Room Sharing with Baby: SIDS Prevention and Sleep Challenges

As parents, we want to do everything we can to keep our children safe and healthy. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a fear that many new parents face. SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby under one year of age. It is a tragic event that no parent should have to experience. Despite years of research, the exact cause of SIDS is still unknown, and there is no definitive way to prevent it. However, certain measures have been found to reduce the risk of SIDS, including safe sleep practices and room sharing. In this article, we will delve into the benefits and challenges of room sharing with your baby. We will also discuss current recommendations for room sharing and provide strategies for maintaining a safe sleep environment for your little one while room sharing.

Benefits of Room Sharing

When it comes to reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents share a room with their infants during the first six months and preferably up to one year. Room sharing involves placing the baby's crib or bassinet in the same room or area where the parents sleep. Here are some of the benefits of room sharing:

Evidence supporting room sharing in reducing SIDS: Numerous studies have shown that room sharing with an infant can effectively reduce the incidence of SIDS. For instance, a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that room sharing can decrease the risk of SIDS by 50%. Having the infant in the same room makes it more likely the parents can promptly notice any changes in the baby's breathing and respond appropriately.

Advantages of having your baby close to you: Room sharing, according to researchers, can enhance the quality of sleep for both the baby and parent. It's essential to have your baby close by to understand the baby's cues to maximize adequate feeding and frequent diaper changes entirely.

Another benefit of room sharing is that it offers parents the perfect opportunity to establish a secure attachment with their baby. A secure attachment to a parent helps babies develop trust in others and fewer tendencies to suffer from anxiety throughout life.

Challenges of Room Sharing:

Room-sharing can present challenges for both parents and infants. One of the most common challenges is the impact it can have on sleep and waking patterns. Infants wake frequently, and room sharing can make it even more challenging for everyone to get a good night's rest. Sharing a room can lead to more awakenings, and it can be challenging to create an environment that is soothing for everyone.

There are, however, strategies that can mitigate the negative effects of sleep patterns during room-sharing. For example, developing a sleep routine that is calming for the baby can reduce the number of times the infant wakes up at night. Additionally, keeping the baby's sleep environment dark, cool, and noise-free can create a comfortable and peaceful sleep space.

Another challenge of room-sharing is losing personal space. Parents can feel like their sleeping space is greatly reduced, and there may be little room for maneuvering around the bed. Losing personal space can affect a parent's quality of sleep, leading to increased irritability and stress.

To avoid this, parents can encourage personal space while still room-sharing. Creating separate sleeping areas for parents and infants can help alleviate this issue. For example, using a divider or a bookshelf to separate the sleeping spaces can create a sense of privacy for both the parents and the baby. Additionally, using earplugs or white noise machines can create a soothing background sound and improve sleep quality.

By implementing these strategies, the negative impacts of room-sharing can be lessened, allowing for a better and safer sleep environment for infants.

Prevent SIDS with Safe Sleep Practices

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a severe and often tragic event that occurs when a baby dies suddenly in their sleep. While the causes of SIDS are still not entirely understood, safe sleep practices are crucial in preventing it. Pediatricians recommend adherence to several safety guidelines to protect against SIDS.

Importance of Safe Sleep Practices

Safe sleep practices aid in sidestepping SIDS and promote healthy sleep patterns for the baby. These safe sleep practices are guidelines established by pediatricians to reduce the risks of SIDS. Adhering to safe sleep practices provides parents with a way to keep their baby safe and lowers the chances of SIDS.

Safe Sleep Recommendations by Pediatricians

Pediatrician organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have established safe sleep recommendations. The AAP advises that for the first year of a baby's life, they should sleep alone in a crib, bassinet, or other type of baby bed. The sleep area should contain a firm, flat surface, and no bedding or soft objects, as they can increase the risk of suffocation. The baby should also sleep on their back in a room that is not too hot.

