Guest post by Bea Waterfield, Director of Baby College UK.
An introduction to understand your baby’s sleep patterns.
The issue of sleep when there’s a new baby in the house can be such a pressing need that any advice offering a glimmer of hope seems to be worth a try.
It is the “magic diet pill” or “elixir of youth” subject for many parents that leaves us vulnerable to spending money on books and seeking advice that may or may not be helpful and actually may just make us feel guilty and inadequate.
There is no guarantee that what “worked” for someone else’s baby is going to work for your unique (and very special) baby.
If you are looking for a magic solution here to get back to sleeping like you did before you had a baby
then look away now. But, if you would like to start to understand why babies sleep like they do and a little about normal sleep development then read on…
Why do babies sleep like they do?
There are many factors that affect how well and how long a baby will sleep. One fact that is inescapable is the size of their little tummies of course but there are other factors to consider…
Babies’ brain activity during sleep is different from adults. A baby has a shorter sleep cycle than an adult of about 60 minutes and, like adults, different phases of sleep. An adult will drop pretty quickly into deep “quiet” or “restorative” sleep within a few minutes of falling asleep, but a baby will spend about 20 minutes in REM sleep or “active” sleep first. During this active sleep period the brain is busy making new neural connections and growing. Babies who sleep within an hour of learning something new are much more likely to retain that knowledge (a great reason for reading at bedtime).
During the REM phase of sleep, a baby can easily be wakened. It is not fully understood why some babies wake more frequently than others but there are lots of theories! Possible reasons are hunger, separation anxiety, learning new skills and waking with the urge to practice them, and of course, teething or other discomforts. Learning your baby’s cues and understanding more about different development stages can help you respond to your baby’s needs in the night.
To fully understand why babies sleep like they do and to make sure you set realistic expectations it is also worth considering how we evolved too.
“Anthropologists think about human babies differently to most other people … Western baby-care practices are rather recent developments, and the biology of human babies expects something rather different than 21st century families might provide.” – Infant Sleep Information Source.
Where can you find out more?
For evidence-based information about sleep in the first year of a baby’s life we love The Infant Sleep Information Source from Durham University. www.isisonline.org.uk. We think you’ll find it interesting, refreshing, realistic and empowering.
Bea Waterfield is a Director of Baby College UK and a parent of two teens who would sleep all day given the chance! Baby College UK run baby and child development classes across the country via their franchise network. For more info on running your own business with Baby College, visit www.babycollege.co.uk