It is very difficult to take issue with something as serious and well intentioned as guidelines to prevent sudden unexpected infant death. However, there are some major unknowns, which make these recommendations unreasonable and even questionable from a child development and family relationships perspective.
All 4 of the studies cited to support room-sharing were conducted with samples of European parents and European infants. Yes, from a life-saving perspective, it might make sense that parents in the United States are in the same room as their infants for the first year (this scenario has not been studied yet, as just noted), but is this something that parents in our American culture can do? American families are living under very different contexts than European families; most notably, American mothers are expected to (and do return to) work when their infants are much younger in age than their European counterparts.1 This difference warrants further consideration by the task force representing the American Academy of Pediatrics because these recommendations are being given to mothers who are living under different cultural expectations than mothers of infants in Europe.
Infants in their second half-year of life are more aware of the world around them and, later in their second half-year of life, are developmentally capable of engaging in acts such as vocalizing to get the attention of their parents. Researchers should investigate how room-sharing affects parental sleep deprivation and parents’ stress.
Transitioning an infant aged <6 months from room-sharing to his or her own crib is likely much easier than transitioning a 12-month-old. Infants in the later part of their second half-year of life are extremely aware of the world around them and are used to routines. It seems highly improbable that the transition from room-sharing to sleeping independently will happen without the infant (and, in turn, their parents) encountering lots of stress if it is done at 1 year of age.
The members of the Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome who wrote the 2016 recommendations are a highly respected group of medical physicians with expertise in pediatrics, family medicine, and public health. However, their recommendation that children room-share until 12 months of age might not be realistic or optimal at all from both a child development and family relations perspective. This recommendation should be investigated by researchers studying sleep safety in the United States from a public health perspective that is more sensitive to the emotional needs of infants and the unique cultural context of families living in the United States.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST: None declared.
- Berger LM,
- Hill J,
- Waldfogel J
- Copyright © 2017 by the American Academy of Pediatrics