The sooner babies get their own rooms, the longer they’ll sleep on average, according to a new study that breaks with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Analysing surveys from 230 first-time mothers at Penn State, Dr. Ian Paul, a pediatrician, found that babies slept for longer stretches if they didn’t sleep in the same bedroom as their parents.
At 4 months, babies who slept alone had the longest stretches of uninterrupted sleep of about 45 minutes, on average though they slept about the same amount of time as babies who slept in their parents’ rooms.
At 9 months, babies in their own rooms slept 40 minutes longer at night and over 20 minutes longer overall, compared with those who were still sharing a room with their parents.
Those differences disappeared at 12 months but reappeared later.
When the researchers followed up at 2½ years, toddlers who began sleeping alone by 9 months slept 45 minutes longer per night, though total sleep time was roughly the same.
The findings counter the latest guidance from the pediatrics group, which recommends that parents share a room but not a bed with their infants for at least six months and preferably until they reach their first birthday.
The guidelines are meant to lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, which may occur while an infant is sleeping.
But while there’s evidence to recommend room-sharing with infants for 3 to 6 months, data simply don’t support continuing the practice beyond that age, Paul said.
Research has shown that nine out of 10 of SIDS deaths happen before the age of 6 months, with the majority happening between 1 and 4 months.
Research has shown that babies who sleep poorly can have a big impact on parents’ stress and mental health.
Poor infant sleep has also been linked to problems down the line, such as behavioural issues and childhood obesity.