When it comes to babies and sleeping, it’s hard to find a one size fits all answer on the subject. Experts contradict each other, and as a parent, it can be hard to decide which advice to take. One topic that causes much debate is whether it’s ok for newborn babies to sleep alone in their own room.
Newborn babies shouldn’t sleep in their own rooms. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies who sleep in their own rooms are more at risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Most experts recommend that newborns share a room with their parents.
Newborn babies need constant care and attention, but after 4-months old, it might be ok to let them sleep in their own room. Ultimately, it’s your choice as a parent whether you think your baby is developed enough to sleep in their own room, and this can be a tough call.
To help you decide, let’s look at what the studies and experts say about babies sleeping in their own room.
Can Babies Sleep in Their Own Room from Birth?
According to the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), babies should sleep in a room with their parents from birth to six-twelve months. Many experts disagree about the length of time babies should stay in their parent’s room, but most agree that newborns should share a room with their parents.
One of the main reasons most experts suggest keeping newborns in the parent’s room is because young babies who sleep in their own room are at higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
SIDS usually happens when babies are asleep, and even though you can’t completely prevent it, you can reduce the risks.
Another reason it’s good to share a room with newborns is that they need constant care and attention, and they need their parents close by to make them feel safe and secure. When parents are in the same room as their babies, they can hear them crying and can attend to them immediately.
If babies are in their own room, they might miss their cries for attention, and it’s bad for a newborn’s development if they are left crying.
The AAP recommends parents keep their baby in their room until 12 months old, but many experts disagree with the AAP guidelines and recommend putting a baby in their own room from around 4 and 6 months old.
A study from 2017 in the journal of pediatrics completely contradicts the AAP’s advice and recommends putting babies in their own room from 4 months old. The study even suggests the risk of SIDS increases if babies stay in the same room as their parents after 4-months.
The risk of SIDS decreases with age, and after 4-months, the risk is dramatically smaller. So, in some cases, it might be more beneficial for babies and parents to sleep in separate rooms – this is especially true if no one is sleeping very well.
Poor sleep can harm a baby’s health and development and can put a lot of pressure on the baby-parent relationship, and may even cause maternal depression.
Tired parents aren’t as sharp-minded as well-rested ones, and tiredness can often lead to accidents and infant deaths too. Furthermore, babies that sleep in their parents’ bedrooms are more exposed to the risk of poor sleeping practices like co-sleeping.
That said, if both parents and baby sleep well sharing a bedroom, there is no rush to put them into their own room.
Babies Sleep Better in Their Own Room
The study from the Journal of Pediatrics referenced earlier found that it might be beneficial for a baby’s development to have their own room at about 4 months old.
It also found that “early independent sleepers” – babies in their own room at 4 months old, slept for longer than babies in the same room as their parents.
At 9-months old, they were still better sleepers which suggests good sleeping habits that are started at an early age continue into childhood.
Most experts would say that a baby is still too young to sleep alone in their own room at two months old. Babies still need a lot of care and attention at two months, so it’s better for them to sleep in the same room as their parents.
At 2-months old, babies can’t self-soothe, so they need a parent to attend to their cries within a few minutes. Most two-month-old babies can’t roll onto their back if they manage to wriggle onto their belly, and this can be a suffocation risk if we’re not there to turn them over.
Furthermore, the risk of SIDS is still pretty high at 2-months old, so it’s better to wait until the baby is at least 4-months old before they sleep in their own room.
The best way to get a baby used to their new bedroom is by spending lots of time there before they stay overnight. Use the room for changing and feeding, and let the baby take some daytime naps there.
It’s normal for babies to be a bit disturbed when they first move into their own room, but if they learn to see it as a safe, soothing place, they’ll take to it much easier.
Each baby will react differently to going into their new room – some babies might not be bothered at all, but sensitive or anxious babies might have a tough time adapting to their new sleeping arrangements.
To help a baby make the transition into a new room as smoothly as possible, look at these tips below:
Tip #1 – Spend time in the room before the baby moves in
To help your baby get used to their new bedroom, spend some time in there during the day, without sleeping. Use the room for playtime, reading, changing, nursing or massages, and make it feel like a soothing, comforting place.
The baby will associate the room with nice things and this will help them feel secure and relaxed when the time comes for them to move in.
Tip #2 – Start with daytime naps before leaving the baby overnight
If a parent lets their baby have some daytime naps in the room before they stay overnight, they will slowly start to associate the new room with sleeping.
Daytime naps will give the baby a little taste of being left in their own room before making the big transition to overnight stays.
Tip #3 – Introduce a bedtime routine
Moving a baby into their own room is a great excuse to start a bedtime routine. A good bedtime routine is the base of sleep training, and it can help the baby develop positive sleep patterns throughout infancy.
You can use things like bath time and a change into pajamas as part of a bedtime routine. These act as signals to let your baby know it’s time to wind down for bed.
Turn the lights down low and keep the environment calm, quiet, and relaxing. Parents can also sing lullabies or tell stories to help send a baby off to sleep.
