Latest research done by a team from the University of Michigan says that the first six months of life is vital to developing normal sleep and wake pattern which is known as circadian rhythms. Hence, this factor is identified to be important as well in the child’s healthy sleep hygiene as he or she grows up.
Having known this important stage where insomnia prevention measures can be implemented, it is important for a mother to understand and give equal attention to her baby’s sleep, in the same way that nutrition and other developmental milestones are given much importance.
The research has proven the effects of a mother’s neglect on this particular aspect of child care. This is more apparent among mothers who experience mood changes during and after pregnancy. Initial feelings of denial and ambivalence are normal at this stage. However, some mothers unavoidably experience extreme depression during pregnancy and after delivery (intrapartum and postpartum depression.)
There still a gray area as far as the etiology of this type of depression is concerned. Some studies strongly link postpartum depression to endocrine factors. Whether hormones have something to do with it or not, the gravity of its effects is not only felt by the mother but also by the baby. As for the mother, the she may experience a wide array of symptoms (severe mood swings, intense irritability and anger, loss of appetite, difficulty bonding with the baby, withdrawal from family and friends, etc.) Insomnia can also be one of the effects and it can also be a trigger as well.
All these threaten the quality of care that they give to the babies. Some are not capable of taking care of the baby while some develop a tendency to even harm the baby once they’re struck with this type of depression.
The research team of the University of Michigan says that babies born to depressed moms are “prone to having chaotic sleep patterns in the first half-year” as compared babies born to non-depressed moms. These babies are found to be sleeping more during the day, taking longer time before they can be put to sleep at night, with more frequent waking episodes. This further predisposes them to becoming depressed adults in the future.
Dr. Roseanne Armitage, leader of the UM Sleep Lab clarified that, “this doesn’t mean that babies born to depressed moms are doomed to follow in their mothers’ shoes, even though depression does tend to run in families.” According to her, this does not also mean that moms without history of depression should not pay attention to their babies sleep hygiene. This essentially means that all parents (with or without history of depression) must give importance to the sleep hygiene as early as the infancy period.
It would be important to note that infants as compared to adults, need a lot more hours of sleep. On the average, in the first 2 months, infants need 11 to 18 hours of sleep. In the next 10 months, they need 11 to 15 hours. However, infants get sleep throughout the day and night in shorter chunks of time.
New parents may be unfamiliar with establishing an ideal sleep pattern for their baby, but there are simple ways to do this.
Experts say that putting on day clothes for daytime sleep and changing on to night clothes appropriately can help babies develop normal circadian rhythms, because babies can feel this. Moreover, exposing the baby to adequate amounts of light during daytime can also help them distinguish daytime from nighttime sleep.
These are just examples of rituals that can help strengthen the circadian rhythm of infants, but the main idea here is to help train the babies’ brain to sleep when it’s dark and be awake when there’s light or when it’s bright. Parents should also remember that for infants to get an ideal sleep, they are not merely put to sleep. It must rather be combined with good parenting.