In 2016, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that all parents and caregivers share a room with their baby for at least the first six months of life and ideally, the entire first year of life. The recommendation came after the AAP looked at new research and data. According to their research, when parents share a room with their baby for six months to a year, the risk of SIDS goes down by up to 50 percent.
The recommendations are so important for families looking to protect their little one as best they can, but it also changes things a little. Does this mean the age of parents lovingly planning the perfect nursery for their baby is over? How in the world do you share a room with a baby for an entire year? Is all your private time gone as a parent? Can you really make room sharing work for you?
Every family has to do what’s best for them, of course, but with research that shows us that simply sharing a room together can help reduce the risk of SIDS, it’s definitely worth exploring if you can make room sharing with your baby work for your family. If you are expecting a baby or have recently welcomed a little one into your home, here are some tips for room sharing.
Focus on the First Six Months
Although the AAP says that the ideal situation is keeping the baby in your room for an entire year, they especially emphasize the importance of the first six months because that’s when the risk of SIDS is higher. If your family situation prevents you from being able to share a room with your baby for a whole year, you could instead focus on keeping the baby in your room for the first six months of his or her life.
Keep the Baby in View
The most important thing to keep in mind about sharing a room with your baby is that the reason it reduces the risk of SIDS is that the infant is within view of the parents or caregivers more frequently. So the APP recommends that you put the baby’s crib or sleeping environment in view of wherever you sleep so you can clearly see your baby and reach him or her quickly to feed and soothe him/her. In other words, room sharing isn’t going to make much of a difference if you place the baby’s crib in a corner or closet where you can’t see him or her—the point is to keep the baby close.
Consider White Noise
Here’s a secret tip: white noise. You can use a fan for white noise in your house, but there are different types of soothing white noise machines you can buy and even use with you when you travel.
Fans work for two purposes: they drown out other noise, such as getting ready for bed or siblings running around upstairs, and they are a “sleep signal” to little ones. They know once the fan is on, it’s time to sleep. And as a bonus, the use of a fan in a baby’s room is associated with lowering the risk of SIDS as well, so it’s a win-win.
Room Sharing With Multiples
The AAP’s recommendations also included a special section on multiples. The experts recommend that if you have twins or multiples, you should always put them to sleep separately, not in the same sleeping environment. There isn’t enough evidence at this time to say that sleeping together is safe, so they instead recommend separate cribs or playpens.
Nix Unnecessary Furniture
Obviously, when you’re sharing a room with your baby, there will be less room for all of the baby’s stuff. So you’ll have to consider what you need close by and what can remain in the baby’s bedroom. You may find that keeping a basket of diapers, wipes, and easy changes of clothes for those inevitable blow-outs in the middle of the night is sufficient.
If you have other children or a very small living area, you may be worried that the baby will wake up with other noise. But babies are very adaptable and if you start room sharing from day one, they will adjust quickly. In fact, some parents find that the more you let your little one get used to room sharing, the easier it is. If your baby needs alone time to sleep, however (every baby is different), consider staggering bedtimes so the older kids fall asleep first and then put the baby down to sleep. It might be an adjustment for your family, but knowing that your baby is safe and nearby might just make it all worth it.