If you feel like you were blessed with a terrible sleeper and people have told you, it just is what it is, or maybe your mother has told you, its genetics, you were the same as a baby…
You’re probably searching the internet for answers.
You might have a baby who can’t fall asleep unassisted, they wake frequently and persistently at night, or maybe they refuse to sleep on their own?
Have you been thinking, am I to blame? Have I done something wrong?
Or is my Mother right?
Is it genes?
First things first, no matter how poorly your baby sleeps, you are not to blame! We all do what we do, until we decide its no longer working for us, or its not longer serving our baby, so we are free to change our mind and try another strategy.
Secondly, THIS study, tells us that both nature and nurture have a role in how well your baby sleeps.
The biggest influence by 18 months, is nurture, that’s the good news right!
You can totally nurture great sleep habits into your baby, despite born with sleep genes that say other wise.
Italian researchers have looked at 127 pairs of identical twins, (genetically identical) and 187 pairs of fraternal twins (not identical genetically). They interviewed the parents to ascertain how the children slept.
“Most sleep disturbances during early childhood are explained by common shared environmental factors, and behavioral interventions adopted by parents and focused on modifying sleep behavior could contribute to solving sleep disturbances in this age group.
However, the influence of genetic factors should not be underestimated, and research in this area could clarify the physiologic architecture of sleeping and contribute to selecting appropriate personalized therapeutic approaches.”
What does this mean for us parents?
It means that yes your behavioral interventions such as sleep training, establishing routine, being consistent ect. Will be the best way to solve sleep disturbances in children under 18 months old.
But…. Perhaps your goal of “perfect” won’t be possible, and we need to consider your child’s genes.
That is, say your baby takes a 2 hour lunch nap one day and only 1 hour 45 the next, do we need to stress about this?
No, just be consistent in your approach, but know that sleep duration can be influenced by genes.
Whether your baby is an 11 hour a night baby, or a 12, or even a 13 or 10 hour a night baby, this is all controlled by genes.
We can use behavioral interventions to teach your baby to self-settle. We can work out their ideal nap routine to support their optimal night sleep, but some babies will be better suited to 8pm-7am some will do 6pm – 7am and a very small percentage will be low sleep needs to sleep 9pm-6am, these are the kinds of genetic components we cannot influence with behavioral interventions.