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One of the most challenging aspects of parenthood is making decisions about how, when, and where your baby should sleep. Many young parents spend hours researching this topic, arguing about nap schedules and who will do the middle of the night feeding. Parents lose a lot of sleep during those first few months – no exaggeration.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently announced a new recommendation that removes some of the mystery around best practices for new parents:

It is recommended that infants sleep in the parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed, but on a separate surface. The infant’s crib, portable crib, play yard, or bassinet should be placed in the parents’ bedroom, ideally for the first year of life, but at least for the first 6 months.

This new standard may come as a surprise to many parents. Why was this change made? What is the scientific reasoning behind this new recommendation? How will it impact families?

Reasoning behind the recommendation

The AAP determined that this new guideline was necessary for one critical reason – to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and sleep-related suffocation, asphyxia (trouble breathing or choking), and entrapment among infants.

SIDS is defined as the sudden death of an infant under one year of age when the cause of death remains unexplained after investigation. Unfortunately, experts are still not certain what causes SIDS. Some suggest it is related to respiratory and cardiovascular control and failure of the infant to wake up properly. Research points to brain abnormalities, genetics, and dangerous environmental factors (e.g., loose blankets and smoking households) as triggers.

Approximately 3,500 infants die each year in the United States from sleep-related infant deaths like SIDS. In 1992, the “Back to Sleep” campaign – now called the “Safe to Sleep” campaign – was launched. This effort helped reduce the risk of SIDS by about 50 percent. After this improvement in the 1990s, the overall sleep-related infant death rate has not changed much.

SIDS remains the leading cause of post-neonatal death, which occurs within 28 days to one year of age. Ninety percent of SIDS cases happen before an infant is six months old, peaking between one and four months of age. The AAP has determined that room-sharing can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent, so they believe that this new guideline is necessary to prevent future SIDS deaths.

Why room-sharing is effective

Based on numerous studies from around the world, the AAP believes that room-sharing is safer than both bed-sharing and solitary sleeping, or when infants sleep in their own room. The safest place for an infant to sleep is on a separate sleep surface designed for infants located close to the parent’s bed. Infants can be brought into the bed for feeding or comforting, but should be returned to their own crib or bassinet when the parent is ready to go back to sleep.

Bed-sharing, also sometimes referred to as co-sleeping, tends to be quite controversial. Epidemiological studies have shown that when a parent and infant share a bed, there is an increased risk of SIDS because the infant is exposed to potential suffocation, asphyxia, entrapment, falls, or strangulation.

Room-sharing is beneficial because the close proximity allows the parents to more effectively monitor their children while they sleep and respond to their needs throughout the night. Scientists explain that babies who sleep near their parents have more opportunity for their senses to be stimulated (by noises in the room, a parent’s touch, etc.), and therefore, spend more time in a lighter sleep to protect them from SIDS.

When babies sleep in separate rooms they tend to sleep longer and deeper. That may not always be healthy, and could be a risk factor and contributor to SIDS.

Sharing the room also increases parent supervision of the baby and allows for a faster response in the event of an emergency. Although this does not guarantee a baby’s safety, the expectation is that parents may become aware of potentially dangerous situations, such as the baby rolling over to the tummy position, an object covering the baby’s face, the baby choking, or the baby moving in a distressed manner.

In addition, infants within reach of their mother or father may receive more comfort and physical stimulation than if they were down the hall in another room, according to Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, co-author of the AAP report. She added that mothers who are near their babies find it easier to breastfeed, which is known to reduce the chance of SIDS as well. Overall, room-sharing makes it easier for parents to feed, comfort, and watch their baby.

