I am on maternity leave #1: The first month

Hello families! Baby David is 1 month old!

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In the past, most of my blog postings have been inspired by my profession - working with children, families, and students who are pursuing their early childhood education licenses. However, this posting will be a lot different since it is based on my own experience as a first-time parent with a newborn. Even though I have nearly 20 years of experience and education related to early childhood, especially with infants and toddlers, starting parenthood is definitely a new experience. Of course, I have had many new parent moments, felt helpless with my crying baby but at the same time, those moments are precious because my own baby is so special to me.

I will share my experiences during the first month based on three categories – Things that have already worked, things that are still in progress, and things that have not worked yet. I would like to emphasize that my child is unique just as yours are as well. There are countless things that impact a child’s behaviour and development as well as family dynamic. I cannot say that what I have done directly causes the outcomes of my child or my family. However, I thought it would be great to share what I have applied for those who are looking for some experience-based ideas for their newborns.


Things that have already worked


Among the many hats that I wear, baby sleep consulting is certainly one of them – I have helped dozens of parents even prior to being a mother. One thing that I wanted to do from the very beginning was helping my baby understands the difference between day and night. Even though circadian rhythm develops at around 3-4 months, it doesn’t hurt to start helping my baby early on.

What I have done

  • Gone out twice a day (daytime, and evening): I have gone out daily since day 5. During the daytime, I usually go out with a stroller but on a rainy day, I go out with a sling so I can use an umbrella. He is usually sleeping but there were a few days he was so alert. I have not skipped this daytime routine yet. In the evening, my husband joins our outings. It has been such a nice time as a new growing family. We had to skip a few days of this when it was pouring or too late due to other schedules (e.g., guest visits). I could anticipate those occasions and on those days, I go for a longer walk during the daytime. This actually has helped my own recovery and prevented me from being stuck in the house singing the baby blues.

  • Set the mood: When my baby wakes up, I open the window and turn on music. I also turn on a diffuser with diluted sweet orange essential oil which is known for uplifting mood (I also mix with diluted tea tree oil and peppermint that are known for preventing colic). Also, I don’t attempt to limit sound during the daytime. I live in the very busy part of Vancouver so it is almost impossible to block the sound from outside anyways. During the nighttime, naturally, every sensory input subsides. On top of that, I set the mood by dimming the light and turning on unwinding music or white noise. My husband and I also try to use a softer voice.

* There are conflicting arguments regarding the usage of essential oils and only limited numbers of essential oil are safe for babies. Please do your own research and discuss with a healthcare professional before using them.

  • Change his outfits at least twice: I understand it is very easy to let newborns wear a sleeper for the full day because their main job is to sleep. However, I change his outfit at least twice a day (in most of the times, more than twice due to leaking and spitting up) from sleeper to daytime outfit and from daytime outfit to sleeper.

  • Face, hands and bum washing in the morning and full bathing at night: I washed his face, hands and bum with water in the morning and my husband and I give him a bath every night. I believe that these two are very distinguished daily experiences for him. I hope these can be a cue for time to start a day and time to go to sleep. 

  • Vitamin D drops in the morning: It is recommended in Canada that all breastfeeding babies get vitamin D drops. I can't explain this with scientific reasoning, however, based on my own experiences, vitamin D pills made me more alert and awake. Also, when I took it at night, I had a hard time to fall asleep. Therefore, I give vitamin D drops to my baby in the morning.

*I set up the alarm on my phone for this. If you are the mommy who struggles with “mommy’s brain” this helps.

Outcomes

After I got confirmation from my midwife that his weight gain was better than target (30 mg per day. He was gaining for 35 mg per day), I started letting him sleep as much as he can instead of waking him up every two hours. I would like to consider that it has been successful since 3 weeks in, my baby stretched his sleep to an average of 4 hours or more at night and by 4 weeks for 6 hours in a row. I know that it can change in an instant, but I do feel as though we have accomplished this.

