The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies sleep in their parents’ bedroom – “on a separate surface, such as a crib or bassinet, and never on a couch, armchair or soft surface” – for the first six months of life, and ideally a year.
In fact, in a statement released during October 2016, the AAP said that room-sharing reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by up to 50%.
It’s important to note that the AAP recommendation is for room sharing and not co-sleeping. According to Dr Leslie Solomonian, a professor at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine with a special interest in paediatrics, there’s tons of evidence on the benefits of room-sharing and sometimes it’s generalised to co-sleeping or bed-sharing, and that is not what the AAP recommends. “Room sharing and co-sleeping are two completely different things. Sharing is recommended by AAP, not co-sleeping,” says Solomonian.
Besides reducing the risk of SIDS, there are many reasons to share a bedroom with your newborn baby – the ease of feeding during the night, the comfort of knowing that your baby is sleeping nearby, or just the belief that it will allow everyone to get the most sleep. If you can quickly soothe a baby as soon as they wake, you might be able to get them to go back to sleep quicker.
The following 12 tips can make co-sharing your bedroom with your baby easier:
- Always keep it simple. Try using a neutral colour palette to maximise your space and make the room look larger than it is.
- Invest in a quality co-sleeper or something similar like a camping cot or bassinette.
- If you would still like to have your own sanctuary with your partner, create a separate baby corner in your bedroom. Decorate the ‘nursery area’ with its own theme so that it looks like a completely different room than your main bedroom. Also, invest in a carpet or rug. It can divide the room, absorb sounds and give the room a cosy look.
“We bought a high-quality, neutral shade carpet that we can later use anywhere in the house. It is an investment that can serve us for years to come. It also helps to tiptoe around Hannah’s camping cot without her waking up!” Maddie, mother of baby Hannah (3 weeks).
“Room sharing and co-sleeping are two completely different things. Sharing is recommended by AAP, not co-sleeping.”
- Keep basic nappy changing supplies on hand (on your dresser for example): nappies, wipes, bum cream, etc. You can replenish stock as needed. Alternatively, you can keep everything but the co-sleeper out of your room, and do all the changing in the nursery and just have things you need for feeding your baby in your room.
- The shared bedroom temperature should be comfortable and not too hot. It is recommended that your room is around 22 degrees Celsius. Use a portable, indoor thermometer to keep track of how warm or cool the bedroom is.
“I couldn’t understand why Mia wouldn’t sleep – until my sister told me that 26 degrees Celsius is most definitely too hot for our little Mia. I invested in a thermometer and she is not so restless anymore.” Jade, mother of baby Mia (2 weeks.)
- Make sure that you have a proper nappy bin for disposable nappies as well as enough bins for everyday trash. If you use cloth diapers, ensure that the bucket for the soiled nappies has a proper lid so that it can also be put not too far away from where you change your baby’s nappies.
- Put a few items of baby clothing in your room – you can put these in a pretty basket or even in a transparent container. You will need a couple of beanies, socks, vests and swaddle blankets for the first few weeks.
“As your baby grows the list will grow longer, but you can always swap out items from the baby’s room.” Linda, mother of Evie (5 months).
- Use a waterproof sheet for a portable nappy changing station on your bed. Make sure that your nappy-changing supplies and extra clothes are within comfortable reach.
“If you are very tight on space, you can always use your dresser as a bedside table, or put a changing table on top to eliminate the need for extra furniture. It works like a charm!” Samantha
- Most rocking chairs are bulky and heavy and take up a surprising amount of space. Get a smaller rocking chair to maximise space.
- Use an over-the-door pocket shoe organiser for storing baby medicine, pacifiers, lotions, etc.
“Don’t underestimate the fact that things still get lost – even in a small room. Our shoe organiser helps us to keep our room organised and stay sane!” Linda
- Remember to keep things dark! Darkness helps to cue sleep in adults and babies, so keeping your shared bedroom dark can benefit everyone.
“We use an LED nightlight so that Riley doesn’t wake up completely when it’s feeding time. I just had to learn that the light has to face away from the baby’s sleeping space, but now it works very well.” Annah, mother of Riley (6 weeks)
- White noise is your friend. It helps to drown out bothersome sounds that prevent your baby from sleeping and it helps adults to sleep too – remember, babies are noisy sleepers and the white noise can shield parents from these noises.
Most parents sleep with pillows, duvets, eiderdowns, blankets and/or soft mattresses that make the parents’ bed an unsafe sleep surface for babies.
Your baby’s sleep space should be devoid of all soft or fluffy materials such as blankets or stuffed animals; their mattress should be firm, and they should be dressed lightly for sleep to avoid suffocation or overheating. Babies should never share a room or sleeping space with parents who are smokers.
Sharing a room with a newborn, especially for first-time parents, will require some adjustments. Your sanctuary is now invaded by a stranger demanding love, food and attention!
It is always best to communicate with your partner about any fears or concerns to ensure that you both have the same expectations. If one of you is not happy about the arrangement, it will be a very tough job to integrate the ‘old way’ of life with co-sharing your bedroom.
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