“Mom….,” comes an exasperated sigh from my daughter, “the boys are awake again!” As a mother of fraternal twin boys (and a singleton daughter), I’ve heard this many times. Often though, I’d enter their bedroom, and find the same one of them up, crying, ready to get out of his crib, and the other asleep, just starting to rustle at the noise from the door.
Sound familiar? What really does make up the difference in sleep patterns between children? Those of you with one child who has sleep challenges may wonder, will we face this again with baby number two (or three, or four)—or is there something different that we can do next time? Can we change the sleep patterns of our current baby? And, every family with more than one child probably recognizes the similarities and differences in their children’s sleep.
Rather than feeling twinges the green-eyed monster jealousy for your neighbor, because her baby sleeps through the night AND her baby naps well, let’s look at some new research on what factors do influence sleep. No wonder she has time to do her nails. 🙂
An Italian study on twin sleep, just published this month in Pediatrics concludes that sleep disturbances in early childhood are shaped by BOTH environmental AND genetic factors. We knew that though, right? Remember the whole nature vs. nurture debate? This study found that nurture, or the environment that a child is raised with, affects sleep more than nature, or the genetic makeup of the child. Twin studies are invaluable to learn about topics like this, because they look at babies or children who share the same environment and genes (in the case of identical twins—fraternal twins only share about 50% of the same genetic makeup).
The results of this study show, that while there are some things about our babies’ sleep that we can’t change based on their genes, the good news is that there is even MORE that we can change. This can help both us and them receive better rest, based on our sleep behaviors with them.
So, don’t look at it with the glass half empty–thinking that your rocking, walking, or bouncing and holding until baby is asleep has prevented your baby’s chance at good sleep. In fact, you did what was right for her at the time! Maybe she was sick or teething, and you did what was necessary. The glass half full attitude, says, “Yes…I did what was right at the time, and now there are things I can change to help my baby sleep better.” It may be time to help coach your child toward better sleep.
What factors did the study look at? It looked at factors that concern parents just like you ever day, such as:
|Co-sleeping||98% Environmental Causes|
|Night waking episodes||63% Environmental Causes|
|Night sleep duration||64% Environmental Causes|
|Nap duration||61% Environmental Causes|
For each of these items, it means the things our baby does (especially co-sleeping, which isn’t necessarily bad, and many parents do by choice) are greatly influenced by our actions, and how we respond to our baby. There is no right or wrong when you do what’s best for your family. But, there are methods that can be implemented to help your family rest.
As for me, at this point my twins are 18 months old, and I am quite convinced that their slight differences in night sleep and nap duration are genetic changes between the two. They sleep great at night, and 95% of the time nap well also. So, the fact that one boy wakes a few minutes than the other? I think that’s an example of the genetic differences between them. They are fraternal twins, so genetically more like regular siblings than an identical genetic makeup. I do keep them on exactly the same schedule, and learned by trial and error to do that when they were younger babies also. They have almost always slept in the same room, except when we were working with the one twin who sleeps a little less. Everything else was done consistently, so they have essentially the same sleeping patterns, not just because they are twin brothers—but because I coached them with the exact same sleep behaviors.
The next time you hear a night time cry coming down the hall, question if this waking is natural for a needed feeding session or if it’s truly time to get up. If not, it may be something you could help change through the use of different behaviors and changing sleep associations.
For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan® you can feel good about!
This week’s post is by our new assistant sleep consultant, Heather Matthies. Heather will work with us to create personalized sleep solutions for tired families and provide support during the process. Heather is a registered nurse and holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Nursing. She has many years of professional experience and is a kind, warm person. She’s also the mother of three, including twins, and knows just what it’s like to juggle the many demands of parenthood! Please give Heather a warm welcome to The Baby Sleep Site.