We all expect a few sleepless nights with a new arrival to the household. A new baby means crying at night; feeding, changing, burping.
Everyone wants to get baby sleeping through the night as quickly as possible, but did you know that research suggests the first six months are critical for setting patterns not only for baby now, but for the rest of their life?
With that in mind, it seems clear that creating habits for baby is important. We know we need to feed baby regularly, but sometimes sleep routine falls behind whilst parents work out how to adapt to life with a tiny extra person.
This can be especially hard to tackle if, like over half of all parents, you suffer from insomnia symptoms, or if you are a mom who has suffered, or is suffering, from depression, like 12 million women in the USA alone.
If you often struggle to sleep, or suffer from low mood, it can put an extra strain on you to have your sleep interrupted at night. It is difficult to plan routines and put them into action if you are not used to regular sleep, which is also a common symptom of depression.
However, new studies show that it may be even more important for families affected by these issues to develop sleep routines, as babies whose mothers suffered from depression before or during pregnancy are more likely to have irregular sleep patterns.
In this article, we are going to look at what this link means and how to tackle the problem.
Natural sleep pattern
Humans have a natural ability to know when to wake up and when to sleep, known as the circadian rhythm. This is what makes us tired at night and alert in the daytime.
However, because moms with depression often have a disrupted circadian rhythm, meaning they may feel tired in the day and struggle to sleep at night, then babies born to those moms also seem to have very little natural instinct for when to sleep, according to this study. This is surprising because babies whose moms have never been depressed are born with a sleep rhythm.
Why night sleep matters
Scientists can see a clear link between disturbed sleep and people who develop depression. This is also true of people with poor circadian rhythms. To help avoid developing or worsening depression, adopting good sleep habits is key.
Babies born to moms with depression tended to nap more during the day. This creates a vicious cycle where they wake in the night because they are not tired after day napping, then need to nap the following day because of a disrupted night. This needs to be stopped early to avoid making it worse.
That being said, don’t worry too much about very sporadic naps before 6 months. And some regulated napping is perfectly normal for children from most cultures, throughout their lives – Spain is especially famous for this.
What about happy parents?
Whilst scientists stressed that there is no guarantee that babies born to depressed parents will become depressed, they also warned parents without depression that their babies may develop depression later in life without proper sleep.
How much sleep and when?
Babies should be trained from birth to sleep when it is dark and be awake in the day. Babies younger than three months need 11 to 18 hours of sleep, so may also need a nap. For the ten months after that, 11 to 15 hours is needed.
What can you do to help?
Establishing routines is key. You should aim to have bedtimes and nap times at the same time every day. Having separate clothes for night and daytime can also help children get the idea.
Schedule your child’s waking activities around bright lights, such as outside, and then make sure that during scheduled sleep times they are in as dark a place as possible, certainly away from direct light, including sunlight.
It is also very important for the new mother to sleep on a regular schedule at this time, though different to the baby. This models behavior and helps avoid or lessen symptoms of post-natal depression.
Although you likely already do this, when your baby is asleep, be sure not to disturb them. Make sure that there is as little stimulus as possible – no light, with curtains tightly pulled, and no sound from other rooms. Also be sure not to check on your baby excessively when they’re sleeping, though checking once or twice is fine.
This is for everyone
Though it is extra important for families who suffer from low mood to set a good sleep routine as early as possible, scientists stress that everyone should be aiming for this, for parent and baby health now and baby’s health in the future.
Everyone should be doing their best to closely monitor baby’s sleep and adapting to a well-designed routine that suits baby and parents. The steps that will make a difference can be easily used by anyone and are proven to help.
Author Bio: Molly Crockett is a health blogger at Academized and Ukservicesreviews. She shares her latest personal development ideas by contributing articles to online magazines, and writing a blog at Essayroo online writing service.