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Oasis Magazine Articles

Mum & Baby: Infant Sleep

By Jo Aubrey

Infant Sleep: Making sense of the conflicting and confusing advice

As a breastfeeding advisor and Doula I often encounter exhausted mums seeking advice about their baby’s sleep (or lack of it!). 

Apparently, new parents get an average of 5.1 hours of sleep per night and subsequently lose up to 44 days of sleep in the first year of their baby’s life! No wonder books claiming to have all the answers to your baby’s sleep problems are on many parent bedside tables. There seems to be a pendulum of advice swinging between ‘child-centred’ approaches (such as Sears attachment parenting) and ‘parent-centred’ approaches (such as Gina Ford). I am also a mum of three and have had firsthand experience of the feelings of desperation that can accompany those weeks and months of broken nights and early mornings. I have tried different methods and finally with my last baby settled on a more relaxed and gentle approach to sleep training.

There has been a huge amount of research on bed-sharing (having your baby in bed with you). The incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has previously been linked with babies being in bed with their mums, however, recent research carried out by Helen Ball at the University of Durham has found that in exclusively breastfed infants bed-sharing is actually a safe and effective way for mums and babies to sleep together. As long as certain precautions are taken, both mums and babies seem to get better quality sleep. To ensure your bed is safe for your baby neither parent should smoke (even outside the home or during pregnancy), baby should be lying on their back with a firm mattress and no ‘puffy pillows, duvets or heavy bedding’. Neither the mum nor partner should have taken any recreational drugs, alcohol or medication that alters their consciousness. 

The reality of life with an infant is that they will wake at night for feedings until at least 6 months or even as long as 1 year.  As parents you need to find something that you’re comfortable with, is safe, and that allows you to get as much rest as possible.  This is crucial to your mental health and wellbeing. Do what works for your family and trust that you know your baby better than anyone.

I guess if there is one ‘take home’ message that I would like to share it would be that parents need to have realistic expectations of how their babies sleep and that its perfectly normal for babies to wake at night during the first year. Babies have no agendas. They cannot manipulate us as they don’t have the intellectual capacity to do so. I would, however, recommend differentiating night from day from a young age.  Night feeds should be done quietly with the lights down low. I also think bedtime routines are great from early on.  They give the baby a cue as to what’s coming next and prepare them for sleep. Also, a bath, massage and bedtime story can be a simple way to help your baby wind down at the end of the day.

For more information visit the following websites: 

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