In countries all over the world, new mothers favor the practice of “co-sleeping,” or sleeping in the same room or bed with their infants, because of newborns’ need for around-the-clock care. However, new mothers in the U.S. are more likely to feel depressed, judged or guilty for doing so, recent research shows.
After analyzing the sleeping patterns of just over 100 new mothers, and their feelings about them, during their babies’ first year of life, researchers found that moms who were still co-sleeping with their infants after six months were 75% more likely to feel depressed, to worry about their babies’ sleep and to believe their choice was being criticized by others.
While the majority of American families do co-sleep with their newborns, most transition the babies to their own rooms by 6 months of age. The desire for babies to learn how to fall asleep on their own, along with concerns about sudden infant death syndrome [SIDS] are commonly cited reasons why U.S. parents prefer their infants to sleep alone after the first few weeks or months of life.
Douglas Teti, a professor of human development and the study’s leader, said that regardless of current parenting trends, it’s important to find a sleep arrangement that works best for each individual family, and not to feel judged for making that choice.
“In other parts of the world, co-sleeping is considered normal, while here in the U.S., it tends to be frowned upon,” Teti said. “Co-sleeping, as long as it’s done safely, is fine as long as both parents are on board with it.”