Whether your little one sleeps in your bed with you, or in her own bassinet in your room, there may come a time when you consider the next step in your family sleeping arrangements – transitioning from co-sleeping to cot. Of course, the decision of where your baby sleeps is a personal one and depends largely on your unique set of circumstances.
When it comes to your little one’s safety, and reducing the chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the American Academy of Pediatrics outlines the following in their Safe Sleep Recommendations:
- Let your child sleep mostly on her back
- Use a firm sleep surface
- Room sharing without bed sharing (for six months to a year)
- Consider using a pacifier
- Avoid soft bedding or overheating
- Don’t allow your baby to be exposed to tobacco smoke, and avoid taking any form of drugs or alcohol before sleep.
According to a recent report published in Science News, studies suggest that in their first year of life, babies who bunk with their parents (but not in the same bed) are less likely to die from SIDS than babies who sleep in their own room.
The reasons aren’t clear, but scientists suspect it has to do with lighter sleep − that babies who sleep near parents might more readily wake themselves up and avoid the deep sleep that’s a risk factor for SIDS.
Plus, room sharing also makes sense logistically. Night-time feeds and nappy changes are easier when your baby is closer to you. However, as your little one gets older, she might snore more and need to feed less. She may also murmur and moan in her sleep or move around a lot, which could keep you awake unnecessarily.
A recent study, published in the journal Pediatrics adresses a key reason why it’s OK to move your baby to her own room before she turns a year old – she might get more sleep at night. According to the study, where researchers asked hundreds of mothers specific questions about their family sleep habits, babies who were sleeping in their own rooms at ages four or nine months got more night-time sleep than babies the same ages who roomed with parents.
According to study co-author Ian Paul, sharing a bedroom with babies could interfere with everyone’s sleep because normal nocturnal rustlings turn into full-blown wake-ups. “Babies and adults alike experience brief arousals during sleep. But when parents are right next to babies, they’re more likely to respond to their children’s brief arousals, which then wakes the baby up more. This then sets up the expectation from the baby that these arousals will be met with a parent reaction, causing a bad cycle to develop,” he says.
If you are considering making the transition from co-sleeping to cot, keep these top tips from Good Night sleep consultant, Raylene De Villiers, in mind:
If you want to move your baby, don’t wait too long
“The later you leave it, the more difficult it becomes as your baby gets older,” she says. Once you’re out of the newborn stage and night wakings have reduced to one or two, it’s best to move your baby to her own sleep environment. This can be as early as three months to around six months of age.
If you are sharing a room, consider the sleep environment
If you or your partner are watching TV, using the bathroom, reading in bed using a light, etc in your bedroom, this will disrupt your baby’s sleep cycles, says Raylene. Either you need to switch lights off at your baby’s bedtime or move your little one to her own room as light and noise of any kind late at night could disturb her sleep patterns, which will lead to more frequent night wakings.
Remember the ABCs of infant sleep:
- A – ALONE
Always put your baby in her cot alone, without any toys, blankets and pillows.
- B – BACK
Your baby should always sleep on her back.
- C – IN A CRIB
Avoid falling asleep with your baby in your bed.
Make the transition from co-sleeping to cot easier
Preferably use the same cot as you have been in your room as this will make your little one feel more comfortable. Don’t wash the linen before you move her, advises Raylene. Create the same environment that you had in your room. Use blackout curtains, white noise and your baby monitor if you have been using one before. “If you have a bed in your baby’s nursery, I would suggest sleeping in her room for a few nights before you move back into your bedroom,” says Raylene.
Keep your baby’s bedtime routine consistent
When you’re in the process of transitioning from co-sleeping to cot, keep the same bath time and bedtime routine (even if your surroundings are different), advises Raylene. If you’re going on holiday, take your baby’s unwashed cot linen along with you and use that if you’re borrowing a cot. Also remember to use comfort objects such as a single toy or blanket so your little one feels secure sleeping alone.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike.