sleep synchrony

You may wonder why your baby wakes up several times during the night, especially during the first 6 months. But they know something we don’t know, that not sleeping too deeply is a clever built-in mechanism that helps to protect them from sudden infant death, which affects babies under 6 months more disproportionately than older babies.

Frequent waking functions as a circuit breaker in the brain - it stops the baby sleeping too deeply for too long and may be triggered by internal messages to the baby to wake and take a few deep breaths. Often, they can be settled back off to sleep with just the sound of your voice or the touch of your hand but of course, a little night feed always goes down well.

Try to see this mechanism as your baby in savvy survival mode rather than as something to be ‘fixed’. Preserve your energy by relating and connecting to your baby’s sleep pattern, especially in the first 6 months, and do not concern yourself with advice to try and ‘train’ your little one into sleeping for longer.

Room sharing with their parents (and siblings) can help those babies who may be more at risk of SIDS by providing them with a stream of stimulation through movement or noise, as well as by triggering other protective mechanisms.

An excellent resource for parents to make safer choices for their baby’s sleeping is The Lullaby Trust

You are the architect of your baby’s sleep patterns and, if you choose to do so, bed-sharing safely means you both sleep in a synchronised pattern, until they start to consolidate their sleeping into longer bouts. Those self-titled “sleep experts” clogging up your social media with advice on “wake windows” and sleep regressions are peddling pseudo-science. Babies are individuals - some newborns sleep great, some don’t. You know your baby better than anyone.

Sleep researchers know that sleeping in sensory proximity or at arm’s length away from your baby means you both synchronise and encourage just the right level and depth of sleep. Deep sleep for long periods in the first 6 months is not in the babies’ best interest – babies should doze and sleep lightly to reduce the risk of SIDs.