Baby sleep becomes a major topic when a baby is born. For tired parents, of course, but also …
Baby sleep becomes a major topic when a baby is born. For tired parents of course, but also for those around them. How do we explain this?
There is social pressure. It is connected with our pedagogical culture, it occurs from the first days of a child’s life. Often this is one of the first questions family or friends ask: “Does he sleep through the night?”
We make baby sleep perfect. If we didn’t, if we didn’t compare that with adults, the parents would live things better.
What does a baby sleep look like?
It’s messy! The first advantage is that babies’ sleep cycles are much shorter than ours. However, between these cycles there are small awakenings, normal but inevitably more numerous. Parents should be reassured: the older the child, the longer the cycles and the less often they wake up. Then, you should know that before the age of 2 or 3 years, slow and deep sleep is less. There are also parasomnias, night terrors for example, which are specific to early childhood.
When do we say that the child sleeps through the night?
Spending the night means everything and nothing. In the research, we consider that a child “sleeps” when he sleeps from 6 to 8 hours. This is much lower than most parents think, who imagine their child sleeping through the night when he sleeps 12 hours straight.
From what age does the sleep of a child resemble the sleep of an adult?
Some scholars estimate it to be between 10 and 13 years old. For others, it was before, about 6 or 7 years old. What is certain is that the older the child, the closer his sleep is to the adult’s. But it takes a long time. When we know that the brain has not matured before the age of 25, we put sleep into perspective. Parents really need to be patient.
What is the worst misconception about sleep?
The one who says children should be left crying. For a long time, pediatricians and researchers have recommended this because it really works: If a baby is left to cry alone, it deactivates his attachment signals and remains silent. And after three or four days he “slept”.
But studies show that when he emits warning signals such as crying, the child is programmed to know the proximity of the adult. For many reasons, and in particular to form the very important bonding bond between a child and an adult, we must let the child cry as little as possible. Of course, it can be bypassed, and there, it is also necessary to know how to put it to breathe.
What do you think of co-sleeping?
For me, sleeping with your baby is not a problem. It is a natural and universal verb, observed in the majority of cultures. But in France, where the early empowerment of the young and distant motherhood are taking place, this is a controversial topic. I think above all that we should allow parents to do whatever they want.
Do rituals really matter?
Yeah. Research has shown that a sequence of small practices, in the same direction and at the same time, reduces the time it takes a child to fall asleep, and improves the quality and time of sleep.
Besides ritual, what can help a child sleep?
Parents should know the basics of chronobiology. For example, in order for a child to sleep, it is necessary to increase the level of melatonin, the sleep hormone: for this, one can, thirty minutes before bedtime, create a less light environment. It is also necessary to reduce the level of cortisol, the stress hormone. This can be done by massaging, a moment of reading in a slow voice … Finally, it is important to reduce the temperature of the child’s body, not covering him too much, or heating his room. These are simple things, that don’t change lives, but they can change nights.
And if you have one piece of advice for young parents…