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Editor’s note: In observance of Get Better Sleep Month this May, Attachment Parenting International brings you a 4-part series on normal, healthy infant sleep. Here is part 1:

I’m awake writing this during the biologically normative and healthy stages of first and second sleep. Research has revealed that right up until the advent of electric light, humans normally experienced 2 distinct segments of sleep.

Factory work, made possible with light, further compressed and consolidated work and sleep hours in industrialized nations. Normal sleep biology has been affected by these modern trends, so it should be little surprise that millions of adults now rely on medicated solutions for sleep to accommodate modern concepts of productive time.

It’s also little surprise that to achieve our quota of sleep, our babies must go along with these modern trends. It’s no longer acceptable for babies to literally sleep like babies. Most parents can attest that this phrase is an ironic fallacy, but nevertheless, there is a distinct infant and young child sleep pattern that fosters health and our society has co-opted that, too: Instead of allowing infants to sleep like they should, our modernized society has notions about the way infants “should” sleep.

The infant sleep-training industry has been happy to “help” parents train babies to adapt to this biologically foreign sleep pattern, just as we parents have adapted to our own unnatural sleep habits.

It would be interesting to discover a study that investigated possible links between infant sleep-training and later adult sleep difficulty. To date, there are no studies that have examined this. Are we literally setting ourselves up for maladaptive sleep patterns from birth? Maybe not — we can’t know, with the lack of research into this matter — but since we’ve had 100 or so years to adapt as a species to this new sleep pattern, we can and should ask how successful it’s been for us: Has sleeping become more healthy over this time? Of course, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has been strong and we’ve been productive — and destructive, waging a few massive wars — but are we all healthier for it? Is our sleep healthier, or even healthy, as a result? Is anyone even looking at it?

Examining trends that qualify under the creep of cultural normalcy is like trying to examine the tip of your own nose without a mirror. Our perspective is never perfectly clear.

Consolidated sleep is a cultural adaptation that’s hard to examine with sufficient perspective, because it is not obviously something we would think to examine. We take it for granted.

Adaptations are not all necessarily good or healthy ones, and there are several examples of the way we’ve accumulated unhealthy habits that don’t seem to be immediately connected. Direct and immediate connections are not the only evidence that “normal” actions are “OK.”

As a nation, we’ve suffered untold illness — much of it related to our abundant food supply and our taste for sugar. It’s hard to wrap our heads around how this happened when many of us would argue that there has “always” been this much sugar in our foods. Yet looking at food over a few generations reveals the truth of our diet shifts that match the health curve.

Not all adaptations are beneficial, nor then, are they instantly or clearly maladaptive. This is a difficult challenge.

In part 2, we’ll learn about how healthy infant sleep patterns are supposed to be.

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Cuddling therapy, anyone?

by Rita Brhel on May 17, 2017

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Babies are born with needs for physical contact, affection, security, stimulation, and movement — urgent and intense — and yet, depend completely on others to meet them.

Nurturing touch is a way to meet all of these needs at once.

Mothers and fathers are encouraged to provide ample nurturing touch from birth on to promote the healthiest child development. But what about newborns born premature or ill, who must remain in the hospital long-term?

Some hospital units, like St. Michael’s in Toronto, Canada, featured in the video below, train and provide volunteers who hold, sing to, and love on in-patient babies. These volunteers are aptly called Cuddlers.

The newborns may have been born premature or have medical needs that require them to stay in the NICU. Or, these babies may have been born to mothers with mental health or addiction issues. Some of these babies may be suffering from drug withdrawal or fetal alcohol syndrome.

But all of these babies benefit from nurturing touch and affection. The medical community notes that hospitalized babies gain weight faster, have improved infant mental health, and typically shorter hospital stays.

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Mothers’ thoughtful expressions: What is the best parenting advice you would offer another mom?

May 16, 2017
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The experience of being a mom can be challenging, exhausting, rewarding, and inspirational. There are plenty of trained experts and professionals who lend their guidance on ways to navigate through the complex web of motherhood, but oftentimes, the most grounded support comes from those who have been down in the trenches — so to speak: everyday mothers. […]

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Mothers’ thoughtful expressions: What do you cherish most about being a mom?

May 15, 2017
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Being a mom is like being a gardener — it’s hard labor that gets accomplished regardless of the conditions. It is the kind of work that requires fortitude, dedication, and an abundance of patience. We tend to our children, nourish them, watch them grow, and reap what we sow. All the while, we are continuously mesmerized […]

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Happy Mother’s Day!

May 14, 2017
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This is how my son started to enjoy reading

May 12, 2017
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Editor’s note: May is Get Caught Reading Month. Founded in 1999, this campaign was launched to remind people about the joys and fun of reading. Reading can be informative for parents as they navigate through the challenges of parenting and the various stages of their child’s development. Reading can also serve as a supportive way […]

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Why it matters how we are born

May 8, 2017
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“The beginning of life is a very normal and natural, yet specific, event.” ~ Bettina Breunig, TEDx Talk Much of Western society chooses to view childbirth differences as merely a matter of personal choice. Rather, Attachment Parenting International (API) encourages us to recognize this important beginning in both our child’s life and our relationship with our […]

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AP Month Photo Contest 2017

May 7, 2017
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We’ve got a big idea for AP Month this year, but it depends on a collaboration with you – and all AP families! Let’s build a photographic image-base demonstrating our strength for Word Power  – and share it with the world! The AP Month theme this year is “Word Power: Communicating for Connection” because we’re working toward changing the tone and […]

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