Parenting Tip of the Week – New Sleep Study and What it Means for Safe Sleep

On Monday, a new study was published on the topic of infants and sleep. This study broke with a long term recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics on room-sharing with children, and the data showed that infants who slept alone, sooner, had better sleep. With so much different advice out there about sleep for infants (and parents!) it can be confusing. Today’s Parenting Tip of the Week is about breaking down some of that confusion and digesting this new study.

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A New Sleep Study and What it Means for Your Infant

What is this new sleep study?

This new study, “Mother-Infant Room Sharing and Sleep Outcomes in the INSIGHT Study” focused on the quality of sleep for infants and parents and the differences between those who room-share and those who do not. The authors found that room-sharing with infants at ages 4 months and 9 months was associated with less nighttime sleep, shorter sleep stretches, and an increase in unsafe sleep practices.

But aren’t we told to put the baby’s crib in our bedroom?

According to several sources, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the answer is yes. The AAP recommends that for at least the first six months, and preferably for the first whole year, your baby should be sleeping in the same room that you do.

So how does this sleep study change those recommendations?

It’s important to remember that the AAP recommendations have always been about preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and less about sleep quality. In a press release discussing the new sleep study, the AAP encourages more research into infant sleep practices, and we too welcome this research.

We know how important it is that parents get the best rest they can so they can have the energy to be the best parents they can be. We also know that following safe sleep practices is important towards ensuring the health and safety of young children. Safe Sleep practices help reduce the risk of SIDS, the leading cause of death for children between 1 month and 1 year.

We strongly encourage parents to continue to follow the safe sleep practices as outlined in this great video from TeamWV, the West Virginia chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America.

But what about getting the best rest possible?

Following safe sleep practices and making sure you and your baby get the best sleep possible are not mutually exclusive! Here are some tips on the ways that you can maximize your sleep by helping your infant fall asleep.

  1. Establish a routine. Kids sleep easier when they’re conditioned for it, and establishing a consistent night-time ritual can go a long way towards helping your child fall asleep. As an example, every night turn off the TV for thirty minutes before bed-time and read a book together while putting your child to bed. Establish this routine with your child early on (around 2 to 3 months) and keep to it as best as possible.
  2. Get out in the sun! Lots of play during the day and exposure to sunlight not only helps tire your infant out but also helps young children learn to respond to environmental cues. Keep the house lights low in the evening in the hours before bedtime to help associate nighttime and sleep for your infant.
  3. Keep it comfy. It’s hard to sleep when you’re uncomfortable, and the same is true for infants. Keep the room your child sleeps in at a consistent, neutral temperature. Make sure that you keep blankets out of the crib, and use age appropriate, sleep-specific clothing for your infant.

And, most importantly…

  1. Sleep when your baby sleeps! It can be hard to feel rested when you’re waking up to deal with a crying baby. Sleep when you get the opportunity, and don’t feel bad about cat naps. Whatever you do, be sure to avoid co-sleeping! Co-sleeping increases the likelihood of SIDS and causes other sleep-related issues.

Following these tips can help your baby sleep through the night longer and earlier, helping you get the rest you need. For more information on sleep related issues and ideas on how you can get your child to sleep through the night, check out this helpful resource from Parents.com.

How do you get your infant to sleep safely and soundly? Let us know by tweeting us @PCAAmerica or by leaving a comment on our Facebook page!