Where should a baby sleep at night? And is there any benefit in having a different sleeping space during the daytime?
As a new or soon to be parent, you might be wondering where your baby should sleep at night, so you all get the best sleep possible.
Well, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all-best-for-every-family answer.
What works for one family may not work for another.
There are a number of variables that come into play too, such as your baby’s temperament, how you sleep best and how your partner sleeps best.
It can also be trial-and-error until you finally work it out.
It’s important to remember that you are the expert of your baby and your family.
Only you can answer what the best arrangement for your baby might be. Not an ‘expert’ or professional… but you.
Where Should A Baby Sleep At Night?
It’s advisable to give consideration to following factors, when considering your baby sleeping arrangement solution:
- How you and your partner feel about privacy (e.g. do you both feel comfortable with your baby in bed with you?)
- How you and your partner feel about separation from your baby
- What is baby’s temperament like?
- Does baby sleep better with noise?
- Will baby sleep in baby’s room, your bedroom, etc, in relation to where you are at baby’s bedtime
- What arrangement helps you, your baby, partner and siblings to get the most rest?
If your baby typically goes to sleep before you and your partner do, you might wonder whether you need to put baby to bed in his or her normal sleep location.
Or perhaps somewhere else until bedtime.
Even this does not have a one-size-fits-all answer.
Here are somethings to consider when deciding whether to keep baby in the living area with you until you’re ready for bed, or if you will put them in their or your bedroom:
- Do you feel more comfortable seeing/hearing baby when they are sleeping?
- Does baby sleep better with family background noise?
- Is baby easily woken by noise?
- Does baby seem to be more secure and content hearing and knowing people are close?
- Are you comfortable watching/listening for baby via monitor?
Should A Baby Sleep In Their Own Room Or In Your Room?
Some families choose to have baby sleep in their own cot in their own room.
Professor James McKenna feels that if families choose this they should consider keeping the door open. He even suggests allowing noise in the bedroom.
Years of research shows that babies respond positively to physical and psychological sensory signals from others.
When babies sense the closeness of others, when they hear, see, smell and feel touch they do not feel alone and are more content.
When a baby is alone in a cot in their own room, they are less likely to have these sensory interactions with others.
Researchers believe that when a baby senses others it provides a level of security.
The baby is likely to feel secure knowing someone is nearby should any need arise. Allowing the background noise of family into the room might help.
However, this comes back to knowing your baby’s temperament and whether noise helps or disturbs their rest.
Some families choose to have the baby sleep on a separate sleep space in their room. Others choose to bed-share with baby, sharing their sleep surface.
Having the baby in your room, in a separate cot, allows them to hear, smell and sometimes see that you are nearby. This often helps them to feel secure.
When bed-sharing baby also feels your closeness which might help them sleep more soundly.
No matter what sleeping arrangements you choose for your baby, all come with risks, so make sure you’re familiar with safe sleeping guidelines.
Why Professor McKenna Encourages Close Interaction With Babies, Even At Night
McKenna began his research in the 1970s, at the University of California’s Irvine School of Medicine, in the Department of Neurology.
His research team became the first to study the behaviour and physiology of mothers and babies sleeping together and apart.
These studies utilised physiological and behavioural recording devices.
During Professor McKenna’s research, he found that mother baby pairs are keenly aware of each other in all stages of sleep.
He found that mother baby pairs are designed for closeness, even at nighttime.
His research found how babies sense the closeness and absence of caregivers even in their sleep. He found that babies benefit from sensory interactions throughout the night.
Today, Professor McKenna continues his research work at the Mother Baby Lab at the University of Notre Dame.
To date, he has published over 139 scientific articles in several medical and anthropological journals. His research and articles have covered co-sleeping, breastfeeding, evolutionary medicine and SIDS.
Professor McKenna’s research has also helped him to developed safe co-sleeping guidelines to help families make informed decisions about the safest sleep situation for their home.
There is a lot of sleep information out there. Experts, sleep gurus and books abound, many with conflicting advice.
When navigating through all the information, think about the source, the research behind it and what your instincts are telling you. You will find what works for you, your baby and your family.
BellyBelly highly recommends reading Professor McKenna’s book, Sleeping with Your Baby. You can read our full list of recommended baby sleep books here.