Every once in a while I receive a frantic email or Facebook post about the newest article that is doing its rounds on social media. I always feel so saddened by people who share information that they have not researched properly. By enabling the content and information to go viral; these people create varying emotions that range from guilt to worry in other parents’ minds.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook and I love social media. I also love the fact that these platforms have the ability to INFORM individuals. Sometimes I wonder what parents did before Google existed. However, the right and responsibility to be properly informed is no more important than ever.
The article that currently has me concerned is this one: http://www.kidspot.com.au/babies-should-wake-during-the-night-new-study-declares/. It is titled: “Babies SHOULD be awake during the night, new study declares.” Here are a few things that you should know about this study that the author of the article is referring to:
• It was done by Swansea University
• 715 mothers participated in the study
• The study was done on babies who were between 6 and 12 months of age
If you read the actual research of this particular study here: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/bfm.2014.0153?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed&, you will find that the study had nothing to do with the fact that babies SHOULD (and I am putting this in big capital letters because that is the way this author of the article put it) be waking at night, but rather, and I quote: “Many new mothers believe that their infants’ diet is related to their sleep; formula milk or increased levels of solid food are often given in an attempt to promote sleep. However, the impact of these in later infancy is not understood”.
I believe, that the link between an infant’s diet and his/her sleeping patterns is a much MORE relevant finding from the study it that: “There is a common belief that formula milk or giving more solid foods will help your baby sleep better and this study shows this isn’t true.” This is a misconception that we have fought for a long time. Because unnecessarily stopping breastfeeding because you think that is the reason for a child’s wake ups, or to promote premature introduction of solids will not necessarily solve sleep problems.
Furthermore, another conclusion drawn from the actual study was: “infants who received more milk or solid feeds during the day were less likely to feed at night but not less likely to wake”. Mind blowing – because what the study is effectively saying is not that babies should be awake during the night, but that there are possibly other reasons for your child’s wake ups, than hunger.
Sleep remains a complex topic, and as long as parents hold on to myths and misconceptions about it they will continue to feel frustrated. One has to take a holistic view when improving sleep habits, and these small steps must be met with healthy expectations. A good sleeping pattern is not merely about having a child sleep through – that is not the ultimate aim. The aim is for the family, the whole family, to have the best restorative sleep that is possible (age appropriately), by focusing on healthy sleep associations, sleep hygiene and environment.
The problem I have with Jo Harris’ article is that most parents don’t even bother to click on the article to read it. The catchy title is “good enough” for parents and non-parents alike to start sharing “ground breaking evidence” that babies should be awake during the night. A very small percentage of the parents who stumble onto this particular story in their Facebook newsfeed will click on the link to read the article. But almost none of those who do read Jo’s article will do further individual research to determine whether Jo’s correctly interpreted the study’s findings. This “click and share” mentality that has taken the social media world by storm has now allowed the following misconceptions to be perpetuated:
• Parents will feel guilty for wanting to have a child who sleeps better
• Parents will feel utterly powerless as they will believe that there is nothing they can do to improve their child’s sleep habits because, according to Jo Harris’ article, babies SHOULD be waking up at night.
Before you get on the content-sharing band wagon of social media, or feel guilty or frightened or just plain hopeless regarding your perceptions as a parent, let me release you of that guilt! The next time some panacea for excuses for poor sleeping habits comes across your newsfeed, click on the link, read the article, research the facts that are presented, and then make up your own mind about how that information relates to you and your family. Are you going to base your whole parenting style on a study of only 715 babies? Think further, keep the end in mind, and never stop your journey on searching for better sleep patterns.
Just saying 😉