Sorry, dearies! (side note: I spent a good 15 minutes looking for a good/funny pic or gif of Rumple saying this, because that’s what happens in my head.. but then I decided it was a bit too scary and not conducive to good infant sleep at all.. sorry!)
I have kept you waiting for too long, and people have been asking and asking various sleep questions and sharing their sleep dilemmas, etc.
So, lets begin! Last month I got to listen to a very informative talk by this really wonderful and knowledgable lady: Prof. Hellen Ball. If you are up for it – you can read some of her publications from her page. Her research projects and interest clearly indicate one thing – she knows her stuff when it comes to baby sleep! And particularly – what’s normal for baby sleep.
I want to share with you some of the key points that I learned from her talk, and was rather surprised by, or – always suspected to be true but now it’s good to have it backed by science!
- “normal baby sleep” basically doesn’t exist in terms of what we’re looking for. There is a very wide range of normal and babies can fall anywhere on that scale and move throughout it. So – no point in comparing your baby to another baby, or even to him or herself a few weeks ago. It’s all still normal.
- “Sleeping through the night” – was defined over 50 years ago. And that was used to label babies sleeping for 5 hours at night. And most of the babies were formula fed, but – that wasn’t considered as a factor in the study. Personally – a 5 hour stretch for me does NOT equal sleeping through the night. So if that prissy miss perfect pants is telling you that her precious baby is sleeping through the night – don’t believe her! She’s no better than you!
- Some babies do start sleeping for longer stretches around the age of 3 months. This is when many “sleep training” techniques are suggested to be begun. And this is why it may seem like they work. However this development of longer sleep is not permanent. About half of all “sleep trained” babies in a controlled study environment revert back to more chaotic patterns of sleep. Parents trying to sleep their kids at home, not under professional supervision had even lower rates of success.
- Sleep training before six months for a breastfed baby can interfere with the mother’s milk supply.
- By 5 months of age half of the babies in studies slept from 10pm to 6am with no wakings (for an 8 hour stretch), but half of the babies did not. What does this mean? That not sleeping through the night is just as normal as sleeping through the night, doesn’t mean you’re not doing your sleep training improperly (although – maybe you are developing some bad habits?). It is simply a matter of luck. Some babies do it, some don’t.
When parents were monitored for how much sleep they actually got and were asked how their sleep was it became clear – it’s not so much about how much you actually sleep, but rather – what you expect a good sleep to be for you. So set your expectation low and be a little happier ;) Also – the number of times you wake up at night seems to have a bigger effect than how long you were up for. In other words getting up 3 times for 5 minutes will make you feel like you slept worse than waking up once for 20+ minutes.
In the next series of posts I will tell you about breastfeeding and infant sleep, co-sleeping and the science pertinent to it and sleep training and what study results say about that.