You may want to introduce your baby to good sleep habits from day one as a recent study has suggested that strong links exist between inadequate bedtime routine and childhood obesity.
The Penn State College of Medicine researchers are studying the use of an intervention to prevent rapid infant weight gain and childhood obesity.
Through the INSIGHT study (Intervention Nurses Start Infants Growing on Healthy Trajectories), the intervention was recently shown to cut in half the incidence of one-year-old infants being overweight. One component of the intervention promotes improving sleep-related behaviours for parents and their infants.
In the study, parents were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Both groups received educational materials and four home nurse visits. One group received obesity prevention education that covered sleep-related behaviours, bedtime routines, improving sleep duration and avoiding feeding and rocking to sleep. The other group received safety education about preventing sudden infant death syndrome.
Infants of parents who learned bedtime techniques had more consistent bedtime routines, earlier bedtimes, better sleep-related behaviours and longer sleep during the night than the infants of parents who received the safety training.
The sleep-trained infants were more likely to self-soothe to sleep without being fed and were less likely to be fed back to sleep when they awoke overnight.
“A lot of parents try to keep their babies up longer, thinking that then they’ll sleep longer at night and they won’t wake up,” said lead author Ian M. Paul, adding “We found that’s not true. When parents keep babies up longer, they just sleep less. If you want your baby to sleep longer and better, put them to sleep earlier. Regardless of what time you put babies to sleep, they wake overnight. If we don’t set the expectation that they’re going to be picked up and fed, they learn to soothe themselves back to sleep.”
“It is important to establish good sleep habits early in life for health reasons, including obesity prevention, but also for the emotional health of parents and families,” Paul noted. “New parents of infants aren’t thinking about obesity. Our intervention is designed to prevent obesity without having to explicitly talk to parents about their child’s weight.”
The study is published in JAMA Pediatrics.