When Can a Baby Sleep in Their Own Room? And How to Move Them...Apr 13, 2023
Many parents enjoy curating the picture-perfect nursery before their baby arrives. It’s an exciting time and parents wanting their baby's room to be put together when they bring them home is common! But the truth is, your baby likely won’t be sleeping in their own room until they are a few months old.
In fact, it’s recommended by the AAP (American Association of Pediatrics) that your little one sleep in your bedroom until they are at least 6 months old ! However, this is not a requirement and there is no right or wrong time to move your baby into their own room, as long as the sleep space in their room is set up safely and you have a reliable monitor and/or camera to be able to keep a close eye on your little one. The reality is that it’s possible to get your baby sleeping long, amazing stretches overnight in both situations (i.e. while room-sharing and with your baby in their own space). So, it is ultimately up to you to decide what works best for your situation and move your little one whenever YOU feel ready.
In this article, we’ll cover safety recommendations by the AAP for room-sharing and why this is the recommendation, safety checks for any room your baby is sleeping in, reasons you may or may not want to transition your baby to their own room earlier than the recommended 6-months, and how to smoothly transition your little one to their own room once you’ve determined it’s the right time for you!
AAP Recommendations on Room-Sharing With Your Baby
The AAP guidelines on safe sleep recommend room sharing (not bed-sharing) with your baby for a minimum of 6 months, with an ideal length of 12 months. A good option for this is a bassinet near to mom - close but on a separate surface! Many parents ask for my opinion on bed-sharing; I do not recommend it, and the AAP’s stance on bed-sharing is clear. It increases the risk of babies dying due to suffocation, strangulation, positional asphyxia, rebreathing, or SIDS.
This guideline on room-sharing is also in place to help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which causes about 3,500 infant deaths per year , and is meant to provide important data to help keep your little one safe during sleep and be a “protective factor,” or an action you can take to decrease risks. Remember, not taking this protective factor does not INCREASE the risk of SIDS; it simply doesn’t reduce it. (Examples of risk factors that WOULD increase your baby’s risk: putting a blanket in the crib with your baby, bed-sharing, etc.). If you are interested in learning more about protective factors and risk factors that can help keep your baby safe while sleeping, make sure to check out the AAP’s updated 2022 recommendations.
Use your best judgment on when is best for you and your baby to make this transition! If you do decide to move your baby sooner than the recommended 6-12 months, just ensure that your baby’s sleep space is completely safe:
- Make sure the crib is NOT directly under a window. If there’s an accident and the window breaks, your baby would be covered in glass.
- Keep the crib at least 1 foot from any other furniture in the room to limit the risk of entrapment if your child learns how to climb out of their crib.
- Use cordless blinds or install a cord wind-up to wrap blind cords around to avoid a strangulation risk.
- Mount all heavy furniture to the wall. Babies can climb or pull on furniture and it’s a risk to tip over and fall on top of them.
- Don’t hang heavy objects over the crib as they could fall into the crib on top of your baby.
- Use a sturdy changing table with at least 2-inch guardrails & always have your hand on your baby’s body to avoid your baby rolling off the changing table. OR you can change your little one on the floor!
- Keep your diaper station stocked and within arms reach so there’s no temptation to step away from your little one while they’re on the changing table.
- Routinely check fire & carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they’re working properly.
- White noise machine level should be around 50dBa when testing from inside the crib. You can download a free decibel testing app to confirm this.
- Use a new, firm infant mattress that fits the frame of the crib; no more than two fingers should fit in spaces between the mattress and frame.
- Use ONLY a tight-fitted sheet; nothing else in the crib - this includes blankets, toys, stuffed animals, or bumpers (you can consider a lovey after 12 months).
Also, if you do decide to move your baby to their own room before they are 4 months old, ensure that you are checking on them regularly and that you have a reliable monitor. I recommend this one that safely mounts to the wall.
How to decide when to move your baby to their own room
I’m asked by many parents how to know when is the “right” time to transition their baby from room-sharing with them to their own room (or even whether it’s ok to start them in their own room from day 1). Here are some things to consider when thinking about transitioning your baby from your room to their own room:
1. Room-sharing is a protective measure
I want to reiterate that your baby can safely sleep in their own room as early as day 1 home, as long as the conditions are safe. As I mentioned above, room-sharing is recommended as a protective measure (meaning it can decrease the risk of SIDS since they are closer to us and we can keep a closer eye on every movement and sound), BUT not room-sharing does not increase the risk of SIDS. It simply stays at the baseline level of risk. So, if you are only room-sharing because you think the risk is increased iif you don’t, this is something to consider.
