Researchers from Penn State College of Medicine revealed that room sharing between mothers and babies after the first four months may actually be more detrimental than helpful to the babies' sleep and sleeping practices.
Their findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, contradict the current recommendation made by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). According to the recommendation, parents should share a room with their children until their first year to prevent sudden infant death syndrome. However, Penn State researchers noted that the recommendation conflicts with the infant-sleep expert guidance and is seriously lacking evidence to back it up.
"Our findings showing poorer sleep-related outcomes and more unsafe sleep practices for babies who room-share beyond early infancy suggest that the American Academy of Pediatrics should reconsider and revise the recommendation pending evidence to support it," said Dr. Ian Paul, a professor of pediatrics at Penn State and one of the authors of the study, in a press release.
For the study, the researchers analyzed the data of 279 mothers included in the INSIGHT study. The mothers all delivered their babies at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
The researchers asked the mothers to complete a questionnaire when their babies were four and nine months old. The questionnaires assessed the sleep duration, location, bedtime routines, night waking, night feedings and sleep behavior. The questionnaires were once again completed by the participants when their babies were 12 and 30 months.
The researchers observed that babies who already slept independently at four months averaged 45 minutes longer of continuous sleep than those who still share a room with a parent. Interestingly, this gap widened at nine months. Babies who have their own room by four months slept at an average of 542 minutes, about one hour and 40 minutes longer compared to the 442 minutes of those who still share a room with a parent.
With their findings, the researchers suggest that AAP should reconsider its recommendation. Most of the participants in the study are middle-income families. The researchers noted that some lower-income families may not have the means to provide a separate room for the baby.
Nevertheless, the researchers highlighted the need for the parents to work hand-in-hand with their pediatrician for better safe sleep guidance.
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