Sleep is the #1 issue parents of newborns report the most trouble on. In our culture of fast-paced, keep-up-with-the-Jones's mentality, it's no wonder we try to make babies conform to our schedules. However, it's time society and parents realized that babies are born with biological instincts, not with learned schedules. These instincts just don't fit into our modern day world so it's time to shift our thinking. Here are 5 Infant Sleep Facts and info to back them up!
1. (Most) Babies don’t sleep through the night!
In fact, only 16% of babies sleep through the night at 6 months of age. Of all babies, 17% wake anywhere from 2 to 8 times per night. It’s wrong to think that because adults can “sleep through the night” that a baby should. Actually, babies sleep cycles differ from that of an adult. It takes longer for babies to reach a deep sleep therefore they’re in light sleep longer and are more easily woken up. Not to mention, they wake up for a good reason! They’re meant to wake frequently in order to stabilize their breathing and heart rate.
2. Sleep training (usually) doesn’t work!
In fact, sleep training in the form of cry-it-out or controlled crying has resulted in night-wakings being eliminated only 14% of the time, only reduced night-wakings significantly for 24% of those who chose to sleep train, and 42% of the time it had no effect whatsoever on night-waking! Forced early sleep can have a limiting effect on cognitive development.
3. Babies need to be parented to sleep!
Parenting to sleep can look like rocking, skin to skin, dancing, nursing, bouncing, etc. It’s proven that motion is beneficial for brain and motor skill development. Skin to skin contact has a painkilling effect and boosts oxytocin. It’s also been proven that extra touch builds brighter brains! As for nursing to sleep, breastmilk contains tryptophan which peaks late in the day. Is your nursling feeding frequently? Let them! Frequent feeding serves a purpose. Baby could be going through a growth spurt, teething, and coming down with something, etc. and breastmilk soothes all of those!
4. “Self-soothing” is not what you think!
Where did this term even come from? Dr. Thomas Anders coined the term in the 1970s but it was taken out of context. He even goes on to say that “Self-soothing is a label we coined to contrast it with signaling (crying) upon awakening. I would bet that most non-signaling awakenings occur without active self-soothing.” Forget self-soothing and respond to your baby’s cues! Self-regulation is learned during infancy and toddlerhood when cued-care is in place. This helps the child to be calm and lessens toxic stress allowing them to “self-soothe” later on in life. When cared for in infancy during the most vulnerable time of the day - nighttime – babies learn intrinsic memories of trust and comfort. Between 18 months and 4 years of age, they recall these intrinsic memories and begin to “self-soothe” themselves. Every baby is different. Every timeline is different.
5. Everyone’s needs can be met!
Your and your baby’s needs can BOTH be met! Mom needs optimal nutrition. This means a balanced diet and not relying on junk food for “quick fixes”. Did you know you need to eat 9-13 servings of veggies a day? Incorporating more fruits and veggies will help mom to think clearer, feel better, and have more energy. Speaking of energy, a good rest – however long or short it may be – is just as important as nutrition. The bedroom should be for sleep and sex only and should not have any distractions such as TV. That also means keeping screen time (aka Facebook time) limited to outside of the bedroom and not right before sleep. Mom also needs to build her village or work with the village she’s got. Finding like-minded friends a family is ideal but sometimes you have to be flexible and notice that those around you, whether they hold the same parenting values as your or not, are just as beneficial. Choose a few non-negotiables and let those be known. Expect diversity in your village and watch it (and you) flourish! Your village needs to realize, however, that every baby is different. If Grandma claims that one thing worked for Uncle Mark, it doesn’t mean that it will work for your baby. Gently remind her of this!
We all already know you’re Supermom; it’s time you start believing it!
Having sleep issues with your baby or child? We now offer sleep consultations and a sleep workshop to help you get the support and education you need! Contact us for more information!
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Lynn Loutzenhisera*, John Hoffmanb & Jacqueline Beatchc: Parental perceptions of the effectiveness of graduated extinction in reducing infant night-wakings, Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 7 Nov 2013
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James J. McKenna* and Thomas McDade: Why babies should never sleep alone: A review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bedsharing and breast feeding. University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, IN 46556, USA
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Allesanda received her Bachelors in Behavioral Science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in December 2013. She now lives in North Texas with her husband and three children. As a maternal support practitioner and educator of family sleep and eco-friendly living, she blogs about family sleep, wellness, nutrition, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, holistic health, and parenting.