There are around seven billion people in the world and there are probably the same number around the same number of opinions on babies and sleeping.
Hi, I’m Doctor Joe.
For something that is so innate to humans which is sleep, it’s surprising how many opinions and different views there are on a very basic subject. And there’s a lot of mythology too and a lot of scare stories.
So let’s wind it all back. Essentially babies sleep for most of the day. Not always the hours that you would like, but a newborn may sleep, anything between eighteen and twenty hours a day and obviously that lessens as months and then years go by.
There’s a lot of concern about how a baby should sleep and we know in terms of trying to prevent SIDS which is sudden infant death syndrome that sleeping on the back is one of the most useful ways of preventing it. It’s not a guarantee but we do know that that reduces the likelihood.
And also not being too hot. Now again we always worry about babies not being too cold and that’s not good either, but being overly wrapped up, particularly in the summer months, is also thought to be a risk factor for SIDS. So again, common sense does apply.
A question that’s often asked is about whether you should sleep with your baby or not and that term is called co-sleeping. I think just a simpler term is should you have the baby in the bed with you. There is no absolute answer to that question either; there is a school of thought that says it’s not a good idea, there’s a school of thought that says it is a good idea. Historically we probably didn’t have much choice and even today there would be a lot of places in the world where we don’t all have separate bedrooms so it’s not really an option. Fortunately in western countries like Australia it is.
So there are three I suppose possibilities. One is to have the baby in the bed with you, and I think it’s fair to say that’s not broadly recommended but some people find that it works for them and that’s the key thing, it’s what works for you and your baby. The other is to have the bassinette perhaps in your bedroom. And the third option obviously is to have the baby in his or her own bedroom.
There’s no right or wrong and sometimes it’s a gradual process. There are families where perhaps for the first couple of weeks may want to have the baby in the bed with them. Most won’t but some do. They may then find, “well, yes, I’d like to have the baby in the same room as me,” so if you need to get up, and in the early days, you know, that’s pretty likely to happen. Then you don’t have to go quite as far. Then maybe at two, three, four, whatever month mark you feel is appropriate you can move the baby into their own room.
So it becomes a gradual transition and that works for people.
Some people prefer to have the baby in their own room at the start and have a monitor, so again you’re not having to listen out for a scream, you’ve got a monitor and you can see what’s going on. So that’s another option as well.
I do stress that there are lots and lots of opinions. It really comes down to what works for individuals.
A common question is, should one do demand feeding or scheduled feeding, particularly overnight. Once again, some people have very, very fixed opinions on these things. My view would be, what works for you and your baby.
Now there’s no particular law that says babies have to feed at a particular time and again, the fact that we do things during the day and sleep during the night is a cultural thing so a baby doesn’t innately know that. But babies like the rest of us will become creatures of habit. So if you get them used to having three feeds at night time, they will tend to expect that and wake up for it.
And also, you learn very quickly, not in a conscious remembering sense, but you know, subconsciously, that if you get a feed at 2am and another one at 4am, well you probably won’t have a big feed at two because you know more is coming at four. If after a week or so of not getting a feed say at four, you’d probably figure out that you need to get a little bit more at two. It’s a trite example but it makes the point.
So a mix of demand and schedule is fine. One does not have to be fixed or religious about this and by the time the baby is getting to three to four months or so there is no particular need to feed during the night unless you want to. It’s okay to do it, but it is also quite okay maybe to expect a baby to feed maybe at ten, eleven at night and then get through until six o’clock. There is no baby that is going to starve to death doing this.
So if you’d like to feed at night time and some women do and they find it quite peaceful because the world is quiet and there’s nobody else around, then by all means. But if you don’t want to don’t feel pressured to do it. And above all else don’t feel pressured to do things somebody else’s way. Do things your own way and be guided by what works for you and what works for your baby. If you do that, you won’t go too far wrong.