 

Since I started maternity/parental leave, I became the main caregiver of my baby. However, from the very beginning, I would like to share this precious moment with my husband so he can develop bonding with the baby. Developing attachment does not just happen. It requires time and effort of a new caregiver as my husband does. Therefore, I would like to encourage my husband and our baby to share more intimate time.

What I have done

  • Daddy and me-time: My husband started a new job just before we brought our baby into the world. As expected, he is super busy. We tried to find any time that he could spend some time with the baby without being rushed. We learned that in the morning before his work, my husband can spend some time with the baby for 30 minutes to one hour (Also, this gives me some time to take a shower and do some tidying up). Also, just before the last feeding at night, there is some snuggle time (skin to skin) between them.

  • Daddy takes care of me: Typical caregiving moments are the best time to develop attachment. When my husband is at home, he is the person who changes baby D’s diapers. He carries the baby around. He goes out for a walk and takes a bath – even inside the tub with him. When I pump, I always give the bottle to my husband (Sometimes I purposely pump for this. It is extra work for me but it is worth it). These attempts have allowed my husband gets to know the baby better and his caregiving skills have improved drastically in order to meet the needs of the baby (good job, hubby!).

Outcomes

Daily daddy routines have been established between my two precious gems. They seem to enjoy these times together. My husband who has never had experience with taking care of newborns is developing a solid relationship with his son. I am very happy and thankful to see that my husband and I are adapting to our new roles as parents and working together as a team.


Things that are still progress


It is important to keep a calm demeanour when taking care of babies. I am confidently able to say that I have been able to deal with crying and behavioural issues related to children in a calm manner for most of my life/career. However, dealing with my own child is different. My logical part of my brain is telling me that he is ok and safe even though he is crying but the emotional part of my brain is telling me to rescue my baby. My stress hits the roof when I hear the sound of my baby crying. This intensified stress makes me lose a bit of my control. There were a few times that I cried with my baby since I felt such pain during the first week.

What I have done

  • Stop, breath, and think through it: Whenever I feel uncontrollable stress due to him crying, I stop and breath. I have to keep reminding myself of the following:

    1) A Little bit of crying isn’t going to hurt him

    2) Crying is the only way he can communicate so try to find the reason and resolve it

    3) Sometimes he just cries with no specific reason

    4) The more I can be calm, the quicker he can be calm again

    5) How I feel has intensified due to the hormonal and brain changes that have occurred to me. It does not reflect how he actually feels.

  • Be ready: I knew that the witch hour was going to be difficult but I did not anticipate how frustrated and helpless I would feel. Feeding after feeding (cluster feeding) made me exhausted both physically and mentally. After a few days of struggles, I could anticipate this, and I started readying myself for this. I also made sure to eat well (sometimes a piece of cake helped me to get through), and hydrated. Also, this applies to when my husband and I are out (Oh man that first doctor’s office visit! We were rushed and soaking wet because of stress sweat). We have learned that it will take way more time to get out of the house. We also need to master how to use new baby-related products such as the stroller and car seat. The better prepared we are, the calmer we can be.

Outcomes in progress

I would put this as a thing that is still progress because we have yet to encounter all the various situations that would require a calm demeanour. I am aware that this may remain as an in-progress task during my entire parenthood.


Things that have not worked yet


First of all, I hope this isn’t misunderstood in that I don’t like to have guests. I do appreciate their kindness and care for our growing family, love to have as many guests as I can and introduce my beautiful baby to them.

Everyone welcomes and wants to meet the new baby. However, having guests does not necessarily follow the needs of the newborn baby. It can disrupt his wake-eat-sleep patterns. He can be overstimulated and become overly tired especially when the visits occur in the evening. We learned it in a hard way. We realized that we cannot say yes to guests whenever they would like to visit. There were two days he woke up more than 10 times at night because we had guests in the evening! Also, this is the time that a new mother must focus on recovery as well and for new parents-baby bonding.

