This month I attended a webinar by Becky Gingell, who is a sleep coach for babies, and she stated something that left a strong impact on me. Ms Gingell said that during pregnancy, the child most often sleeps during the day when the mother is active, and through her physical movements she is rocking the child to sleep. The child is perhaps more active when the mother is relaxing or resting by lying down. After birth, children are then expected to swap their natural cycle in order to sleep more during the night, especially since parents need to get their rest to face another day of work. This scenario helped me to keep the situation in perspective- the fact that both the child and the parents need to get used to each other’s rhythms and cycles. This is supported by Chaput (2017) who acknowledges that ‘sleep patterns can vary between individuals and are explained by a complex interplay between genetic, environmental, behavioural, and social factors. For example, factors such as parenting practices and expectations, family routines, cultural preferences, and daycare schedules can all influence sleep’. 

Why all this emphasis on sleep?

Sleep is a very important time for every person but more so for babies, since during this time development and processes are happening. At a physiological level, during sleep the brain develops myelin (a layer of fat around nerve cells which is important for efficient brain functioning), connections between the brain hemispheres are strengthened and the development of gray matter (this affects speech, memory, muscle control, etc…). Sleep is also important for emotional regulation, studies show that sleep deprivation results in children (or adults) experiencing far more negative emotions and the child’s moods. (Jiang, 2019)

What constitutes good sleep patterns?

According to Chaput (2017), good and healthy sleep depends on adequate duration, quality of sleep and the absence of sleep disturbances. This research explains how sleep patterns change across childhood; starting off with no rhythm at birth and up to 3 months, sleep becomes more nocturnal between the ages of 4 till 12 months with frequent napping. By the age of 5, napping during the day would have decreased or stopped whilst night sleep is more settled. 

How does one encourage healthy sleep routines?

Hiscock and Fisher (2015) emphasise the importance of parents’ learning about normal sleep patterns and basing their expectations on this knowledge; the focus on the parents’ intuition and being attuned to the child’s signs of tiredness; adopting healthy sleep cues which encourage the child to fall back to sleep without depending on the adult or on props, especially when they wake up during the night due to their sleep cycle. 

Other proposals consist of timing feeding intervals, keeping the room dark, comforting the child without having to pick them up and rock them, setting a bedtime routine that encourages the child to wind down and relax in preparation to sleep. 

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on or call us on 79291817. 

References & Bibliography:

  2. Chaput J, Gray CE, Poitras VJ, et al. Systematic review of the relationships between sleep duration and health indicators in the early years (0–4 years). BMC Public Health. 2017;17:91-107. doi:
  3. Jiang F: Sleep and Early Brain Development. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 2019;75(suppl 1):44-54. doi: 10.1159/000508055
  4. Hiscock H and Fisher J. Sleeping like a baby? Infant sleep: Impact on caregivers and current controversies.Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 51 (2015) 361–364.