Bed Sharing and Room Sharing with your Infant May 09 2022
Author: Allison Cress
UGA Family and Consumer Sciences Intern
Human Development Major
Today we are going to talk about the various sleeping practices with infants! While babies are the most precious thing in the whole wide world in my opinion and I could snuggle with a baby all night long with a big smile on my face, there are a lot of differing opinions when it comes to sleeping with infants. There are many concerns and arguments both for and against parent/child bed-sharing. There are also so many factors to consider that are different for each family! Sleeping practices in the United States can differ from family to family depending on racial, ethnic, regional, and socioeconomic background. Everyone has different reasons for the decisions that they make for their children and families and that's okay! I am here to hopefully provide helpful resources and insight as to why people choose different sleeping practices.
First, let's clarify some language and terminology so we are all on the same page.
Bed-sharing and co-sleeping are two terms that can be used interchangeably. These terms mean sleeping together, in the same bed with your infant.
Room-sharing means the baby sleeps alone in a crib or bassinet, but in the same room as the parents/guardians.
There are also two different kinds of co-sleeping. There is reactive co-sleeping and planned co-sleeping. Reactive co-sleeping refers to a few different situations. The most common are: the child begins to co-sleep as a toddler after sleeping alone for an extended period, a child has difficulty sleeping alone, therefore co-sleeps or the sleeping arrangement moves back and forth between co-sleeping and solitary sleeping (Goldberg & Keller, 2007). Planned co-sleeping refers to a planned and agreed-upon sleeping arrangement (Goldberg & Keller, 2007).
Pros of Room-Sharing Rather Than Bed-Sharing
Due to safety reasons in 2005, the AAP released a statement emphasizing that parents and infants should not co-sleep under any circumstances, but should room-share (Sobralske & Gruber, 2009). While co-sleeping can put an infant in danger of detrimental physical outcomes and a challenging transition to sleeping alone, room sharing allows for close parental supervision and comfort without jeopardizing the infant’s safety.
Some of us may know all too well, the terrors of sleeping alone as a child from our own personal experiences or from our children’s experiences. Many believe that the smaller transition of room-sharing to sleeping alone vs bed-sharing to sleeping alone can make it much easier for a young child to learn to sleep through the night in their own bedroom. As children age, they will eventually need to become comfortable sleeping independently. Evidence from recent studies reveal that there may be more sleep-related problems in children who engage in reactive co-sleeping (Keller & Goldberg, 2004). There is a great deal of “speculation and concern that children who sleep with their parents may develop an abnormal psychological dependency, psychosexual confusion, and increased sleeping problems (Tracht, 2007). It has also been found that school-age children who want to co-sleep may have problems that require counseling such as separation anxiety (Sobralske & Gruber, 2009). Room-sharing rather than bed-sharing can eliminate the transition from sleeping with mom and dad to sleeping alone as well as the problematic issues that can arise from continued co-sleeping practices.
The AAP recommends room-sharing because it is significantly safer than bed-sharing and can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50% (Moon, 2021). Room sharing can allow the parent/parents to know when the baby is having trouble sleeping and sleeping well without putting the baby at any risk. Sharing a room can also make it easier to comfort, feed, and watch the baby (Moon, 2021). It is encouraged for parents to place the baby’s crib or bassinet close to their bed (Moon, 2021). This allows parents to supervise their baby closely while allowing the baby to practice sleeping independently and to have a safe sleeping environment. It is recommended for babies and parents to room-share for the first six months to a year of the baby’s life (Moon, 2021). Room sharing can facilitate the closeness and watchfulness that parents desire without putting an infant at risk for the numerous negative outcomes that can occur with co-sleeping.
Here are some other pros to room-sharing rather than bed-sharing:
- Some studies suggest that parents and guardians get a better night’s sleep when an infant sleeps in their room rather than in their bed (Alario, 2022).
- When an infant sleeps in your room rather than in your bed, your bed is still a private place for just you and your partner (Alario, 2022).
- Having your infant sleep in your room but not your bed can give you such peace of mind. If the baby is in your room, you know they are safe, and when they are sleeping and/or need to be comforted. Having the infant in your room rather than your bed also gives you peace of mind that they are safe. You don’t have to worry about rolling over on them during the night, them getting tangled/suffocated in sheets or mattress, them rolling off of the bed, or getting stuck in places such as between the headboard or footboard (Alario, 2022).