What I have tried

Before I had my baby, I read some postings from mommies groups about rules for guests and did not think about it much. However, after having constant visits from guests, my husband and I realized that we needed something. We tried to set up rules such as the timing of the visit, limiting the numbers of guests at one time, etc. However, we have failed this quite often. It is difficult to say “no” to families and friends who are excited to see the baby. However, my husband and I need to reinforce these rules for the benefit of our baby and ourselves. We just need to remember - Babies cannot accommodate adults. Adults should accommodate babies.


I cannot believe this has already been a month. Time flies and I don’t want these precious moments with my newborn to go away. I hope as my baby gets bigger, stronger, and smarter, my husband and I become more mature and patient for his benefit and ours!

- Minnie

Parental depression and developmental outcomes of their babies

Dear families,

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Depression hurts everyone. Parental depression can disrupt not only parents' own well being but also caregiving and nurturing which leads to negative developmental consequences in babies. The following article explains how parental depression impacts developmental and socioemotional outcomes in developing babies. 

- Minnie

          Babies are born with tremendous abilities to develop relationships with their primary caregivers, mainly their parents (Bowlby, 1958, 1969; Campa, 2013; Kaplan, Bachorowski, Smoski, & Hudenko, 2002).  Their tiny body constantly sends and receives non-verbal signals with their parents which allows parents to meet babies’ physiogical and psychological needs (Browne & Talmi, 2015).  Parental observation, interpretation, accommodation, and adaptation in order to meet babies’ current needs are the foundation for developing infants.  However, many studies (e.g., Aktar et al., 2016; Guyon-harris, Huth-bocks, Lauterbach, & Janisse, 2016 ; (Kaplan et al., 2002) have shown that parental mental health can interfere with their ability to respond their babies.  Consequently, babies’ paths for optimal development can be in jeopardy.  In this paper, a literature review will be drawn upon to explain how parental psychopathology, especially depression impacts developmental and socioemotional outcomes in developing babies.

          Developmental psychologists have tried to introduce human development into several progressive orders.  Many of them agreed that basic physiological and psychological needs should be met first within the relationship with parents in order to achieve a more sophisticated and complex development.  For example, Maslow (1943) believed that there are five different layers of needs.  One level should be fulfilled to pursue the next level.   He explained that the first two fundamental needs are physiological needs, such as food and water, and security needs, such as security and shelter.  These are the foundation for the next step, love and belonging.  Greenspan (1997; 2006) introduced six basic developmental capacities for early childhood.  He (1997; 2006) explained that the first step is developing the ability to regulate their own body as well as attention and focus on the world followed by the second step, mutual engagement and forming relationships and the third step, interactive intentionality and reciprocity.  Winnicott (1960; 1986) also argued that satisfaction when babies’ physical and psychological needs are met through parental care, babies start learning about themselves and the world around them.  Therefore, parental ability to provide a safe environment, read their babies’ signals, and adjust their behaviours to meet their babies’ physical and psychological needs are cornerstones for optimal development in babies.

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          We often only think about parental influence on their babies, not their fetus.  However, the interactions between expecting mothers and their fetus start earlier than the birth of newborn babies.  For example, Feldman (2007) argued that expecting mothers support their unborn babies’ biological rhythms.  In the third trimester, expecting mothers and their fetus synchronize their states, which supports the fetus to consolidate their sleep-wake cycle and the cardiac rhythm, which controls heart rhythms.  However, when expecting mothers are depressed, the development of the fetus can be compromised.

          Field (2011) argued that the evidence of prenatal depression could be found to be 6-38% in the published literature.  There is no clear explanation of the mechanisms underlying the influence of depressed expecting mothers on the development of their unborn child, however, dysregulated hormones among expecting mothers are considered one of the key influencers of developmental consequences (Lewis et al. 2015).  In a literature review, Field (2011) showed that prenatal depression is associated with excessive activity and growth delays in the fetus.

