According to a new study published in Infant and Child Development, moms who share their beds or rooms with their babies for more than six months may have a higher rate of feeling depressed or judged. Researchers at Penn State analyzed new mothers' sleep patterns and feelings about sleeping in general after a year and found that women who chose to cosleep with their babies beyond 6 months old were more likely to feel depressed and judged for their decision to bed- or room-share.
The study looked at 103 new mothers and quickly noticed a pattern: women who coslept were about 76 percent more depressed than moms who already moved their infants into a different room during the night. They also found that mothers who favored cosleeping felt 16 percent more criticized for their decision to sleep in the same room with their children.
Furthermore, the study's authors noted that there was definitely a shift away from cosleeping as the child got older in the US. According to their research, 73 percent of parents coslept at the one-month point. By the three-month mark, that number plummeted to about 50 percent. And by six months? Well, the average number of women cosleeping hovered at 25 percent.
Douglas Teti, a department head and professor of human development and family studies at Penn State, explained that this trend may actually be for the best for both mom and baby:
"We definitely saw that the persistent cosleepers — the moms that were still cosleeping after six months — were the ones who seemed to get the most criticism," he said. "Additionally, they also reported greater levels of worry about their baby's sleep, which makes sense when you're getting criticized about something that people are saying you shouldn't be doing; that raises self-doubt. That's not good for anyone."
But Teti wants to emphasize that the decision to cosleep past six months shouldn't be immediately written off based on his findings. It simply depends on what works best for your family.
"In other parts of the world, cosleeping is considered normal, while here in the US, it tends to be frowned upon," said Teti in a statement. "Cosleeping, 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 OK with it, then cosleeping is a perfectly acceptable option."
The bottom line? Make sure you talk the about cosleeping with your partner before making any significant changes because — let's be honest here — moms are going to feel the effects way more than dads.
"If you cosleep, it's going to disrupt your sleep, and probably Mom's sleep more than Dad's. So this is something to be careful with if you're not good with chronic sleep debt. Cosleeping 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."