Potential challenges for parents

With every new medical breakthrough comes its challenges. The expectation that children should sleep in the same room as their parents until their first birthday may be a difficult adjustment for some parents for the following reasons:

  • Parents may not be able to sleep well for a very long time, which can impact their own health and how they function throughout the day while they care for their child or try to focus on their job.
  • The baby’s sleep may become too sporadic and interrupted because of the parents’ voices or snoring.
  • Infants may become too reliant on parents comforting them every time they fuss or drop their pacifier.
  • Parents may become too tempted to check on the baby constantly, causing increased anxious feelings and behavior.
  • It may be very hard for the parents and child to separate into different rooms after the suggested time frame of one year is over.
  • Parents lose privacy and opportunities for intimacy when the baby sleeps in the same room. 

Other critical sleep recommendations

In addition to the room-sharing advice, the AAP also announced the following guidelines and reminders related to infant sleep conditions:

  • To reduce the risk of SIDS, infants should be placed for sleep in the supine position (wholly on the back) for every sleep period by every caregiver until one year of age. Side sleeping is not safe and is not advised.
  • Infants should be placed on a firm sleep surface (e.g., a mattress in a safety-approved crib) covered by a fitted sheet with no other bedding or soft objects to reduce the risk of SIDS and suffocation.
  • Keep soft objects, such as pillows, pillow-like toys, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, and loose bedding, such as blankets and non-fitted sheets, away from the infant’s sleep area to reduce the risk of SIDS, suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation.
  • Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
  • Avoid overheating and head covering in infants.

What do you think about this new room-sharing recommendation? Let us know in the comments below. 

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We've had some struggles, you and me. In my teens, we were just getting to know each other. It was a rocky road at times, like when people referred to you as "big boned." I was learning how to properly fuel you by giving you the right foods. How to be active, to keep you strong and in good shape. I wish I knew then what I do now about you and what a true blessing you are. But that's something that has come with the gift of motherhood.

In my 20's, we became more well-acquainted. I knew how to care for you. After I got engaged, we worked so hard together to get into "wedding shape." And, looking back now, I totally took that six pack—okay, four pack—for granted. (But I have the pictures to prove it.)

Now that I'm in my 30's (how did my 30's happen so fast, btw?) with two kids, I'm coming to terms with my new postpartum body.

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If there are two things a mama is guaranteed to love, it's Target plus adorable and functional baby products. Target's exclusive baby brand Cloud Island has been a favorite destination for cute and affordable baby clothing and décor for nearly two years and because of that success, they're now expanding into baby essentials. 🙌

The new collection features 30 affordable products starting at $0.99 and going up to $21.99 with most items priced under $10—that's about 30-40% less expensive than other products in the market. Mamas can now enjoy adding diapers, wipes, feeding products and toiletries to their cart alongside clothing and accessories from a brand they already know and love.

The best part? The Target team has ensured that the affordability factor doesn't cut down on durability by working with hundreds of parents to create and test the collection. The wipes are ultra-thick and made with 99% water and plant-based ingredients, while the toiletries are dermatologist-approved. With a Tri-Wrap fold, the diapers offer 12-hour leak protection and a snug fit so parents don't have to sacrifice safety or functionality.

So when can you start shopping? Starting on January 20, customers can shop the collection across all stores and online. We can't wait to see how this beloved brand expands in the future.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Many people experience the "winter blues," which are often worst in northern climates from November to March, when people have less access to sunlight, the outdoors and their communities. Another 4% develops Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a form of clinical depression that often requires formal treatment.

If you have the winter blues, you may feel “blah," sad, tired, anxious or be in a worse mood than usual. You may struggle with overeating, loss of libido, work or sleep issues. But fear not—it is possible to find your joy in the winter, mama.

Here are eight ways to feel better:

1. Take a walk

Research has shown that walking on your lunch break just three times per week can reduce tension, relax you and improve your enthusiasm. If you are working from 9 to 5, the only window you have to access natural sunlight may be your lunch hour, so head outside for a 20 minute brisk but energizing walk!

If you are home, bundle up with your kids midday—when the weather is often warmest—and play in the snow, go for a short walk, play soccer, race each other, or do something else to burn energy and keep you all warm. If you dress for the weather, you'll all feel refreshed after some fresh air.