          Other researchers attempted to unveil prenatal maternal depression and the developmental outcomes after birth.  Field (2011) explained prenatal depression could lead to prematurity, low birthweight, disorganized sleep and less responsiveness to stimulation in the neonate.  In addition, Junge et al. (2017) argued that prenatal depression caused high cortisol exposure prenatally which may cause children to be reactive to stress after birth.

          Developmental oddness can be found in older children.  Eichler et al. (2017) investigated that the relationship between prenatal maternal depression and social outcomes among children at four years of age.  One thing that makes this study unique is that children’s social outcomes were measured by trained phycologists, not a parental report to avoid parental bias.  They found that children whose mothers were depressed prenatally displayed more antisocial behaviour symptoms at this particular age.

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          Postpartum depression can be found in 13-20% of new mothers (World Health Organization, n.d.).  Maternal depression interferes with interaction with their babies (Kaplan et al., 2002).  Infant direct speech (ID) is crucial to stimulate babies (Fernald, 1985).  Kaplan et al. (2002) observed the conditioned attention paradigm, ID as a signalling stimulus and smiling as reinforcer among infants whose mothers were depressed and not depressed at four months of age.  Babies of depressed mothers could not attain learning opportunities due to inappropriate maternal support (e.g., withdrawn, negative affect, lower quantity of stimulation, less salient stimulation).  However, the important thing is these children demonstrated attention when other non-depressed females prompted them.  This aligns with the view of capable infants and emphasizes the importance of not only early detection but also support for mothers who are depressed. 

          Synchrony is another key element in the early relationship between mothers and their babies.  Schore and Shore (2008) argued that sensitive parents attune infants’ arousal in order for them to synchronize together to regulate affective states and then, move towards the next emotional state together.  Therefore, in these relationships between mothers and their babies, mothers can support babies’ development of both central (CNS) and autonomic (ANS) nerve systems after birth.  Granat, Gadassi, Gilboa-Schechtman and Feldman (2017) studied the differences of synchrony between three groups of mothers; depressed, anxious and typical, and their babies.  Depressed mothers demonstrated frequent but short gazing to their infants which did not help synchrony between them and their babies.  These babies display social withdrawal (less gaze, aversion) which can lead to an increase in behavioural issues in the near future.  Also, in stressful circumstances, for babies of depressed mothers, the presence of mothers was not effective to reduce negative emotions as an external regulatory agent.  Anxious mothers achieved the highest level of frequency of synchrony.  However, their babies moved to a negative emotional state (anxious) together with their mothers.  Moreover, the intrusiveness of anxious mothers hindered their babies’ opportunity to develop autonomy.  Therefore, a different type of mental illness of mothers requires different strategies to support early relationships with their babies.

          Maternal depression can increase undesirable emotional/behavioural outcomes in older children (Woolhouse, Gartland, Mensah, Giallo, & Brown, 2016).  Woolhouse et al. (2016) measured maternal depression in early pregnancy and at 3, 6 and 12 months postpartum and again at four years postpartum and emotional/behavioural difficulties of children at four years.  Even though any point of maternal depression increased the chance of emotional/behavioural difficulties, children with mothers who were depressed at four years postpartum displayed three times more emotional/behavioural difficulties than children with non-depressed mothers.  This study provides insight into the needs of support for depressed mothers during an extended period.

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          There are many studies about the impacts of maternal depression on child developmental outcomes, but there is a lack of studies related to father influences.  In consideration of the social-ecological systems theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) and the transactional theory (Sameroff, 2009), it is important to understand the complex bi-directional, non-linear impact on maternal depression and father contribution.  Fathers can impact a child’s development as well as maternal mental health.  Paulson & Bazemore (2010) found that 10% of fathers suffer from prenatal and postpartum depression and it had a moderate positive correlation with maternal depression. Kim and Kim (2017) compared high-income and low-income families to see the relationship between fathers' indirect influence on children's social/emotional outcomes.  In both groups, fathers' involvement mediated maternal depression and parenting stress, and consequently, children demonstrated better social and emotional outcomes.

