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Too-little sleep a factor in childhood obesity


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