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The Secret Life of Babies

Did you see this fascinating insight into the emotional, physical and cerebral development of babies last week?
I thought it was a very interesting and well produced programme, which through science and technology has highlighted something I have known and written about for years - that the first two years of life are the most formative of our entire lives and babies are much more aware of everything around them than most of us think.
In fact you could almost say,
 "Babies are what they live"! .......
Soaking up the atmosphere, watching your every move, studying every facial expression, listening to every spoken word and absorbing all the other sounds & noises within their environment ....... They even hear when they are asleep! And that of course leads me on to my passion - Babies and Sleep......or the lack of it!
The amount of  information a baby's brain needs to process every minute of every day often puts them on, near-to-the-edge, 'brain overload' and for those many babies who suffer  the effects of sleep deprivation, it can easily put them at a developmental disadvantage.
Contrary to popular belief, it's  clear to me - and always has been, that a baby IS designed to sleep and can do quite naturally if only we give them the correct sleep-cues and settled environment within which to sleep! 
During the first few weeks of life they need as much as much as 16 to 18 hours of sleep in every 24 which only marginally lessens by 12 months with them needing an average of 15 to 16 and by the age of 2 years to around 14 hours.
The key reason to them needing so much sleep during these first two years is because they develop, learn and grow at such a rapid rate and sleep equips their brain and body to adjust to these massive changes. To further facilitate this, their sleep patterns are naturally designed to evolve into having the bulk of this sleep at night and are capable of sleeping for a full, unbroken 12 hours straight through the night from around 8 to 12 weeks of age with the rest taken as daytime naps.
The restful and rejuvenating properties of this natural, deep sleep allows babies to effectively process all the information that their brains are bombarded with and to more easily absorb & cope with the massive developmental changes that take place in these first two years.
Without sleep, they can become, irritable, restless, easily frustrated, lack focus and concentration, become aggressive or passive, be withdrawn, be hyper-active and generally struggle to deal with emotions. In fact, after a long and busy day without structured sleep a baby can often become so irritable by the evening that they simply 'lose the plot' and can scream for a couple of hours or more. Nothing you do seems to calm them, they don't really want to be fed, they don't want to be held, they won't sleep........and this is sometimes mis-diagnosed as COLIC!
For many babies however, I believe this evening crying is simply due to the baby being overtired and displaying the signs of sleep deprivation.
Read more about my ethos and how to allow and encourage your baby to get his or her full and required quota of sleep, in my book
The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan.
Alison.
Posted in: In the Media
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