          Within the dyad, characteristics or conditions of babies can contribute and influence maternal depression.  For example, the negative temperament of babies is more related to maternal depression (Aktar et al., 2016).  Premature birth also contributes not only to maternal depression (Bakalar, 2008), but also paternal depression (States News Service, 2016).  In fact, maternal postpartum depression is found among as high as 40% of mothers who give premature birth (Vigod, Villegas, Dennis, & Ross, 2010).  Moreover, having a child with developmentally delay is another major risk factor for parental mental health (Alvarez, Meltzer-Brody, Mandel, & Beeber, 2015).  Alvarez et al. (2015) illustrated that depression and anxiety symptoms could be found in as high as 68% and 52 % respectively among these parents.  Therefore, more dedicated support is necessary for these parents whose babies are medically fragile in promoting their mental health as well as the early relationship with their babies.

          Babies are capable communicators (Bowlby, 1958, 1969; Campa, 2013; Kaplan et al., 2002) and their non-verbal communication allows parents to help meet babies’ physiological and psychological needs (Browne & Talmi, 2015).  Parental ability to observe, interpret, accommodate, and adapt are cornerstones for developing infants.  Prenatal depression disrupts developmental outcomes not only in the fetus but also in babies after birth.  Moreover, maternal postpartum depression interferes with the maternal ability to communicate and synchronize with their babies, consequently resulting in undesirable developmental and social/emotional outcomes.  Fathers should also be the centre of our attention due to their own suffering from depression and their influences on child development.  Lastly, the characteristics and conditions of babies can be risk factors to parental depression.  Therefore, those parents whose babies are medically fragile requires more dedicated support to promote their mental health as well as the early relationship with their babies.

References

Aktar, E., Mandell, D. J., de Vente, W., Majdandzic, M., Raijmakers, M. E., J, & Bögels, S. M. (2016). Infants’ temperament and mothers’, and fathers’ depression predict infants’ attention to objects paired with emotional faces. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 44(5), 975–990. http://dx.doi.org.fgul.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10802-015-0085-9

Alvarez, S. L., Meltzer-Brody, S., Mandel, M., & Beeber, L. (2015). Maternal Depression and Early Intervention: A Call for an Integration of Services. Infants and Young Children, 28(1), 72–87. https://doi.org/10.1097/IYC.0000000000000024

Bakalar, N. (2008). Depression linked to premature deliveries. The New York Times, p. 6.

Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment: Attachment and loss. London, England: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis.

Bowlby, J. (1958). The nature of the child’s tie to his mother. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39 (5), 350-373.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Browne, J. V. & Talmi, A. (2015). BABIES and PreSTEPS Manual.

Campa, M. I. (2013). Built to bond: Coevolution, coregulation, and plasticity. In C. Hazen & M. I. Campa (Eds),  Human Bonding: The Science of Affectional Ties (PP. 41-74). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Eichler, A., Walz, L., Grunitz, J., Grimm, J., Doren, J. V., Raabe, E., … Moll, G. H. (2017). Children of prenatally depressed mothers: Externalizing and internalizing symptoms are accompanied by reductions in specific social-emotional competencies. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26(11), 3135–3144. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-017-0819-0

Feldman, R. (2007). Parent–infant synchrony: Biological foundations and developmental outcomes. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(6), 340–345. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8721.2007.00532.x

Fernald, A. (1985). Four-month-old infants prefer to listen to motherese. Infant Behavior and Development, 8(2), 181-195.

Field, T. (2011). Prenatal depression effects on early development: A review. Infant Behavior and Development, 34(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2010.09.008

Granat, A., Gadassi, R., Gilboa-Schechtman, E., & Feldman, R. (2017). Maternal depression and anxiety, social synchrony, and infant regulation of negative and positive emotions. Emotion, 17(1), 11–27. http://dx.doi.org.fgul.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/emo0000204

Greenspan, S. I. & Wieder, S. (1997). Developmental patterns and outcomes on infants and children with disorders of relating and communicating: A chart review of 200 cases of children with Autistic Spectrum diagnoses. Journal of Developmental and Learning Disorders, 1(1), 87-141.

