Supporting Infant Sleep
Updated: Oct 13, 2020
Supporting Infant Sleep is a topic that can be challenging for parents, caregivers, and guides. There is so much research and information that can also seem contradictory! Even within the Montessori community, there are differing opinions.
Before talking about how we can support sleep, let’s look at the amount of sleep that is suggested for healthy development
Newborns spend lots of time sleeping and figuring out day/night rhythms. Current research suggests that children do not have circadian rhythms established until “10-12 weeks of age” (Tham et al., 2017) with some studies saying sleep routines are more established at 4 months old (Sheldon, 2014).
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends infants (4-12mo) “should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis.”
Standford Children’s Health recommends infants (3-12mo) sleep for 14 or 15 hours, including naps.
But why do we care about how much sleep infants get?
“Studies on cognition show that individual differences in sleep quantity and quality are particularly important for the development of memory, language, and executive functions” (Tham et al., 2017).
Knowing that sleep is so important for development and well-being (of both the infant and caregiver), we can feel pressure to make sure children get adequate amounts of sleep and may even resort to unsustainable ways of helping infants fall asleep.
Because sleep is so closely tied to mental health, of both the caregivers and infants, I think it is important to think of supporting sleep as a discussion versus rules or guidelines. Current research supports this way of thinking as well! Sleep practices should be considered within the context of family, culture, and society.
When thinking of supporting sleep in the context of Montessori philosophy, I think these are the things to consider:
How does this support the child’s natural development?
How does this support the child’s developing independence?
What am I objectively observing?
The answers to these questions might look different for each infant or family. A recent analysis of the literature on infant sleep shows that “there is no exact formula” when it comes to helping infants get adequate sleep (Korownyk and Lindblad, 2018).
Keeping this in mind, in the next entry on sleep, we will look at different sleep strategies and how they support the infant and family.
Korownyk, C., & Lindblad, A. J. (2018). Infant sleep training: rest easy?. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, 64(1), 41.
Parlakian, R. (n.d.). Helping Babies Learn to Fall Asleep On Their Own: What Research Says. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/2724-helping-babies-learn-to-fall-asleep-on-their-own-what-research-says
Tham, E., Schneider, N., & Broekman, B. (2017). Infant sleep and its relation with cognition and growth: a narrative review. Nature and Science of Sleep, Volume 9, 135–149. doi: 10.2147/nss.s125992