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Parents start out knowing their babies’ sleep will be irregular. However, by six months or so many parents wonder if something is wrong with their baby or their sleeping arrangements if the baby is not sleeping through the night.

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According to researchers, there are four common areas of concern for both parents and practitioners:

  • What constitutes “normal” infant sleep and waking patterns
  • Whether night wakings are a problem or not
  • Whether a parent’s presence is disruptive while an infant is falling asleep
  • Whether sleep training is safe and healthy for infants

Sleep training is one way to establish a sleep routine for a child, although the Methods used may not be appealing to parents or in the best interest of the child, researchers said.

Robin Yaure, senior instructor of human development and family studies, Penn State Mont Alto, says that “sleeping through the night is not likely in newborns, and babies’ sleep patterns change during the first few years of life.”

Yaure and colleagues reviewed current research on infant sleep, focusing on the above four areas of concern, and specifically on infant safety and the well being of both infant and mother during nighttime care. Based on what they found, the researchers suggest ways to integrate parental preferences and best practice information, and include conversation points for nurse practitioners in an article recently published online in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Parental presence at bedtime, sleep training and infant self-settling are frequently debated topics about which parents might look to healthcare professionals for advice. Yaure and colleagues again point to the importance of sharing new information—for example, recent research suggests that the presence of parents at bedtime, specifically during the transition to sleep, will not trigger night wakings as had been previously thought.

BABY SLEEPS

Recent findings show that non-responsiveness of mothers during nighttime care can raise stress for both mom and baby. Elevated stress increases cortisol in the body, which may hurt the baby in the long run since increased cortisol levels are associated with depression, aggression and attention problems, among other issues, in children and adults.

“I worry about parents who feel like they can’t trust their own instincts,” said Yaure. “Different parents have different goals and ideas about parenting, and we want parents to figure out how to incorporate best practices into their belief system. We have to be culturally aware and sensitive to different families and beliefs.”

By encouraging nurse practitioners to talk about current knowledge on infant night-wakings and parental presence, among other things, Yaure hopes that parents will become more comfortable and confident with their nighttime care choices.

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