Greenspan, S. I. & Wieder, S. (2006) Engaging autism. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press.

Guyon-harris, K., Huth-bocks, A., Lauterbach, D., & Janisse, H. (2016). Trajectories of maternal depressive symptoms across the birth of a child: associations with toddler emotional development. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 19(1), 153–165. http://dx.doi.org.fgul.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s00737-015-0546-8

Junge, C., Garthus-Niegel, S., Slinning, K., Polte, C., Simonsen, T. B., & Eberhard-Gran, M. (2017). The impact of perinatal depression on children’s social-emotional development: A longitudinal study. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 21(3), 607–615. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-016-2146-2

Kaplan, P. S., Bachorowski, J.-A., Smoski, M. J., & Hudenko, W. J. (2002). Infants of depressed mothers, although competent learners, fail to learn in response to their own mothers’ infant-directed speech. Psychological Science, 13(3), 268–271. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.00449

Kim, J., & Kim, J. M. (2017). Fathers’ indirect contribution to children’s social-emotional development via mothers’ psychological parenting environments. Social Behavior and Personality, 45(5), 833–844. http://dx.doi.org.fgul.idm.oclc.org/10.2224/sbp.6187

Lewis, A. J., Austin, E., Knapp, R., Vaiano, T., & Galbally, M. (2015). Perinatal maternal mental health, fetal programming and child development. Healthcare, 3(4), 1212–1227. http://doi:10.3390/healthca re3041212.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-396

Schore, J. R., & Schore, A. N. (2008). Modern attachment theory: The central role of affect regulation in development and treatment. Clinical Social Work Journal, 36(1), 9–20. http://dx.doi.org.fgul.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10615-007-0111-7.

Sameroff, A. (2009). The transactional model of development: How children and contexts shape each other (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

States News Services. (2016). Paternal Depression Linked to Premature Birth.

Paulson, J. F., & Bazemore, S. D. (2010). Prenatal and postpartum depression in fathers and its association with maternal depression: A meta-analysis. JAMA, 303(19), 1961–1969. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2010.605

Vigod, S. N., Villegas, L., Dennis, C.-L., & Ross, L. E. (2010). Prevalence and risk factors for postpartum depression among women with preterm and low-birth-weight infants: a systematic review. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 117(5), 540–550. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2009.02493.x

World Health Organization (n.d.). Maternal mental health. Retrieved July 14, 2018, from http://www.who.int/mental_health/maternal-child/maternal_mental_health/en/

Woolhouse, H., Gartland, D., Mensah, F., Giallo, R., & Brown, S. (2016). Maternal depression from pregnancy to 4 years postpartum and emotional/behavioural difficulties in children: results from a prospective pregnancy cohort study. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 19(1), 141–151. http://dx.doi.org.fgul.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s00737-015-0562-8

Sleep like a Baby

Dear Families,

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 If you are expecting and want to have a healthy start for your baby or if you have a newborn and want to help your baby sleep, this is for you!  

               - Minnie                    


Understanding Baby's Sleep


          After departing from your nice, warm uterus, your baby suddenly needs to do many things by himself. He needs to breath, eat, eliminate, control body temperature and etc. Regulating and maintaining homeostasis is a huge job for him to accomplish during the first few months after birth. Sleep/arousal is one of these big tasks.         

          You would like to see your little one to sleep and be awake in more predictable patterns, sleep for longer stretches, have a smoother transition between sleep and being awake, being awake for feeding, enjoying time with you, learning the world, and eventually more consolidated night time sleep. His sleep and arousal can be divided into six states characterized by observable evidence such as breathing, eye movement, and body movement. The big changes in states is that full-term babies spend 50% of their sleep for active sleep at birth and it reduces to 25% by 6 months. Studies have suggested that this change correlates to rapid brain development. Moreover, they have shorter sleep cycles (60 minutes) when compared to adults (90 minutes) which equates to more vulnerable moments for arousal.

