In industrialized societies, parents often find that infant and child waking at night is very stressful. It influences the parents' relationship with each other, and with their children. The problem is frequently referred for treatment.
In this study, researchers from London, England, studied 600 babies from 1 to 12 weeks of age.
|More than 11 feeds in 24 hours, during the first week of age, is a significant factor in babies failing to sleep through the night.|
|Archives of Disease in Childhood|
Babies were randomly allocated to 1 of 3 types of parental care. These comprised either a 3-step behavioral program, an educational booklet and helpline access for sleeping problems, or the routine services.
The three-step behavioral program included:
- maximizing the difference between night and day environments by minimizing light and social interaction at night.
- settling sleepy baby in a cot, and avoiding feeding and cuddling at night.
- gradually delaying feeds when the baby wakes at night from the age of 3 weeks, once the baby is developing normally.
The research team asked mothers to keep behavior diaries for 72 hours at a time when their babies were 3, 6, 9 and 12 weeks of age.
The team found that the significant factor in babies failing to sleep through the night at 12 weeks, was having been given more than 11 feeds over the space of 24 hours, during the first week of age.
These babies were almost 3 times as likely to wake repeatedly, compared to babies fed fewer times. In addition, they had more fussing or crying bouts at night.
Furthermore, by 12 weeks, 82% of these ‘at risk' babies assigned to the behavioral program were sleeping through the night, compared with 61% of the ‘at risk' babies who were not on the behavioral program.
The team found results to be similar for both bottle and breast fed babies.
Drs Nikolopoulou and St James-Roberts concluded, "It is possible to identify babies who will develop sleeping problems later on, for whom a behavioral program could be helpful".
"But they note that elements of the program run counter to widely used childcare practice."