or crib) in the same room where you sleep at night. The AAP recommends placing your infant’s sleep space within arm’s reach of your own bed to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation.
Be sure to babyproof the space. For safety reasons, you’ll want to make sure that no cords or strings dangle into your baby’s sleep space. You’ll also want to ensure that anything hanging over the crib, such as a mobile, is securely attached to the railing, wall, or ceiling. Follow the same guidelines for keeping the sleep space safe: provide a flat sleep surface, place your baby on their back to sleep, and avoid putting soft blankets, pillows, and other objects in the baby’s bed.
3 Tips and tricks for room sharing
Snoring, shifting in the bed, and coughing. All those little nighttime sounds from parents can wake the baby, and vice versa. Try using white noise continuously throughout the night so that noises are less jarring and lead to fewer wake-ups for the whole family.
One caveat — hearing those small sounds from their baby may help parents respond more quickly to signs of distress. Speak with your doctor if you have questions about using a noise machine.
Pause before intervening
One minute you’re all sleeping, and the next minute you hear a cry. It’s quite common for infants to call out during brief nighttime wakings. While being close by can help parents quickly tend to their babies, many awakenings don’t actually need immediate parental intervention.
We encourage you to pause before jumping in, especially once your baby is no longer a newborn. How long should you pause? Try waiting a minute or two unless you feel your baby is in distress or needs to eat. Many babies will quickly fall back to sleep on their own if they’re not fully awakened by their mom or dad unnecessarily soothing them.
Get out of view
Frequent night waking may become a problem if you’re room sharing with an older baby or toddler. Consider moving the crib away from your bed and/or using a temporary room divider, so your baby doesn’t see you when they wake in the middle of the night.
How long should you room share with your baby?
This question doesn’t have an easy answer. Most pediatric experts currently recommend room sharing during the first 6 months of life. Researchers are split, however, when it comes to room sharing after 6 months of age.
The leading pediatric healthcare experts at the AAP recently updated their safe sleep guidance. They continue to recommend that parents room share with their baby for at least the first 6 months, preferably a year, because it is associated with lower rates of SIDS. Other western countries, such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the Netherlands, also recommend room sharing for at least the first 6 months.
A 2017 study noted, however, that recommendations to room share beyond 6 months weren’t evidence-based for the prevention of SIDS, “given that 90% of these tragedies occur before the age of 6 months.” The study found that room sharing at ages 4 and 9 months is associated with “less nighttime sleep, shorter sleep stretches, and unsafe sleep practices previously associated with sleep-related death.”
Benefits of room sharing with your baby
There are a lot of good reasons to share a bedroom with your baby:
Keeping your newborn nearby at night makes it easier to watch over them, and tend to their nighttime needs. Feeding, diaper changes, and snuggles are all more convenient when you share a room.
Room sharing is preventive against sleep-related infant deaths. The AAP “recommends room sharing because it can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.”
Breastfeeding, another protective factor against SIDS, is more easily facilitated and longer-lasting for room sharing families.
A 2019 study found that room sharing during the first 6 months of life appears to be related to positive behavioral outcomes in middle childhood.
Sleep training and room sharing
Yes, you can sleep train* while room sharing! However, families who decide to sleep train while sharing a bedroom may face additional challenges when it comes to reducing night wakings. Children may be able to hear, see, and even smell their parents in the same bedroom. This can turn a brief night waking into a full awakening when the child senses their caregiver and wants their help falling back to sleep.
Expect that progress may be slower if you sleep train while room sharing. Some room sharing parents will temporarily “camp out” in another room during sleep training, which can make it easier to improve night sleep.
*Before deciding if sleep training is a good fit for your family, you’ll want to consider whether your child is old enough to sleep train and which method is right for you. At Huckleberry, we’ve found that many babies aren’t able to consistently fall asleep on their own until 5 - 6 months of age.
Room sharing FAQ
Q: Why is it recommended to room share with a baby?
The AAP recommends room sharing until at least 6 months of age to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related deaths. Room sharing can also make nighttime feedings and diaper changes more convenient.
Q: How do you sleep while room sharing with a baby?
A new baby will mean waking up at night, whether you room share or not. While sleeping in the same room can lead to less overall sleep, maintaining good sleep hygiene can help parents maximize their time for rest.
Q: Should you allow infants to sleep in the same room with siblings?
For safety reasons, we recommend waiting until a baby is at least 12 months old to room share with an older sibling. For example, a well-meaning older child may add blankets, toys, or other objects to the sleep space of their infant sibling, posing a safety risk.
Q: How do you divide a bedroom in order to room share with a baby?
We don’t recommend dividing a room when sharing with a baby 6 months of age or younger. Families with older children may consider using a room divider for privacy and to help reduce visual distractions that may contribute to sleep issues. Note that moveable room dividers may pose a safety risk for children who sleep in a bed since they are unlikely to be anchored to a wall. Some families use curtains to divide a room. Any cords or strings need to be kept out of reach of infants and young children.
Q: What’s the difference between co-sleeping, bed-sharing, and room sharing?
“Co-sleeping” typically means sleeping in the same bed together. However, in some instances, co-sleeping can refer to either sharing a bed or sharing a bedroom. So it can be important to clarify which of these is meant when speaking with others on the topic to avoid confusion. Room sharing refers to individuals sleeping in the same bedroom, whether in separate beds or not. Bed-sharing means sleeping in the same bed, or sleep space, together. The AAP recommends room sharing with infants, but not bed-sharing.
Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.