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Where should the baby sleep? A guide

For parents of a newborn baby, sleep can feel like a precious commodity, particularly during the first few months, which is why it’s important to work out the best sleeping arrangement for you and your new family member early on. There are a few options when it comes to getting sleep with a newborn, from having the baby in your room or bed, to another room entirely, and it’s worth knowing the considerations and risks associated with each option before making your decision.

Co-sleeping: same room, same bed

Co-sleeping — which is where the infant shares a bed or sleeping surface with the parent(s) — is preferred by some for its practicality and convenience. However, research is increasingly showing that sharing a bed/sleeping surface with a newborn is one of the leading risks associated with sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), with one UK study finding 54% of 80 examined SIDS cases involved co-sleeping. In light of these serious risks, co-sleeping is not recommended by experts. For the latest information on SUDI and SIDS, visit Red Nose.

Room-sharing: same room, different bed

Room-sharing is characterised by the infant sleeping in their own bed, but still in the same room as the parent(s), and is recommended by experts as the ideal sleeping environment for an infant’s first 6-12 months. Unlike co-sleeping, room-sharing has been shown to actually reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 50%, making it safer, while still convenient for those middle-of-the-night feeds.

Despite these clear benefits, some parents do find their own sleep can be disrupted through room-sharing, if they tend to wake each time the baby stirs. This observation is supported by studies finding room-sharing mothers reported more sleep disturbances and infant night-wakings than mothers whose infant slept in a separate room. If you’re struggling with sleep deprivation while room-sharing, have a chat to your doctor who’ll be able to provide support and discuss your options further.

Solitary sleeping: different room, different bed

A third option is solitary sleeping, which is where the infant sleeps in their own bed, in a separate room to the parent(s). While this may be the most suitable option for families who are struggling with sleep deprivation while room-sharing, solitary sleeping may be associated with a higher risk of SIDS, so it’s worth understanding these risks before deciding on the best set-up for your family, and ensuring that if in a separate room, the infant can be easily heard. The American Academy of Pediatrics explains:

“Although there is no specific evidence for moving an infant to his or her own room before 1 year of age, the first 6 months are particularly critical, because the rates of SIDS and other sleep-related deaths, particularly those occurring in bed-sharing situations, are highest in the first 6 months. Placing the crib close to the parents’ bed so that the infant is within view and reach can facilitate feeding, comforting, and monitoring of the infant.”

Tips for getting your baby to sleep safely

There are many ways to ensure your newborn is set up to sleep safely, including:

  • Use a firm surface, with no loose blankets, pillows or toys in the cot/crib
  • Ensure the cot/crib meets safety standards, and is designed specifically for infants
  • Aim to breastfeed; the American Association of Pediatrics notes that breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS
  • Keep the infant’s room at a mild temperature to avoid overheating.

If you or your newborn are having trouble sleeping, it’s worth visiting your doctor to discuss. And for more information on family health cover visit Better Families.

Safe sleeping images courtesy of Red Nose (https://rednose.com.au)

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