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Study: Finnish parents perceive normal infant sleep problematic

Parents in Finland are quick to suspect sleep problems in their infants who exhibit developmentally normal behaviour.

Tired of night wakings, many parents in Finland often suspect a problem with their baby’s sleep whose slumber patterns are perfectly normal, according to experts.

Forty percent of Finnish parents of eight-month-olds and around a quarter of those of three-month-olds said their infants suffered from some type of sleep problem, according to a study on children, health and sleep by health watchdog THL, whose study drew responses from 1,000 families.

“What’s considered problematic varies from family to family. But it’s common for parents to find normal night waking by babies problematic. What’s actually normal in terms of infant sleep is so much worse than parents expected before they had kids,” said Juulia Paavonen, an infant sleep expert and MD at Helsinki University Central Hospital.

At eight months of age, separation anxiety usually kicks in as babies begin to understand that they are separate from their mothers, which leads to more nightly wake-ups, explained Jonna Lehikoinen from the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters.

But surveyed parents weren't only concerned about 3am wake-ups, they also perceived problems in how long it took their new offspring to fall asleep.

Paavonen said it’s normal for babies to wake up a few times per night, though she said a sleep pattern should begin to emerge in a three-month old, with frequent wake-ups gradually tapering off as babies enter toddlerhood.

Baby bedtime routines

Paavonen said parents who say their babies are not sleeping well should examine their daily routines. A baby who sleeps for long stretches during the day will have trouble going to bed in the evening.

Lehikoinen suggested parents stick to the age-old bath-book-bed routine to give babies a sense of security before drifting off. Experts also pointed to the importance of giving babies enough cuddles during the day so they don’t awaken to crave closeness at night.

Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare THL plans to publicise the results of their study in more detail this coming autumn.

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