Co-sleeping is referred to as the “best-kept secret of moms across the country” (Alario, 2022). There is so much controversy surrounding co-sleeping that many parents/guardians hide that they actually do sleep in the same bed with their infant from their pediatrician, friends, and even family (Alario, 2022). Recent studies have even revealed that at least 50% of parents co-sleep some of the time. As research continues to grow, some opinions regarding bed-sharing are changing and beginning to shift in its favor. One study even noted that while the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP, 2005) takes a strong position against parent/child co-sleeping there is little scientific evidence to demonstrate the ill effects of co-sleeping when done in a proper, safe environment (Sobralske & Gruber, 2005).
Here are some of the reasons that caretakers may choose to co-sleep
- Bed-sharing allows for the caretaker and infant to have skin-to-skin contact. Research has revealed that skin-to-skin contact reduces physiological stress in infants (Alario, 2022).
- Many caretakers feel that bedsharing promotes emotional bonding with their baby (Alario, 2022).
- Co-sleeping allows moms to breastfeed from the convenience of bed at night (Alario, 2022). Research has revealed that as moms who co-sleep can breastfeed more easily at night, co-sleeping can increase the duration of breastfeeding (Alario, 2022).
- Many parents/guardians feel that co-sleeping helps their baby to fall asleep faster, which in turn allows the guardians/parents to sleep better as well (Alario, 2022).
- It is more convenient for parents/guardians to comfort their baby when their baby is in their own bed (Alario, 2022).
- Sleeping with a parent/guardian can cause an infant to wake up less often throughout the night (Alario, 2022). While an infant is soothed by the presence of a parent or guardian, bed-sharing can make it easier for an infant to transition between sleep cycles (Alario, 2022). This can result in fewer wakeups throughout the night (Alario, 2022).
- Some research suggests that co-sleeping may be beneficial for an infant’s emotional health (Alario, 2022). Some studies propose that babies who co-sleep have less anxiety, are more comfortable with affection, and have higher self-esteem (Alario, 2022).
- While co-sleeping can allow parents/guardians to comfort their infant from bed, this prevents them from having to physically get out of bed during the night to comfort and check on their baby. Getting out of bed less frequently throughout the night can allow parents/guardians to get better quality sleep (Alario, 2022).
- Some parents/guardians feel that co-sleeping gives them peace of mind. Co-sleeping allows parents/guardians to closely monitor and know how their baby is sleeping during the night.
Cultural Differences around Sleep
Sleeping practices and “norms” can also differ with varying cultures. In many cultures across the globe, co-sleeping is a common practice and is seen as a healthy bonding experience (Sobralske & Gruber, 2005). Many cultures associate co-sleeping with warmth, protection, and a sense of well-being, which are all considered to be incentives for sleeping (Sobralske & Gruber, 2005). Co-sleeping is actually becoming very common in Western cultures (Sobralske & Gruber, 2005). A study found that in the United States, over 35% of families reported co-sleeping and 76% reported co-sleeping at least sometimes (Sobralske & Gruber, 2005). It was also found that in England about 64% of infants sleep with their parents (Sobralske & Gruber, 2005). It is also important to remember that co-sleeping is most likely underreported, especially in the United States due to the stigma around co-sleeping (Sobralske & Gruber, 2005).
Alario, C. (2022). Touchy Subjects: co-sleeping pros & cons. Nested Bean.
Keller, M. A., & Goldberg, W. A. (2004). Co-sleeping: Help or hindrance for young children’s
independence? Infant and Child Development, 13, 369–388.
Moon, R. (2021). How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained.
Sobralske, M. C., & Gruber, M. E. (2009). Risks and benefits of parent/child bed-sharing.
Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 21(9), 474–479.
Thompson, D. G. (2005). Safe sleep practices for hospitalized infants. Pediatric Nursing, 31,
Tracht, J. G. (2007). Should parents sleep with their children? Retrieved September 12, 2007,
from http://www.beachpsych.com/pages/cc101. html