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Too-little sleep a factor in childhood obesity

April
8

I always knew having a baby that didn’t sleep well was bad for a parent’s mental health — who loves sleep deprivation that stretches months (even years!) beyond the initial newborn stage — but now there’s new research showing it’s also bad for the baby.

A special sleep issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine out this month found sleep disorders can cause a range of problems, from obesity to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

One study found babiapfilefotobaby.jpges who got less than 12 hours of sleep a day faced twice the risk of being overweight as preschoolers. The other found sleep problems were risk indicators of later emotional and behavioral difficulties, including ADHD. The research also concluded that parents inadvertently contribute to sleep problems, mentioning co-sleeping and feeding after waking, which I assume they meant in the middle of the night. (As a parent who has done both, I’m sure this part will spark debate.)

As a baby, our oldest seemed incapable of napping more than 15 minutes at a time unless he was glued to a warm chest or rocked in a stroller or swing, which we, of course, obliged because he was our first. He’s a great sleeper now at 6 (his day is so busy and he’s growing so fast I can’t imagine him needing less than 10-12 comatose hours a night) but I can still recall all those 3 a.m. moments when he was a baby, me half asleep in a rocking chair, watching the CNN newscrawl through drooping lids.

Our second was a dream sleeper. She was just one of those mythical babies who sleep through the night almost as soon as you bring them home from the hospital. This had zero to do with our parenting skills. She just loves her ZZZ’s.

But our third, now 18 months, taught us the most about sleep. Similar in temperament and style to our oldest, I had visions of repeating those sleep-deprived days and nights, but with evenings now full of toddler baths, first-grade homework and Little League practices, I couldn’t imagine how that would actually work. So just by dint of her being a third child, we took a far less-labor intensive approach to her sleep. (Plus we were way, way better at recognizing the sometimes-subtle signs of tiredness. An eye rub when they still look fairly perky is a great tell.)

Since she’s a fine little sleeper now at 18 months, and has been for a while, I’m convinced less is more when it comes to getting a baby to sleep. We didn’t use any intricate two-hour rules a la Weissbluth or rigid Ferberizing.

Every kid is different, but a cheerful, soothing routine that you repeat the same way, at the same time every night, is supremely comforting for babies. Bottle, bath, book, bed. I’m also a fan of the school of putting them in drowsy but awake and learning not to to leap at every cry or fuss in an older baby.

What’s your secret?

(AP file photo)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 at 1:03 pm by Katie Ryan O'Connor. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: childhood obesity, habits, infants, mom, toddlers

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One Response to “Too-little sleep a factor in childhood obesity”

  1. Siobhan

    Every kid IS so different….as a baby,my now 17 yr old son blinked and that was his nap..to this day he does not need as much sleep as his 15yo brother who slept thru the night by 2 wks (I had to set an alarm to wake him to nurse)& I still have to pull out of bed for school… my other sons 7 & 4- are similar to the older brothers- # 3 doesn’t need as much sleep & many nights is still awake at 10:30 (well after his 8pm bedtime),But # 4- likes to settle right down after bath/book routine…I have found it interesting to see that they keep the same sleep patterns when they grow as when they were babies-in spite of how we’ve tried to tweek those patterns by instilling routines

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About this blog
You make it, they eat it, right?

As most parents soon discover, feeding a family is rarely that easy, whether its nursing a fussy newborn or trying to get a hot meal into a squirming toddler (or attempting both at the same time.) And that's not even the days when work runs late, the main course burns, or your adventurous little sushi eater announces from now on she will only eat food that is pink.

As parents ourselves, we've been there, done that, even learned a few tricks along the way. And we're pretty sure so have you. Maybe together we can make eating together as a family -- gulp! -- fun again.

My site was nominated for Best Parenting Blog!

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About the authors
Hema Easley Hema Easley has been a reporter for The Journal News since July 2002, first covering municipal government and then nonprofit agencies, women's issues and the South Asian and Muslim community in the Lower Hudson Valley. In her previous job, Hema was a correspondent for the Associated Press in South Asia. She lives with her husband and two sons in Orange County.
KatieKatie Ryan O'Connor, a Journal News editor and 35-year-old mother of three, never quite appreciated the work that went into feeding kids until she had to do it herself as a mother. If she had a food-and-kids philosophy it would be something like this: try your best to offer as much healthy food as possible, but sometimes fruits just have to be counted as vegetables and there are far worse things than chicken and spaghetti. Again.
TraceyTracey Princiotta, a 37-year-old mother of one, loves to cook, bake and eat, and is relieved that her son appears to be equally willing to chow down -- even if it's baby food and formula right now. Despite her husband's intense aversion to vegetables, she has high hopes of nurturing a true chowhound who will try everything at least once. And if all else fails, she's not above sneaking veggies into other foods.
Marcela Rojas Marcela Rojas has been a municipal reporter with The Journal News since January 2003. She is a native of Putnam County and grew up eating Peruvian food. She didn't realize until she was 13 that rice did not come with everyone's meal. After several years of living in Los Angeles -- where she grew a fondness for Thai food -- she returned to Putnam County where she now lives with her husband and daughter. Zyla (rhymes with Lilah) just turned 1 in March and, so far (her mother is pleased to note), loves to eat everything.
Swapna Venugopal Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, a Journal News reporter, started her career as a journalist in 1999 after graduating with a master's degree from New York University. Before joining the paper in 2006, Swapna worked as a municipal reporter for the Home News Tribune in New Jersey, and took a baby sabbatical to care for her two children, now ages 7 and 5. She has currently outsourced feeding her children and husband to her mother, who is visiting from India. Her friend and colleague Katie O'Connor, informs Swapna that she wouldn't mind being fed Indian food by her mother, too.
Randi Weiner Randi Weiner has been a reporter with The Journal News since 1989, having covered police, government and schools in Westchester and in Rockland. An Ohio native and 1976 graduate of Bowling Green State University, she worked for daily newspapers in Ohio and Michigan before moving east. She has tended bar and danced in a beledi troup and sat on the boards of two community theaters. She plays mandolin with the Shamrogues, Connecticuts largest Irish band. Randi lives in Connecticut with her husband and has three children.

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