Babies who are greats sleepers have nature and nurture to thank.

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.

They concluded..

“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.

nature nurture sleep

THIS study

Showed that when looking at 995 twins, day time nap duration, and consistency is largely all nurture not nature (genes). But those who slept through the night early on with no intervention, this was down to good genes.

Official conclusion:

 “This is the first indication that early childhood daytime sleep duration may be driven by environmental settings. Whereas the variance in consolidated nighttime sleep duration is largely influenced by genetic factors with a critical environmental time-window influence at ∼18 months.”

So that luck women at coffee group, who’s baby slept through at 6 weeks and has done ever since… She doesn’t have secret super powers, she doesn’t birth magically unicorns, her baby just has great sleep genes!

Does this mean some babies will never sleep through the night and we should not bother to help the situation?

No!

There is still huge scope for behavioral interventions to modify sleep disturbances.

Teaching your baby to self-settle, link their own sleep cycles, eat well in the day, have regular naps that prevent over tiredness, and have a sleep environment that supports good sleep day and night, will all make a big difference in how well they sleep at night.

But if you’ve done all this, and you’re still left with one wake up a night, that might be your child’s genes. This doesn’t mean that you have failed, or that your child will never completely consolidate their night sleep.

Be consistent in your approach to this night wake up, feed, let them self-settle, or cuddle back to sleep. The choice is yours, but either way, the best approach regardless of genes; is the most consistent approach.

Baby Sleep Consultant Australia is your team of certified infant and child sleep consultants.

Our team is located in Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide.

We offer skype, home and phone consults to help you and your family achieve the sleep you all deserve.

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