2. Embrace light

Research suggests that a full-spectrum light box or lamp, which mimics sunlight, can significantly improve the symptoms of the winter blues and has a similar effect to an antidepressant. Bright light at a certain time every day activates a part of the brain that can help restore normal circadian rhythms. While light treatment may not be beneficial for everyone (such as people who have bipolar disorder), it may be a beneficial tool for some.

3. Plan a winter trip

It may be helpful to plan a getaway for January or February. Plan to take it very easy, as one research study found that passive vacation activities, including relaxing, "savoring," and sleeping had greater effects on health and well-being than other activities. Engaging in passive activities on vacation also makes it more likely that your health and well-being will remain improved for a longer duration after you go back to work.

Don't overschedule your trip. Relax at a beach, a pool, or a cabin instead of waiting in long roller coaster lines or visiting packed museums. Consider visiting or traveling with family to help with child care, build quiet time into your vacation routine, and build in a day of rest, recovery, and laundry catch-up when you return.

4. Give in to being cozy

Sometimes people mistake the natural slowness of winter as a problem within themselves. By making a concerted effort to savor the slowness, rest and retreat that complement winter, you can see your reduction in activity as a natural and needed phase.

Research suggests that naps help you release stress. Other research suggests that when your brain has time to rest, be idle, and daydream, you are better able to engage in "active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing," which is important for socioemotional health.

Make a "cozy basket" filled with your favorite DVDs, bubble bath or Epsom salts, lemon balm tea (which is great for “blues,") or chamomile tea (which is calming and comforting), citrus oils (which are good for boosting mood), a blanket or a favorite book or two. If you start to feel the blues, treat yourself.

If your child is napping or having quiet time in the early afternoon, rest for a full 30 minutes instead of racing around doing chores. If you're at work, keep a few mood-boosting items (like lavender spray, tea, lotion, or upbeat music) nearby and work them into your day. If you can't use them at work, claim the first 30 minutes after your kids are asleep to nurture yourself and re-energize before you tackle dishes, laundry, or other chores.

5. See your friends

Because of the complex demands of modern life, it can be hard to see or keep up with friends or family. The winter can make it even harder. While you interact with your kids throughout the day, human interaction with other adults (not just through social media!) can act as a protective layer to keep the winter blues at bay.

Plan a monthly dinner with friends, go on a monthly date night if you have a partner, go to a book club, get a drink after work with a coworker, visit a friend on Sunday nights, or plan get-togethers with extended family. Research suggests that social interactions are significantly related to well-being.

Realize that given most families' packed schedules, you may need to consistently take the lead in bringing people together. Your friends will probably thank you, too.

6. Get (at least) 10 minutes of fresh air

A number of research studies have shown positive effects of nature on well-being, including mental restoration, immune health, and memory. It works wonders for your mood to get outside in winter, even if it's just for 10 minutes 2 to 3 times per week. You might walk, snowshoe, shovel, go sledding or go ice-skating. If you can't get outside, you might try these specific yoga poses for the winter blues.

7. Add a ritual

Adding a ritual to your winter, such as movie night, game night, hot chocolate after playing outside, homemade soup on Sundays, or visiting with a different friend every Saturday morning for breakfast, can add beauty and flow to the seemingly long months of winter. Research has suggested that family rituals and traditions, such as Sunday dinner, provide times for togetherness and strengthening relationships.

8. Talk to a professional

Counseling, which helps you identify the connections between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, can be extremely helpful for the winter blues (especially when you are also experiencing anxiety or stress). A counselor can assist you with identifying and honoring feelings, replacing negative messages with positive ones, or shifting behaviors. A counselor may also help you indulge into winter as a time of retreat, slowness, planning, and reflecting. You may choose to use the winter to get clear on what you'd like to manifest in spring.

The opposite of the winter blues is not the absence of the winter blues—it's taking great pleasure in the unique contribution of a time of cold, darkness, retreat, planning, reflecting, being cozy and hibernating. Nurturing yourself and your relationships can help you move toward winter joy.

Weary mama,

You are incredibly strong. You are so very capable.

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