When Should Babies Sleep in Their Own Room?

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June 25, 2024
5 min read

I’m a proud Red Nose Australia clinical ambassador – The Red Nose Foundation and the American Academy of Paediatrics recommend room sharing (not bed sharing) in their parents room for the first 6-12 months of life. This is to decrease the risk of sleep related deaths often referred to as Sudden Unexplained Death of an Infant (SUDI) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). 

In this blog I’ll discuss the benefits of room sharing, the risks of bed and surface sharing, when and how to best move your baby to their own room.     

The benefits of room sharing:

Room sharing is a protective measure, it allows you to respond rapidly to your baby. It has been shown to be positively associated with the establishment of breastfeeding.

Room sharing Vs bed sharing

Room sharing and bed or surface sharing are very different.   

  • Room sharing is when a baby and parents/caregivers have their own independent sleep space (bassinet, crib, cot) but sleep in the same room. 
  • Co-sleeping, or bed sharing: is where both baby and another person will share the same sleeping space often the parents’ bed. Red Nose Australia and The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend babies are always put down in their own sleep space to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. 

Do Babies Sleep Better in Their Own Room?

Research has found that after 4 months of age, infants who room shared had more night waking and this resulted in less overnight sleep than those in their own rooms – so overall yes they sleep better not in your room.

There are a number of reasons for this: 

All my sleep programs have tips to create great sleep environments for your baby whether you’re sharing or not.

dr golly baby sleep program

When should I move my baby into their own room?

There is no perfect time to move your baby to their own room. After the recommended minimum 6 months, each family needs to make this decision based on what’s right for them and their baby. The research mentioned above looking into room sharing disrupting sleep around 4 months is valid and the desire for uninterrupted sleep needs to be balanced with safety – in this equation safety will always trump.  

What the study did find was those facing interrupted sleep from room sharing at 4 months 2 things arised:

  1. The babies were more likely to be fed back to sleep in the middle of the night:  My sleep programs have lots of tips on how to drop night feeds. 
  2. Babies were more likely to bed share: Given the safety concerns of bedsharing – or if night waking is leading to unsafe sleep practices and increasing the risk of fatal sleeping accidents then on balance non room sharing in a room close by or with a monitor where you can hear them may be safer for your family.  

How to move a baby to their own room?

Note: If you’re doing this around 6 months the transition to their own nursery or baby room is much easier and there will be minimal disruption. Younger babies will be less aware of the transition to a separate room and  haven’t yet developed object permanence which makes it easier to put them down and leave their bedroom. Parents are usually a lot more stressed by the move than the baby! 

If you’re transitioning with an older baby the steps below can help.  

  • Step 1: Ensure their own room is set up safely and to promote healthy sleep both day and night. 
  • Step 2: Watch wake windows and if following a routine, make sure it’s age appropriate to help your baby sleep well in their own room.
  • Step 3: Have lots of play time in their own bedroom before using the space for sleep. This is more important for older babies and toddlers, but it will help them see the room as a fun and positive one and not just for sleep. 
  • Step 4: Decide if you’re going to offer both day naps and night sleep in their own room or make it a gradual transition. To start with, you could move their bassinet and do day naps in the nursery for a few days, and continue room sharing overnight, before moving all sleeps to their own room.   
  • Step 5: At bedtime, make sure your baby has a relaxing wind down routine including some time in their bedroom. This might include a bottle or breastfeed before bed with a story and a cuddle, before being placed into their sleeping bag or swaddle and put down to bed. 
  • Step 6: For older babies over 12 months old, it can be useful to use a gradual fading approach at bedtime. This lets you stay in the room with them until they’re settled or asleep before leaving. You’ll find more on gentle settling techniques in my online sleep programs. 

Can babies sleep in their own room from birth?

The guidelines to room share for at least 6 months are there for a reason and as a paediatrician and Red Nose Ambassador I strongly suggest parents follow them. For parents whose baby sleeps in a separate room talk to your Paediatrician or maternal child nurse about the safety measures you are putting in place to ensure you can stay responsive to your baby.

Is it ok to offer naps and overnight sleep in different rooms?

Yes! Many parents are worried this will confuse their baby, but this is usually not the case and it can be a nice transition to start with day naps in their own room and continue room sharing overnight until you’re more comfortable with the transition. 

Babies sleeping in multiple rooms isn’t always possible if you only have one cot, however using a porta cot or bassinet if your baby is younger is a good option. 

Do I Have to Use a Baby Monitor?

When you have moved your baby to their own room, using a baby monitor can provide an enormous amount of reassurance. There are many different types available, including breathing monitors, video monitors and audio only monitors. 

Again, depending on where the room is and sleeping arrangements in your house each family will need to decide which is right for them and their baby. Some smaller homes may be fine with audio only monitors, while others might want the reassurance of a breathing monitor and to be able to see their baby on a monitor. 

Safety

Always follow the Red Nose safe sleep guidelines. Ensure your nursery furniture, including the cot and cot mattress, meet safety requirements and that all heavy furniture is anchored to the wall. This is especially important once your baby is on the move. 

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