It can be a source of tension when parents don't agree about sleeping arrangements for a baby. Even if the baby's room is close by and the doors are open or a baby monitor is installed, a new mother may feel that she needs her baby close to her. This is a natural mothering instinct and shouldn't be dismissed.
When parents come to me for an infant sleep consultation, I always begin by asking each parent what he or she expected the baby's sleep pattern would be before birth. Sometimes the problem is partly differing expectations about normal infant sleep.
In making any changes, a gradual approach will usually work well. Keep your baby in your room for the first few weeks and then move the baby to a separate space when feedings are down to one or two per night. There is no "right" answer, but it's important for each of you to listen to and respect each other's feelings.
Even if you are in agreement, it may be hard for some parents to share a room with their baby. Most new babies are very noisy sleepers. They snort, cough, and take long pauses between breaths. Some wiggle and squirm throughout the night. Even if a baby doesn't need to be fed or need her parents to help her settle back to sleep, many mothers and fathers wind up being awakened by these normal newborn noises.
When parents wake up to check on their restless baby, they may make noises as they resettle. At that point, the baby may wake up and really cry. Once she cries, mom will be ready to nurse, and then everyone is awake for a while. You'll have to decide for yourselves whether you are sleeping better by having your baby in your room.
Sometimes a father won't be able to sleep well when the baby is in the room and will feel that he has to move to another bedroom unless the baby does. If that is the situation in your family, you may want to think about how the choice you make will affect your overall relationship with your partner. It is hard for dads to feel like they are less important in the family than a baby!
Here's to as much sleep as possible for everyone,
Meg Zweiback, R.N., CPNP, is an infant sleep consultant in Oakland, California