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          Sleep/arousal is organized based on the circadian rhythm and homeostatic processes. Circadian rhythm incorporates cues from the external environment to regulate timing. So, sunlight in the morning, and darkness at night are cues to activate circadian rhythm. Sleep pressure in the homeostatic process is relieved by sleep. Let's imagine a spring toy – When you wake up, you are constantly tightening the spring and once you fall asleep, the spring is released. Your baby's sleep gradually is organized by these two bodily processes.

          If your baby is premature or medically fragile, they need more support from you to organize their sleep and arousal due to the immaturity of central nervous system and lack of typical habituation* due to hospitalization.

*Habituation: The world of sensory stimuli can be overwhelming for your baby. If your baby is exposed to a familiar environment, he will learn how to react less to those repeated sensory inputs, consequently lessening their arousals. This is called habituation.
 

Why is your baby's sleep important?

There are several reasons of which, studies have confirmed

  • Physical health (growth & development, obesity, immune system)
  • Brain development and function (brain metabolism, memory consolidation, learning)
  • Awake time performance and safety
  • Emotional well-being
  • Your baby's sleep = whole family's well-being
  • Sleep issues can become chronic

Supporting your baby's sleep


          First and foremost, is creating a safe environment to prevent sudden infant death (SID). Here are general guidelines of safe to sleep (campaign) created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

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          The needs for each baby is as unique as those for the family. The ways of supporting your baby's needs largely depending on who your child is and what situation he is in. The following suggestions are not made as solutions but should help guide you in finding ways to meet your little one's unique needs by observing and understanding his sleep and arousal.

OBSERVATION & RECORD

          Sleep/arousal states should not be looked at as isolated but interdependent. Therefore, your observation should be done in 24-hour time-frames.   

 

Your child

  • How's his sleep/arousal patterns? You can look into this while relating it to the six states.

  • What about his sleep cycles? 

You

  • What changes have been made that have made your baby more or less sleep/calm/alert/irritable (e.g., your voice, mood, pace, how to play with, feed, change him, hold, move, bundle him, efforts to calm him down, etc.)?

Environment

  • What sensory inputs made him more or less sleep/calm/alert/irritable (e.g., lights, sound, new blanket, visitors, weather, etc.)?

FOLLOW YOUR CHILD'S LEAD & SUPPORT HIM TO DEVELOP MORE HABITUATION.

          Now, you are aware of your child's sleep patterns and what help his sleep and attention while he is awake. It's time to create the best daily routine for him. It cannot be a rigid schedule, since his needs can change from time to time. However, it is good to have some predictable patterns/flows which can help him react less to sensory stimuli when he is tired (habituation).  

YOUR SLEEP IS IMPORTANT, TOO!

          Studies have confirmed that parental sleep deprivation due to their babies' sleep issues can cause depression, poor sleep quality, fatigue, physical health issues and can also, increase potential accidents (e.g., micro sleep while driving). This tremendously impacts the relationship between you and your baby since you are prone to having less patience and making less than ideal parenting decisions in order to meet his needs, including his sleep needs. This two can become an endless chain effect. Therefore, your attempt to addressing your own sleep should coincide with one another. The best way to approach this is lifestyle changes. Food intakes (e.g., caffeine), usage of electronics, exercise, relaxation techniques, etc. should be looked at as compounding factors. 

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

          As your child become bigger and stronger, his needs will change. Therefore, your observation and readjusting your support should be a constant focus. It is also important to keep in mind that it is common to have sleep disturbances during the first few years of life. However, it is also important to seek medical help if your baby's sleep issues become out of control or chronic. 

                      Sleep is important for your baby's growth and development as well as                 the well-being of your whole family!

             

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