2. How is your sleep going?
When we’re talking about newborns, we can all agree that sleep will be disrupted for the person caring for the baby overnight. That is to be expected since newborns eat every 2-3 hours around the clock. But caregivers should also be getting at least 3-4 hour chunks of sleep at a time that coincides with when the baby is sleeping or if a partner is helping take shifts. The fact that babies are loud sleepers can really affect some parents - waking every other minute because of a slight movement or grunt from the baby. If the caregiver is truly unable to sleep at all with the baby in the room and this is leading to other more dangerous issues, like extreme sleep deprivation, exacerbating symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety, or psychosis, moving the baby to their own room may be a good idea to consider.
3. How is the baby sleeping?
Again, it’s normal for babies to wake up to eat through the night. But as they begin to grow out of the newborn phase, they are developmentally and physically ready to sleep longer stretches. If that’s not happening, it’s possible the baby would sleep better in their own quiet, ideal sleep space. Sometimes we as parents actually reinforce wakings just because we hear the slightest noise, assume they’re waking out of hunger, and feed them before we have really figured out what they need (and they may have even fallen back to sleep on their own if we didn’t interfere!). Sometimes when a baby is in the other room, it forces us to wait for an extra beat to get out of bed so that we have time to give them the opportunity to possibly fall back to sleep on their own. I’ve seen this change work time and again!
4. Does moving your baby make you feel anxious?
Sometimes parents feel extreme anxiety about their child’s safety and having them close by assists them in minimizing their anxiety. If having your little one in your room soothes your thoughts and anxiety, then that can be the better option until you feel more comfortable with moving them. There is no rush! It’s better to wait until you’re ready than make the move and keep switching back and forth. Though, if you feel your thoughts about your child’s safety are extreme or interfering with your daily life, I recommend reaching out to your healthcare provider to discuss the possibility of postpartum anxiety.
5. Is it bothering you or the baby?
If room-sharing is not contributing to any loss of sleep for the parents or baby, you’re enjoying it, and you feel good having your little one closer to you, then there’s no rush to make the transition! Follow your parent gut and wait until it feels best for your situation to move your baby to their own room!
5 Tips for Transitioning Your Baby to Their Own Room
As this transition nears, I know it can feel overwhelming and daunting to expect your baby to sleep soundly in their crib overnight. These are 5 simple tips for a smooth transition:
1. Prepare for change.
No matter how old your baby is, it’s important to talk to them consistently before making a change. Of course, older babies can understand so much more and might need ongoing chats to prepare, but even the littlest ones will appreciate a conversation with you!
2. Get familiar.
Familiarity is so helpful when there are big changes about to take place. I love to tell caregivers to sleep with their baby’s crib sheets so they smell like you. Also, keep your routine the same so things are predictable and as similar to their current experience as possible.
3. Spend time in the nursery.
Spending time in your baby’s new sleep space during their awake time can be super helpful. Let your baby hang out in their crib here and there so it isn’t a foreign place come bedtime. You can also get them used to their nursery by playing and doing everyday routines in their room.
4. Practice naps.
Sometimes parents aren’t ready to make the leap 100% (babies are often ready before we are). If you want to test the water before making the move, start with practicing just one nap a day in the crib, then gradually add in more naps and then nights. The naps can even begin as contact naps, then place your baby down in the crib while asleep - any time spent in the crib builds familiarity!
5. Remain consistent.
The most important element to a successful move is to fully trust your decision and remain consistent! Once you decide to start you'll want to stick with it to avoid confusion. Even if "starting" means just one nap per day - the goal is consistency. Just try not to start then stop multiple times.
What if you’re ready to make the move but it’s not going well?
If you’re ready to move your baby into their own room, but they’re not having it - don’t freak out! Try your best to take it slow and know that you are far from being the first parent who has had the same experience! This is especially true for many families who are trying to make the transition from bed-sharing to having their baby sleep in their own room (or at least their own space!). If your baby is under 4 months old, there’s not much you can do other than just keep practicing consistently every day. Soon, things will become more familiar and they will get the hang. Small progress leads to success over time.
If your baby is 4 months or older (even into toddlerhood!), you can consider using a sleep training program to make the move. My sleep training guide for 4-18-month-olds will walk you step-by-step through how to support your child through learning to sleep in their own bed or room through the night over a 10-day period. My toddler sleep training program for children 18 months - 3 years old includes detailed information on how to support your toddler through this same transition and includes guidance for if your child is in a bed, rather than a crib. If you feel like you need more personalized, 1-on-1 support through this transition, make sure to learn more about my email support package.
Need help transforming your child's sleep? Check out my sleep offerings for children 0-3 years old!
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