No Change to Advice on Room Sharing With Baby

Findings of study that found babies sleep better in their own room from the age of four months will not result in Red Nose changing its advice on room sharing, a member of Red Nose’s National Scientific Advisory Group (NSAG) has said.

Baby in Cot Image on Angle Safe Sleeping

Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine in the U.S. said room sharing between babies and mothers beyond the first four months was associated with less sleep for babies and unsafe sleeping practices. Room sharing with a baby has been shown to reduce the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy, and Red Nose recommends sleeping with a baby in a cot next to the parents’ bed for the first six to twelve months of life.

“Red Nose would not consider changing current evidence-based public health recommendations relating to safe sleeping based on one study with a relatively small cohort of 230 families and based on assumptions that it is appropriate to expect infants to sleep through the night - particularly if they are breastfed infants, which is not stated as a variable in this study,” said NSAG member Professor Jeanine Young of the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Red Nose refers all new research to its National Scientific Advisory Group to review so it can be incorporated into education messages where it is relevant to ensure parents and carers always receive the most current and up to date, evidence-based advice when caring for baby.

Of the Penn State College of Medicine study Professor Young said: “These sleep findings have been reported independently of how the baby was fed, which is inconsistent with previous research which demonstrates very clearly that sleep patterns are frequently associated with feeding method. These study results are also based on a trial that actively recommended the intervention group to sleep their baby independently from four months.

“Additionally, advice to separate babies from parents at night will serve to reduce breastfeeding rates further, and we have strong evidence that breastfeeding reduces infant mortality.”

Advice to breastfeed baby has been a part of Red Nose’s safe sleeping messaging since 2012.

“The study findings that babies who room-shared were more likely to have items in their sleeping environment is in contrast to previous findings which have demonstrated that babies who room-shared were less likely to be found in the prone position and less likely to be found with bedclothes that covered their face and head. These new findings highlight that safe sleeping advice relating to the baby’s immediate sleeping environment to parents should be highlighted regardless of whether the baby is slept in the same room or a separate room.”

Professor Young said it was important that all parents and carers are following the Red Nose Safe Sleeping program, which she said was based on strong scientific evidence, has been developed in consultation with major health authorities, SUDI researchers and paediatric experts in Australia and overseas, and meets the National Health & Medical Research Council rules for strong evidence.

The safest way to sleep a baby is to:

1. Sleep baby on the back from birth, not on the tummy or side

2. Sleep baby with head and face uncovered

3. Keep baby smoke free before birth and after

4. Provide a safe sleeping environment night and day (safe cot, safe mattress, safe bedding, safe environment)

5. Sleep baby in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult caregiver for the first six to twelve months of life

6. Breastfeed baby

Red Nose’s Information Statement ‘Room Sharing with Baby’ can be downloaded here.