Good Sleep As a Baby Affects Health Decades Later

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baby-sleepingGood sleep is important for all of us, but interestingly, good sleep as a baby turns out to be more important than we knew previously. Researchers from the Penn State College of Medicine have found that establishing good sleep patterns for your baby will affect their health, even years later.

They found that babies that get into a good bedtime routine are half as likely to be overweight at the age of 1 as other babies the same age. This finding is important because infants that gain a lot of weight in the first year of life are more likely to be obese later in life, putting them at risk of heart disease, diabetes and a host of other illnesses.

They researchers looked at over 250 first-time mothers and their babies. Moms received a series of home visits from nurses. Half of the moms were given safety advice and the other half were given information on sleep, including bedtime routines and feeding. Advice included putting babies to sleep early, and letting the babies cry to sleep if they woke up in the night.

The babies that were given sleep routines slept on average 1½ hours more per night than the group given safety advice. They were also half as likely to be overweight.

Many parents have a misconception that keeping a baby up will tire them out and help them sleep longer and later, but research has found that earlier bedtimes help babies have better and longer sleep. Babies that are 4 to 12 months old need 12 to 16 hours of sleep.

Also according to the researchers, babies had better sleep and woke less often during the night if they were left to calm themselves. However, there are instances where crying it out is not advisable – for example, when babies are sick, if a mother is breastfeeding, if their cries sound different from usual, and if they’ve been crying for periods that are too long.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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February 2023