Objectives: Parents may have their infant sleep with them in the same bed (bed sharing [BS]), in the same room, but a separate bed (room sharing [RS]), or a separate room in a separate bed (solitary sleeping [SS]); prevalence estimates of these choices are limited. Little is known regarding the effects of infant sleep location (ISL) on infant or maternal sleep or other health outcomes.
Methods: Healthy first-time mothers (n=246) in an RCT of a sleep intervention provided information regarding planned and actual ISL at 6 and 12 weeks postpartum when maternal and infant sleep were measured using actigraphy. Other outcomes included subjective maternal sleep disturbance, breastfeeding exclusivity, fatigue, and depressive symptomatology.
Results: Most women (65%) planned RS with their infant; the next most common plan was to use both BS and RS (22%). The most common usual ISL was RS, with 46% of infants RS at 6 weeks and 39% at 12 weeks. Usual BS was common; at 6 weeks 17% of families were usually BS and 12% at 12 weeks. BS to any extent was quite common at 6 (51%) and 12 weeks (41%) postpartum. At 6 weeks, usually BS mothers had shorter stretches of sleep than those usually SS (130 mins vs 156 mins ; p=0.03) and more awakenings than those usually RS and SS (11.2 vs 8.9 vs 8.3; p=0.001). At 12 weeks, mothers who were usually RS had shorter stretches of sleep than those usually SS (164 mins vs 192 mins; p=0.04). There were no significant differences between ISL groups on any other outcomes.
Conclusion: There is variation in ISL choice, and ISL changes across the first three months postpartum. Given our findings that ISL has effects on objective maternal sleep outcomes, further prospective, longitudinal research on the effects of ISL on a broad range of health outcomes for infant, mother and partner across the first postpartum year is needed.