Will our baby sleep through the night sooner if he or she shares our bed?
There exists no longitudinal data that can answer this question. But a
variety of scientific studies indicate that rather than it being completely controlled by the environment, the baby's own maturational rate as influenced by its unique internal needs to awaken, to feed, to find reassurance, or to oxygenate, are as much influencing factors in night waking and "sleeping through the night" as is sleep location. Moreover, it is interesting to note that where infants and parents cosleep the infants are for the most part undetected by the apparent, and the infant upon "feeling" the infant's presence, returns to sleep without awakening the apparent so the question of "sleeping through the night" becomes less relevant.
Of course, years ago Dr. Tom Anders observed that babies awaken for short periods throughout the night without parental knowledge, even where they sleep in a crib, alone. Some babies will simply go back to sleep while others, presumably with different needs and sensitivities, will awaken and "signal" their need for contact with the parent. Should infants do so i.e. signal parents, it is not necessarily a sign of immaturity, stubbornness or attempts to manipulate. Interestingly, laboratory studies reveal that the average duration of infant and maternal awakenings in the cosleeping environment are shorter on average than the awakenings mothers and babies experience when baby awakens in another room, and requires intervention before going back to sleep. One bit of information might help here: from a biological perspective, it is appropriate for babies to awaken during the night during the first year of life. In fact, although infants can be conditioned to sleep long and hard alone, and without intervention and, hence, fulfill the cultural expectation that the should sleep through the night, the fact remains that they were not designed to do so, and it may not be either in their best biological or psychological interest. As always, parental goals and needs lead parents to interpret their infant's behavior, including night awakenings, very differently. For example, many parents do not worry about night awakenings because especially where the babies sleep next to them, the infants are content and less likely to awaken and remain distressed.