There are as many answers to this question as there are parents and babies – and experts with some very divided opinions.
Most new parents like to have baby sleeping in their room at least for the first few weeks after bringing her home from the hospital, mainly for reassurance and convenient night feeds.
According to the experts
Experts who believe in routine
Experts who believe in establishing strict routines argue that baby should be in her own room from the start. They say that parents disturb their babies’ sleep as much as the babies disrupt their parents’ sleep, and that a quiet environment fosters good sleep routines.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the advocates of attachment parenting who believe that your new baby should not only be in the same room, but in the same bed.
Experts who believe in attachment parenting
Advocates of co-sleeping say it enhances bonding and encourages breastfeeding on demand, besides being the “natural way” that mammals parent their offspring.
Realistically, most parents use a variety of sleeping arrangements during their baby’s first two years. Be open to changing styles as your baby’s developmental needs change. ??Individual temperament – both baby and parents – is probably the most important deciding factor, as are practical issues such as dad having to get up early for work in the morning.
Every baby is different
Some babies are simply more comfortable in their own beds, while others enjoy the parental bed so much they never want to leave! Some moms are very aware of their babies in the bed, while others fear that they will roll on the baby in the night.
As with most things, a sensible balance that meets the needs of your family and your baby is probably the best solution. If you need the reassurance and convenience of having your baby sleep in your room during the early weeks or months, simply make sure that you keep the room dark and as quiet as possible after bedtime.
Your baby's own room
After about six months when your baby is mostly sleeping through the night without a feed and the risk of SIDS has diminished, you may want to consider moving him to his own room, so that you and your partner don’t disturb him at night, as he becomes more aware of your presence. Other parents wait even longer, to get over the teething and growth spurts phase, which can cause night waking.
If it is not practical to have baby in your room (if dad is the one who goes to work in the morning and needs to sleep, for example), have a baby monitor so you can hear your baby cry at night, as well as a comfortable feeding chair and even a single bed in her room so you can sleep there if necessary.
If you do choose to sleep with your baby in the same bed, then make sure you do so safely:
- Never sleep with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, if you smoke or if you are taking medication
- Put baby between mother and a wall or mesh guardrail (bars can trap baby’s head or limbs), rather than between both parents. Alternatively, use a “nest” that has side protection, or a bedside co-sleeper
- Avoid sleeping with your baby if you are obese or have sleep apnoea, as this increases the risk of smothering
- Do not sleep with your baby if you are exhausted from sleep deprivation
- Remove pillows and excess bedding that may create a smothering risk, and ensure that there are no gaps between the bed and the wall??- Babies should always sleep on their backs
- Don’t let anyone other than yourself sleep with the baby, including babysitters or siblings as they simply don’t have the same awareness as mothers
- Make sure that the baby is not too warm, as the warmth of your body will create extra heat
- Put baby down on a smooth, firm mattress only and make sure you have suitable bedlinen – fluffy blankets, tassles and scatter cushions are out
- Banish pets from the room and definitely from the bed
- Don’t use any perfumes or sprays, or sleepwear with ties or dangling bits
- Never leave your baby to sleep alone in your bed – it is best to put him in a cot for naps