Did you know our Western culture thinks about babies sleep very differently to other cultures?

Here in Australia but also other places like the USA and UK, there is a big mismatch between what parental expectations of infant and parental sleep should be verses what the reality is. This mismatch can leave parents feeling that there is a problem with their babies sleep and that they as parents should be getting more sleep and “fixing” their baby to achieve it.

It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the research literature started to discuss and explore “problematic night waking” in infants. This is where we moved more and more into looking at ways to”fix” babies sleep. But in summary none of the preventing or extinction methods used in sleep training strategies have any statistical significance in improving infant or parental sleep. And sadly it can leave babies vulnerable due to pressure from parents to sleep.

Sleep problems have been shown to be very differently reported between Asian and English speaking countries. For example one study showed that in Japan only 7% of parents reported problematic night waking. Where in English speaking countries the average is about 25-33% report problematic night wakings. This is only one study highlighting there is varying cultural differences when it comes to expectations around infant sleep.

We as a society need to start shifting away from the “fix the baby” approach. Instead like all my work, we need to shift towards supporting parents. Support parents pre and postnatally to build their confidence, offer coping strategies and allow space for parents to think deeply about how they want to parent and to think about their families sleep needs and expectations. When parents are supported, when they know more evidenced-based (AKA not outdated unproven crap) information, when they are encouraged to follow their own intuition, then they will have a much smoother and joyful transition to new family life.

FYI- I myself fell into this trap around being heavily focused on baby/toddler sleep. Being stuck at home around naps. But I now know what I know, so want to support others to feel more relaxed and less focused and worried about sleep in the postpartum days! I have no judgement and a lot of compassion for those of us that have experimented with any form of sleep training methods. I myself have tried some “gentle” techniques in my early mothering days and now know more so can do different! Oh and I still sometimes winge and moan about my kids sleep. That’s Ok. I am tired, we can still be tired, but I am also in a place of acceptance that this is my season of my mothering journey!

📷my Lily image by @sleepinggrace

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