Applying science to Baby’s sleep

Have been reading around the web in an attempt to solve our baby sleep issues. For now I am feeding Baby before each nap. However he is only taking super short 45 minute naps (cos when he stirs the boob isn’t there.) Plus there are times he is tired but not at all hungry which mean no sleep… The overall result is a tired and grouchy Baby who is getting about three hours less daytime sleep than he needs. Plus the prospect of even more night feeds as he unlearns how to sleep longer nighttime stretches. So this isn’t a long term solution.

In my Internet travels I’ve come across a fab blog by a mum who is also a scientist. She has read lots of studies on baby sleep and shares her views on her blog. I particularly liked her post called ‘6 little secrets of a sleeping baby’. I won’t re-blog it all but a couple of bits stood out for me.

On crying and self-soothing…

I believed that my success as a mother was tied to my ability to stop my baby’s cries, as quickly as possible. If she cried, I felt that I was failing…. There is a significant body of research that shows that infants will learn to self-soothe if given the chance. As a new mother, I wish that I had paused to listen before jumping to stop BabyC’s cries and, in doing so, perhaps given her a chance to develop her own ways of soothing. I wish that I had thought carefully about what my soothing techniques were teaching her about sleep. And I wish that, at least occasionally, I had given her the chance to try to fall asleep without my intervention. After all, she might have surprised me. It would have been easier for me to think clearly about these things if I had thought of my job as being to support my baby in learning how to sleep rather than being to stop the crying….BabyC cried because she was tired. I responded by distracting her with bounces until she was lulled to sleep. I now realize that what she needed was to be heard, not hushed. I am not suggesting that we should ignore babies’ cries – not at all – but simply that we be thoughtful about responding in a non-intrusive way that is consistent with how we want the baby to eventually learn to sleep. In reality, this may be just a small shift in our actions, but it is a huge shift in our intention, and it actually requires greater attention to our babies. I believe that this simple shift in thinking may have prevented the sleep problems we found down the road.

And on parental presence during sleep training…

Many sleep experts advise that extinction – letting babies cry-it-out without any reassurances – is the fastest way to good sleep and results in less crying in the long run. They’re probably right, but again, I think we need to stop measuring our success by minutes of crying. A more gradual approach may take longer and require more patience, but it is likely less stressful to the baby. A crying baby may be protesting, struggling to fall asleep in a new way, or frustrated by the change, but she is not necessarily in distress or despair. When we let our babies know that we hear them and acknowledge their emotions, they’ll probably keep telling us how they feel for a while, and that’s OK. Every baby is different, but I now believe that most babies benefit from a gradual approach with more parental support.

The author did use a cry-it-out approach with her baby and this clearly colours her views. Plus this seems to have involved only a few hours of crying in total. I think we went through that with Baby last week! Not to mention the bad experience we had with big brother Bub who cried for hours through weeks of sleep training. Ultimately there our success lay in preventing crying, not ignoring it, but only after he HAD learned to fall asleep without intervention at least sometimes.

I am still undecided about what we’ll do but this has given me some food for thought.

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One Response to “Applying science to Baby’s sleep”

  1. Crying to sleep :-( | Don't wake the baby! Says:

    […] A mum on a mission to find some sleep « Applying science to Baby’s sleep […]

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