Tip #4 – Don’t change the bed and room at the same time
It might seem like a clever idea to change a baby’s bed at the same time as changing the room, but it’s better to make the two changes separately. It might be more disturbing for a baby to have their room and bed changed together.
Ideally, move the baby into their new room in their current crib and let them use it for a few days until they adapt to their room.
Alternatively, change their crib first and let them use it in your room for a few days before moving it and the baby into the new bedroom.
Tip #5 – Stay with your baby if you need to
Most babies will be a little upset about changing rooms, which is perfectly normal. If a baby needs comfort, it’s ok to stay with them for a while.
The best way to comfort a baby is to pick them up when they cry, give them comfort until they stop crying, then put them down to bed again. This may need to be repeated several times until they go to sleep.
In extreme cases, a parent can also camp out in their baby’s bedroom for a few nights till they get used to their new room.
It’s better if newborn babies sleep in the same room as their parents. Room sharing helps a baby feel safe and secure, and it will reduce the risk of SIDS. Room sharing with a newborn is beneficial for parents too – feeding is easier, and they will rest better with their baby right beside them.
When sharing a room with a newborn, it’s easier to attend to their needs. Nighttime feedings are a lot less disruptive when a parent doesn’t need to leave the room, and they’ll be more inclined to breastfeed for longer.
When is a Baby Ready for Their Own Room?
Most babies are ready for their own room between 4-6 months old. Each baby is different in terms of development, but one sign that a baby is ready for their own room is if they sleep for extended periods at night and if they can roll from their belly onto their back.
Moving a baby to their own room is a huge milestone, and it comes with lots of benefits. You and your baby will enjoy longer periods of sleep, and it’s easier to start a bedtime routine for the baby.
Always check with a pediatrician about the baby’s development before moving them into their own room.
Another deciding factor when it comes to moving a baby into their own room is the location. Ideally, a baby’s room should be close to the parents so they can hear them and for convenience.
If the baby’s room is far away on the other side of a large house, you might want to wait longer before moving your baby or invest in a video baby monitor.
Poor sleeping practices, such as co-sleeping can be bad for a baby’s development, and in worse cases can even cause death. To avoid any risks when a baby is sleeping, always make sure they sleep on their back, on a flat surface, with no blankets or toys in their crib.
Whether the parents and the baby share a room, or the baby sleeps alone, here are five tips on the best safe sleeping practices for babies.
Note: I know that co-sleeping is a worldwide practice. It isn’t always evil or wrong. In fact, it’s often helpful. But it is a known risk factor for SIDS, so that’s why it’s included as a “poor sleeping practice.”
Even so, let’s go through the rest of the tips to help you know how to reduce the SIDS risks.
Tip #1 – Follow the ABC rule
When putting a baby down to sleep, always follow the ABC rule for safe sleeping. Babies must sleep Alone on their Backs, and in a Crib.
Alone on their
Backs, and in a
CribThe ABC rule
There’s also evidence that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of SIDS, so, if you can breastfeed, then keep breastfeeding your baby for as long as possible, ideally until they are at least 4-6 months old.
Studies also suggest that pacifiers keep a baby’s airways open when they go to sleep and may also reduce the risk of SIDS. However, never use attachments for pacifiers when the baby is sleeping because they can pose a strangulation hazard.
Only use pacifiers on babies older than one month, and parents should aim to wean them off at 6 months old at the latest so it doesn’t cause dental problems.
Tip #2 – Always use the right bed and mattress
Babies should always sleep on firm flat surfaces, such as a crib, bassinet, basket, or playpen. Never let babies fall asleep in car chairs, swingers, strollers, and sofas because there’s a high risk of suffocation, and it’s also bad for their development.
If they fall asleep in a chair or swing, always move them to a flat sleeping place as soon as they nod off.
A baby’s crib should be steady and well supported, and the parent should observe age and weight limits. Avoid using old cribs made before 2011 because they might not meet modern safety standards.
Pro tip: if you are using an older crib, check with the manufacturer’s website. They may send you a free kit to make the crib compliant with current regulations to make it safe!
If using an old crib, make sure it’s in good condition with all the safety standards, with no flaking paint or cracked wood.
Slats should be between two and ⅜ inches apart, and parents should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when they build a new crib. The mattress needs to fit the crib snugly with no gaps or bumps, and it needs to be firm and no more than six inches thick.
Got more questions about the baby’s mattress? Read our article: Does The Mattress Affect Baby’s Sleep? next.
Tip #3 – Don’t put anything in the crib
The only thing that should be in a baby’s crib is a tight-fitting sheet and the baby. Blankets, pillows, mattress toppers, soft toys, and bolsters all pose a suffocation risk.
Babies should sleep without blankets – keep them warm with extra layers or a wearable blanket instead.
Tip #4 – Make sure the environment is safe and comfortable
The optimum temperature for babies to sleep in is 68-72 degrees, so always make sure the room isn’t too hot or cold. Overheating may also put your baby at risk of SIDS.
Some studies suggest that having a fan on in the room may help reduce the risk of SIDS. The current thinking is that it may help increase air circulation to keep the baby’s temperature at the right levels.
