Netflix Twelve Part Series                  ‘Babies’ Episode: #5 SLEEP

Researchers delve into sleep, a dynamic time for babies, with studies on twitching, apps and naps.

As a doula sleep is a very common topic of discussion.  The time just after the birth of a baby is tumultuous.  The delivery is often long and exhausting.  The hospital stay is also tough in that there are nurses and lab techs in and out of your room at all hours.  By the time most families are home the first question is when will our baby sleep through the night!!

Working with families to sleep train their little ones is an adventure.  These studies look over the sleep patterns of infant brains.  The goal is to understand what goes on during sleep.  How does it affect your baby’s development, memory, and health?  What are reasonable expectations regarding baby nighttime sleep patterns?  

The findings from the studies examined in this episode surprised me.  Because there are several studies presented I am leaving much of the data in the research form.  I think it will be clearer this way.  

My goal in working with families of newborns is to have a reasonable sleep schedule for baby by the time my contract is over.  I work with baby to encourage sleeping in 2 – four hour lengths waking up once between 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM.  This allows long enough sleep for mommy & daddy to feel rested.  In addition it helps mom to be rested enough to produce breastmilk well. 

Studied:  What is sleep in newborns doing? Are they learning, growing, remembering?  Is sleep needed?

New York University Baby Sleep Study

Andre Fenton, Director: Neurobiology of Cognition Lab, NYU,  USA Pascal Wallisch.  Clinical Assistant Professor Psychology & Neural Science. NYU. USA    Data specialist

Researchers visited families who were using the apps included in the study.  At the start they were unsure about verified data because families were  entering it rather than trained scientists.  Questions arouse;  Is the data authentic and well recorded?  Is it in a usable form for research?  Is it thorough? It was found parents were actually verifying information to the minute for their own records.  So yes, it was very usable.

Study consisted of 1,000 babies world wide using various apps to record sleep patterns, breastfeeding, elimination habits, and notes parents thought relevant.  The number of entries for this particular study are: 1.5 M  sleeping events. 2.5 M eating events. 1.5 M  diaper changing events

This is the data collected from the families involved.  As the researchers perused the data they came to many decisions on the outcome.


In the first month No regular sleep or eating pattern About four months.   Initial cycle emerging   Eight months           Hint of a pattern A year                        Clear pattern of sleep at night, wake eat, after noon nap

At the time the video was released researchers were not yet ready to present information for publishing, but were certain their findings were verifiable.

My personal assessment: My own children began sleeping completely through the night at 6 months and the introduction of solid food. I had five babies ranging in weight from 7 lb. 5oz. to 9 lb. 8 oz. I was told larger babies slept through the night earlier. Not true in my experience. I solely breastfed for the first six months, no formula, cereal, or solid food. What I know now, as a doula, my guess is perhaps the protein content of my milk was not high enough. If I were working with a mom experiencing what I did that is where I would begin.

I encourage moms to breastfeed solely for six months. Babies with whom I have worked have begun sleeping in 5 or 6 hour blocks in the first week. They make up for missed evening feedings by adding daytime feedings. It is amazing. There are so many possible factors. As a doula I monitor mom’s food and water intake as best I am able. Mom’s sleep and relaxation also have an impact. Mom’s mental state, calm or stressed, is also a factor. My goal is to work through each of these components as baby matures and the family acclimates to parenthood. It can be a wild ride!!!

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