New White Paper from Praeclarus Press Finds That Many Behaviors Labeled as “Infant Sleep Problems” Are Actually Normal Patterns of Infant and Child Sleep

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Many new parents worry that their babies have “sleep problems” if they wake frequently, fall asleep while breastfeeding, stay up late, or only sleep while being held. A new white paper from Praeclarus Press finds that many of the behaviors labeled as problems are actually normal, which can reassure new parents.

U.S. culture has beliefs that about where babies should sleep. Unfortunately, babies have not read the manual.

Many infant sleep behaviors that experts label as "sleep problems" are actually normal and developmentally appropriate.

Most new parents complain about lack of sleep. Many are also concerned that their babies have a “sleep problem,” and that what they are experiencing is not “normal.” So they search books, ask friends and family--or even their doctor--what they should do about their child’s problematic sleep patterns. And they worry about it—a lot.

Part of this epidemic of parental angst about children’s sleep is that we live in a culture in which parents are repeatedly told that they need to worry about their child’s sleep, that there will be dire consequences if their child does not get enough sleep. Another problem is that most new parents, having had little experience with children prior to having their own, have little awareness about what truly is “normal” when it comes to infant sleep.

Simply being made aware of normal sleep patterns can help alleviate the stress and anxiety parents feel, leading to happier times for the entire family.

A working group of mother-baby sleep experts have addressed some of the most common concerns that new parents have about infant and toddler sleep in their new white paper published by Praeclarus Press, “Is Your Baby’s Sleep a Problem? Or Is It Just Normal?” This paper addresses questions such as:

“My baby wakes every hour, all day and night to feed.”
“My child was sleeping through the night and suddenly it’s stopped.”

The authors describe why frequent night wakings actually protect babies against SIDS and that long stretches of sleep brought on by formula feeding are physiologically abnormal, and can increase babies’ risk of SIDS.

The paper also addresses patterns of infant and toddler sleep, and questions parents have, such as:
“My child won’t go to sleep before 10 p.m.”
“My child sleeps less than the recommended numbers.”

The authors describe research worldwide that indicates that these patterns are quite normal in other parts of the world, and do not seem to lead to the problems predicted by Western sleep experts.

Finally, the authors describe normal sleep behaviors that are not harmful to babies, but that worry many parents (and “sleep experts”), such as:
“My child is still sleeping in our bed.”
“My child only goes to sleep breastfeeding.”
“My child only goes to sleep while outside/walking/on me.”

The authors hope to reassure parents that what appears to be problematic infant sleep patterns that require “fixing” are actually quite normal and developmentally appropriate. Their goal is for parents to have a better understanding of the broad array of behaviors that constitute “normal” when it comes to children’s sleep, and that if the behavior is not a problem for the family, it’s most likely not a problem for the child. They recommend that parents, instead of following a particular expert’s advice, understand what is needed to keep babies safe when they sleep, build the sleep environment around these safe behaviors, and do what works best for their family.

This white paper is available for download at Praeclarus Press. Praeclarus Press is a small press owned by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, dedicated to women’s health. It is located in Amarillo, Texas, USA.

The mother-baby sleep working group includes Tracy Cassels, Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Wendy Middlemiss, Darcia Narvaez, Helen Stevens, James McKenna, and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett.

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Scott Sherwood
Kathleen Kendall-Tackett
since: 11/2011
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