A new US study suggests that moms who co-sleep with babies after six months may feel depressed or judged because of their choice, with researchers reassuring new mothers that choosing what is best for them and their child is most important when it comes to sleeping arrangements.
Carried out by researchers at Penn State University, the study looked at the sleeping habits of 103 mothers in the first year of their baby's life.
The team found that by the time the babies were one month old, around 73 per cent of families were still co-sleeping, sharing either a room or bed.
That figure had dropped to 50 per cent by three months, and to about 25 per cent by six months, after which most babies were moved out of the bed or bedroom to sleep alone.
The mothers in the study who chose to continue co-sleeping with their babies past six months reported feeling about 76 per cent more depressed than mothers who had moved their baby into a separate room, and about 16 per cent more criticized or judged for their choice to continue co-sleeping. They also worried more about their baby's sleep.
The researchers suggested that popular advice telling mothers not to sleep with their babies may be causing feelings of depression and criticism, however the study co-author Douglas Teti added that what is most important is what sleeping arrangement works for everyone in the family.
“In other parts of the world, co-sleeping is considered normal, while here in the US, it tends to be frowned upon,” said Teti. “Co-sleeping, as long as it's done safely, is fine as long as both parents are on board with it. If it's working for everyone, and everyone is okay with it, then co-sleeping is a perfectly acceptable option,” he added.
Teti did caution that even when co-sleeping is working well for all the family, parents should be aware that they may suffer from a greater loss of sleep than if the baby slept in its own room.
“If you co-sleep, it is going to disrupt your sleep, and probably mom's sleep more than dad's,” Teti said. “So this is something to be careful with if you're not good with chronic sleep debt. Co-sleeping needs to work well for everyone, and that includes getting adequate sleep. To be the best parent you can be, you have to take care of yourself, and your child benefits as a result.”
The results can be found published online in the journal Infant and Child Development.