Having your baby sleep near you reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and makes night-time care easier.
Having your baby sleep in a cot in the same room as you until they are 6 months old is a key piece of advice given to new parents. There are two main reasons for this:
Firstly, a number of studies across Europe, in England, the United States and New Zealand have shown that sleeping babies in the same room as their parent(s) is associated with fewer SIDS deaths (unexplained infant deaths) compared to babies sleeping in a room alone. This does not mean that room-sharing protects every baby, but the amount by which room sharing reduces the chance of SIDS is large, and is found for both daytime and night-time sleeps.
A large study looking at SIDS cases in 20 locations across Europe estimated that 36% of SIDS deaths could have been prevented if the baby had slept in a cot in the same room as the parents.
Secondly, research on mothers and babies after delivery suggests that compared to sleeping baby alone, sharing a room has other benefits, such as:
- Night-time feeding is easier
- Babies cry less when close to their parent/s
- Increased parental response to infant signals
- Some studies have found room-sharing results in more sleep for parents and babies.
Reasons for keeping babies close apply for day-time sleeps or naps as well as night-time sleep. Babies are always safer if they sleep in the presence of an adult caregiver compared to sleeping in a room on their own, so during the day your baby is safest if they are sleeping near to an adult who is looking after them.
One large UK study found that 75% of the day-time SIDS deaths occurred while babies were alone in a room
Many babies are happiest if they are carried during the day while they sleep. Slings and baby carriers that fasten to your body can be used to carry babies 'hands-free'. There is a Consumer's Association guide guide that provides information on things you should think about when considering using slings and baby carriers. See our information on the safe use of slings here.
Also remember that while cots that comply with British Standards are designed to be safe for babies, accidents can happen. Make sure the cot is put together properly and used properly; check that your baby can't fall from the cot; place the cot away from cords or curtains which baby might become entangled in; avoid putting anything in the cot which baby could choke on or become wedged against (pillows, bags, toys, household object etc). Parents should take extra precautions when using second-hand or modified cots as they may not include the latest instructions or mechanisms designed to keep your baby safe. See our Safe Sleep guidance for avoiding the circumstances that increase the chance of SIDS.
More detailed information about room-sharing can be found on our pages for Health Practitioners. We also provide further information about the use of bed-side cots / side-car cribs.