Establishing Healthy Sleep Routines Earlier Impacts Mother-Infant Quality, Duration of Sleep

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A study shows the first 2 years of life are a vital time to establish healthy sleep routines in infant children.

Driven by the quality of sleep for infants during the night, mothers and infants need to establish a healthy sleep routine in the first year to help promote longer-term sleep, according to the results of a study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.1 Investigators from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign aimed to identify challenges in mother-infant sleeping patterns and provide recommendations for healthy habits.2

Closeup of a newborn baby holding mother's finger. | Image Credit: Bostan Natalia - stock.adobe.com

Bostan Natalia - stock.adobe.com

"The first 2 years is a really critical period where a lot of development is going on, and sleep is important for health. We wanted to look at the association of mother and infant sleep and whether it changes over time," Tianying Cai, a postdoctoral researcher at Northwestern University, said in a statement.2

Parents of 464 infants were included in the research from the STRONG Kids 2 study (NCT03341858), which investigated the sleep duration of the infant and their parent, as well as other health information, such as whether the infant was breastfeeding at 3, 12, 18, 24 months postpartum.1

Investigators found that there were 2 mother-infant profiles from 3 to 24 months: low maternal sleep (LMS) and average maternal sleep (AMS). LMS was defined as maternal sleep that was lower than the recommended amount and lower infant sleep duration, whereas AMS was defined as maternal sleep that met the recommended amount and average infant sleep duration.1

Mothers in the LMS profile had an average of 5.74 hours of sleep at 3 months and 5.9 hours at 12 to 24 months, with their children averaging 9.6 and 10.52 hours, respectively. AMS profiles were reported as 7.31 and 7.28 hours of sleep, while their child got 9.99 hours and 11 hours, respectively.2

"We identified 2 distinct groups: a low maternal sleep group where the mothers get 5 to 6 hours of sleep per night and an average maternal sleep group, which meets the national recommended sleep guidelines with 7 to 8 hours per night. Children in the low maternal sleep group also slept less, although the difference wasn't as large as for the mothers," Cai said in the statement.2

The results showed that approximately half of the mothers in the LMS profile transitioned to the AMS profile after 12 months postpartum. Investigators also noted that the sleep profiles stabilized after 12 months and had limited transitions across 12 to 24 months.1

They also noted that predictors of LMS included nighttime waking, later bedtimes, more infant sleep problems, and exclusive breastfeeding.1 Investigators also found the mothers who worked longer were more likely to be in the low sleep group at 3 months; however, that was not a factor at 12 months, according to the results.2

"If parents can establish early bedtime routines at 3 months, it improves sleep duration and reduces sleep problems," Barbara Fiese, professor emerita of Department of Human Development and Family Studies, said in the statement. "Parents may feel overwhelmed and [do not] realize that they have this in their toolkit. Something as simple as setting a regular bedtime early on and having routines, like reading a story to your child before they go to bed. You may not think they're understanding, but the rhythm of your voice establishes predictability, and you can expand this bedtime routine over the first few years of life."2

References

  1. Cai T, Sutter C, Donovan SM, Fiese, BH. The relationship between maternal and infant sleep duration across the first two years. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2023;44(6):p e421-e428. doi:10.1097/DBP.0000000000001195
  2. How mother and infant sleep patterns interact during the first two years of life. News release. Sciencedaily. July 22, 2023. Accessed July 26, 2023. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/07/230722004656.htm
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