Friday, June 3, 2011

Reader Question: "At what age do you transition babies to sleep in their own rooms?"

This week we will be answering a reader question that we received a couple of weeks ago. Here is what she asked:

“I am a first-time mom of a 4 ½ month old and have been trying to find information about when it’s best to transition my daughter into her own room. She’s currently sleeping in her own, safe space in my room. I’ve seen a lot of recommendations to transition her between 2 and 4 months of age, but I couldn’t find any research-based support for those recommendations. I was glad to see in your post on January 4, 2011 titled “Can Little Changes Lead to a Little More Sleep?” that you offered a recommendation from the AAP. I spent a few minutes trying to find the reference you used for that recommendation and haven’t been able to find it. Would you please provide me with the AAP reference you used? I would really appreciate it.”

We thought this was a great question and that other readers might appreciate hearing the latest recommendations about transitioning babies into their own rooms to sleep. We realize that this is a very personal and individual decision for every family. However, we hope to provide you with enough evidence that you can make an informed decision. Let’s look at current practices related to infant sleep location and then compare those to what experts recommend. We'll also take a look at new government safety precautions for infant cribs.

Current Practices
Currently, parental practices for transitioning babies into their own rooms are similar across the United States, but this hasn’t always been the case. Recent trends in increased room sharing among parents and babies challenge long held Western cultural beliefs about the need to get infants to sleep independently, in their own rooms (and cribs), at an early age. (Morgan 2006) In a 2005 study among parents NOT planning to co-sleep, researchers found that most infants were moved into their own rooms gradually over the first several months of life, with 68% sleeping in their own rooms by 6 months of age and 76% by 12 months. (Burnham 2005) Another study, this one from 2008, showed that 15% of 3-month-olds and 29% of 12-month-olds slept in their own rooms.(Hauck 2008) Room sharing not only promotes breastfeeding, it also decreases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and the AAP also endorses room sharing for parents and infants.

Recommendations for the Infant Sleep Setting
The American Academy of Pediatrics, in their 2005 policy statement on SIDS, concluded that placing babies to sleep in their parents’ room, on a separate sleep surface, reduced the risk of SIDS. Evidence referenced by the AAP in that statement included several large trials concluding that babies should sleep in their parents’ rooms, on a separate sleep surface, for the first 6 months of life. This recommendation is also endorsed by the United Kingdom Department of Health. Data from a study by Blair 1999 (referenced in Morgan 2006) also showed that chance of death from SIDS was cut in half when the mother slept in the same room as the baby. For the full AAP report on infant sleep safety recommendations, click here:

Choosing a Safe Sleep Surface: NEW Safety Guidelines
There are brand new government safety standards required for all cribs sold in the United States (new and resale). Starting June 28, 2011, all cribs sold in the United States must meet new federal requirements. For the specifics of this new law, click here. I was surprised to read that safety standards have not been established for “Cosleepers” (infant beds that attach to the parent’s bed). Also, the CPSC has recalled a few popular co-sleeper models. For more information about the latest product recalls and safety information, visit the CPSC website.

Making the decision to transition your baby into his own room is only the first step in making this change happen. Even after a successful transition, you aren’t completely off the hook; your baby may still need your help during the night. Just because she is in the other room doesn’t necessarily mean she is going to sleep in there all night long without waking. Older babies are more likely than younger babies to sleep longer stretches but many still wake occasionally and they often need their parents help to get back to sleep. (Burnham 2005)

Next time we’ll share tips to ease the transition of your baby into his own room and review older infant sleep patterns so you will know what to expect during the transition!


The Changing Concept of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Diagnostic Coding Shifts, Controversies Regarding the Sleeping Environment, and New Variables to Consider in Reducing Risk. Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Policy Statement, Published online November 1, 2005. Pediatrics Vol. 116 No. 5 November 2005, pp. 1245-1255.

Burnham MM, Goodlin-Jones BL, Gaylor EE, Anders TF. Nighttime sleep-wake patterns and self-soothing from birth to one year of age: a longitudinal intervention study. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2002; 43(6): 713–725.

Morgan KH, Groer MW, Smith LJ. The Controversy About What Constitutes Safe and Nurturant Infant Sleep Environments. JOGNN. Nov/Dec 2006.

Hauck FR, Signore C, Fein SB, Raju TN. Infant sleeping arrangements and practices during the first year of life. Pediatrics. 2008 Oct;122 Suppl 2:S113-20.


  1. wow, good info. My baby started sleeping in his own room at 7 weeks and he's done great, of course I got him when he needed me evey 2-4. He's been sleeping through the night since 10 weeks.

  2. I was the reader who posed the question that inspired this post. I want to thank you so much for your incredibly thorough and evidence-based response. The information and the resources that you provided will be a big help to my husband and I in making the decision to transition our daughter into her own room. I'm really looking forward to your next post. Thanks again!