Tools and Strategies for Keeping Baby Safe While Room Sharing

While room sharing reduces the risk of SIDS, parents must follow safe sleep practices under the guidelines of pediatricians. Parents can use several tools to ensure that their babies sleep safely while room sharing:

  • Use a bassinet or crib in the room dedicated to the baby if possible, rather than sharing a bed.
  • Keep the baby's sleeping area free of loose objects, and remove any toys or bumper pads.
  • Dress the baby appropriately for the room temperature and avoid covering the baby's head to prevent overheating.
  • Ensure the baby sleeps on a firm and flat surface with an appropriate fitting sheet and avoid soft bouncy beds.
  • Consider using a wearable blanket instead of traditional blankets.
  • Install a baby monitor to keep an eye on the baby while asleep.

It's essential to understand and follow safe sleep practices to prevent SIDS while still sharing a room with your baby. These simple tips will not only reduce the risk of SIDS but also promote healthy sleep for your baby.

Impact of Room Sharing on Long-term Development for Infants and Parents

Parents of infants can benefit from the close relationship they form as they share a room with their babies. Studies have suggested that this close proximity may offer your baby more than just a safer sleep environment. It might also have a positive impact on your baby's long-term development. Research findings suggest that room-sharing encourages a successful attachment relationship between infants and parents.

A successful attachment between a baby and a parent is crucial for the baby's development because it supports essential biological and psychological systems that control emotional, social, and cognitive development. The ability to self-regulate and the responses to stress develop the most effectively in the context of a positive attachment relationship.

Another important impact of room-sharing is the development of stress responses. Studies suggest that room-sharing with your baby can result in decreased cortisol, a hormone produced in response to stress, and lower risks of developing anxiety issues and depression later in life. A successful parent-infant attachment relationship aids in the development of strong stress regulation, which can influence development far into adolescence and adulthood.

However, with room-sharing comes the inevitable truth that everyone involved may get less sleep. Parents must be mindful of their personal health and ensure that they take necessary measures to cope with the stress of sleep deprivation. Fortunately, strategies can be put in place to support parents and infants in the transition during the room-sharing period.

While room-sharing may offer significant benefits to young babies' long-term development, other factors like a vibrant community, education, and professional support can reinforce that attachment relationship adequately. Parents should always ensure that their babies sleep safely and comfortably to give them the best chances of healthy development.


In summary, room sharing is a highly effective preventive measure against SIDS, and parents can utilize it while following safety tips. The practice can significantly reduce the risk of SIDS and promote attachment and bonding between parents and infants. However, parents should understand that room sharing can present challenges that affect sleep patterns and parents' space. To alleviate sleep disturbances resulting from sharing a room with an infant, parents should consider using strategies such as white noise machines and dimming lights to help their baby sleep better. Additionally, parents should follow safe sleep recommendations by pediatricians and avoid resorting to risk factors, such as co-sleeping or placing pillows in the crib.

The importance of room sharing should not undermine the need for parents to get enough sleep. Therefore, parents should strive to maintain consistent nighttime routines that are conducive to sleep and give themselves small breaks throughout the day. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of room sharing can help parents make informed decisions regarding their babies' sleep, ultimately leading to a more comfortable sleep environment for both parents and infants.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is SIDS, and what are its risk factors?

SIDS stands for sudden infant death syndrome, which is the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy infant under the age of one. Risk factors include soft bedding, overheating, premature birth or low birth weight, and exposure to smoke or drugs.

What are the current recommendations for room sharing to prevent SIDS?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents room-share with their infants for at least the first six months, ideally up to one year. The baby should sleep in a separate crib or bassinet in the same room as the parents.

How does room sharing benefit infants?

Room sharing has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. It also helps foster a closer bond between parents and baby and can aid in developing a secure attachment. Having the baby nearby can also make it easier to respond to their needs at night.

What are some challenges associated with room sharing?

Sharing a room with a baby can disrupt sleep patterns, and some parents may feel like they need more personal space. Strategies to mitigate sleep disruptions include using a white noise machine and adjusting lighting to promote better sleep. Encouraging personal space can be achieved through creating designated areas for parents and baby, such as using a divider screen.

What are some safe sleep practices for when room sharing with a baby?

Babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep, on a firm and flat surface, and with no soft bedding, toys or pillows. The room should be kept at a temperature that is comfortable for a lightly clothed adult, and smoking should not be permitted in the room or near the baby. Ensure that the crib or bassinet meets safety standards and is free from any potential hazards.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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