If using swaddling to keep the baby warm, stop doing that when the baby can roll over – otherwise, it can become a suffocation hazard. Usually, babies can roll over at 3 or 4 months, but some can roll as early as 2 months.
Always make sure your baby’s crib is in a safe place away from drafts, and make sure there’s nothing the baby can grab close to the crib. For example, make sure there are no things like curtains, a nearby bed cover, or electrical cables within reach.
Tip #5 – Avoid co-sleeping
Sleeping with a baby against your skin can be comforting for both of you, but it comes with too many risks, so most experts recommend avoiding it.
If the baby sleeps in your bed, there are risks.
- The baby could be rolled over, getting stuck against the bed, or even under a parent.
- A baby’s face can get squashed against any number of things, leading to potential suffocation.
- Or they may even roll off the bed, leading to injury or suffocation if they get stuck between the bed and anything else.
As a pediatric nurse, all of these things are real and do happen. And any time it does happen, it’s devastating for everyone.
These risks are why experts discourage co-sleeping. However, sometimes it can seem like the only or best option. If that’s the case, know the risks. And then try to find ways to minimize them as much as possible.
Best Products for Babies in Their Own Room
If you’re ready to move your baby into their own room, here are some products that can make that move or situation better.
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- The first thing we put up in our nursery was a camera so we could check in our children as needed (without disrupting them). Thankfully, technology keeps improving, and this video monitor is a great option (click here to see the best pricing on Amazon).
- Having a nightlight, like this one on Amazon, can help make nighttime checks or diaper changes a lot better. Make sure to get a light that goes as dim as possible, or use red light to prevent disrupting everyone’s sleep as much as possible.
You’ll also want a wearable blanket, like this one via Amazon, to keep your little one warm. We had several wearable blanket options for our children, depending on the temperature.
Want to see all of my top picks for products? You can see them all right here.
Key Takeaways and Next Steps
Newborn babies shouldn’t sleep in their own bedrooms. They need the constant care and attention of their parents and when they sleep alone, they’re more at risk of SIDS.
The AAP recommends that babies stay in a room with their parents for at least 6 months, or up to 12, but many experts disagree on the exact age. Depending on their development, some babies might be ready to go into their own room at 4-months old.
At about 4 months, the risk of SIDS decreases some, and most babies can roll over and self-soothe at this age.
Babies and parents sleep better when they don’t share a room, but if they sleep well sharing with their baby, then there’s no rush to put them in their own room.
However, if sleep deprivation is ruining their life and affecting their capabilities as a parent, they should consider moving their baby into their own room if they’re developed enough.
Here’s a resource to help you decide if you need to sleep train yet – or if you can wait a while.
When learning about parenting or sleep training techniques, it’s important to learn from various reputable sources. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as parents.
- Canapari, Craig. “Why Room Sharing in Infancy Isn’t Necessary for Safe Sleep.” Craig Canapari, MD, 26 Aug. 2020, drcraigcanapari.com/room-sharing-infancy-isnt-necessary-for-safe-sleep.
- McCarthy, Claire, MD. “Room Sharing with Your Baby May Help Prevent SIDS, but It Means Everyone Gets Less Sleep.” Harvard Health, 16 Aug. 2020, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/room-sharing-with-your-baby-may-help-prevent-sids-but-it-means-everyone-gets-less-sleep-201706062525.
- Moon, Rachel, et al. “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment.” American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Nov. 2016, publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/138/5/e20162938/60309/SIDS-and-Other-Sleep-Related-Infant-Deaths-Updated.
- Natale, Sumi Sexton|Ruby. “Risks and Benefits of Pacifiers.” American Family Physician, 15 Apr. 2009, www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0415/p681.html?_ga=2.155815096.2041091098.1549652094-139084436.1549652094.
- “NPR.” NPR, 5 June 2017, choice.npr.org/index.html?origin=https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/06/05/531582634/babies-sleep-better-in-their-own-rooms-after-4-months-study-finds.
- Thompson, John M. D., et al. “Duration of Breastfeeding and Risk of SIDS: An Individual Participant Data Meta-Analysis.” Pediatrics, vol. 140, no. 5, 2017. Crossref, doi:10.1542/peds.2017-1324.
- “Tips for Keeping Infants Safe During Sleep From the American Academy of Pediatrics.” American Academy of Pediatrics, www.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2020/tips-for-keeping-infants-safe-during-sleep-from-the-american-academy-of-pediatrics. Accessed 20 Apr. 2022.
- Vennemann, M., et al. “Breastfeeding and Reduced Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: A Meta-Analysis.” Das Gesundheitswesen, vol. 72, no. 08/09, 2010. Crossref, doi:10.1055/s-0030-1266423.
- “What Can I Put in the Crib? –.” Safe Sleep Academy, www.safesleepacademy.org/what-can-i-put-in-the-crib. Accessed 20 Apr. 2022.
- “What Research Says About When Babies Sleep in Their Own Room.” Verywell Family, 5 Jan. 2021, www.verywellfamily.com/when-should-babies-sleep-in-their-own-room-4143271.