Mothers completed questionnaires when their babies were 4 and 9 months old and assessed sleep duration, location, night walking, night feedings, bedtime routines and sleep behaviors.
The new research also finds that room-sharing is somewhat of a gateway to bed-sharing - a big no-no so far as the AAP is concerned, since the practice significantly increases the risk of unintentional injury, SIDS, and other hazardous habits found to be unsafe for babies, like the use of blankets and pillows.
Previous studies have shown that nine out of 10 of SIDS deaths occur before the age of 6 months, and the majority happens between 1 and four months.
To study the association between room-sharing and sleep outcomes, researchers used data they had already collected from the INSIGHT study, which included 279 mothers who delivered at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and their babies. The researchers discovered that room-sharing with infants aged four months and nine months can lead to shorter sleep periods, decreased night-time sleep, and unsafe sleep practices.
For more about room-sharing with your baby, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics.
To room share, or not to room share?
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Room-sharing has been estimated to lower the risk of SIDS by as much as to 50%, according to the report Moon co-authored.
"Based on the data we've provided and from others about safety and effectiveness", Paul said, "6 months would seem to be a good time to transition a baby out of the parents' room". Waiting too long to move an infant to his own room can increase anxiety about sleep and disrupt a toddler's sleep even more.
The study looked at the sleeping habits of 230 families and found that infants who slept alone by the time they reached 4 months old got, on average, about nine hours of sleep per night. He also notes that keeping babies close to the parents will increase the likelihood that risky behaviors, such as bringing the baby into the parents' bed to soothe them, will occur.
Have a baby and you're not sleeping?
This research was supported by grant R01DK088244 and the Ashley Nicole Shellenberger SIDS Research Fund at the Penn State College of Medicine.
But Moon, a SIDS researcher, cautioned in response to Paul's study that just because sleep is uninterrupted doesn't mean it's better. She also said that this new study focused on a sample "not terribly diverse in terms of socioeconomic or racial diversity", and might not accurately represent the entire population.
And because the current study was a survey, parents' perception of sleep might also be different from the number of hours actually slept, Moon said. "If parents are in the room, they're responding unnecessarily".
Hauck, who helped draft the pediatrician association's guidelines, cited benefits of room-sharing: Research suggests it reduces the risk of SIDS, helps encourage breast-feeding, and provides "peace of mind for parents as they can keep a closer watch on their baby and be nearby to comfort the baby", she said.