The recommendation to “sleep when your baby sleeps” may have additional benefits than just helping parents feel more rested. A recent study examined the association between maternal napping postpartum and mother-child interactions. There were 2 goals of this study. The first was to describe postpartum mothers’ sleep patterns at about 5 months postpartum. The second was to see if maternal napping positively affected mother-child interactions. Even though the study itself was small, with 23 mothers of babies averaging about 5 months of age, the results are intriguing. Here are the findings:
Findings: Postpartum Sleep at 5 months
- Mothers were awake an average of 49 minutes per night after they fell asleep for the night.
- Among the 23 mothers, 57% napped, and of those who napped, they did so 2.3 times per week on average.
- Over 60% of this group reported clinically significant symptoms of fatigue during the day.
- Napping frequency was not different between mothers who stayed home vs. those that worked full- or part-time.
Note: mothers on sleep aids or with more than one child were excluded from this study.
Mother-Child Interactions were measured using the NCAST (Nursing Child Assessment Satellite Training) Teaching Scale. Mother-infant pairs were observed for communication and interaction skills based on this teaching scale, which includes assessment of sensitivity to infant cues, responses to infant’s distress, and cognitive growth fostering.
Findings: Postpartum Napping and Mother-Child Interactions
More frequent maternal naps were associated with “greater engagement in cognitive growth and fostering behaviors with their infant,” better scores on NCAST subscales “cognitive growth fostering” and higher overall scores on the NCAST tool compared to mothers who didn’t nap. What does this mean? Mothers who took more frequent naps had more quality interactions with their infants than those who did not take any naps.
So, what does this mean for new parents? Even a few naps per week when you are significantly fatigued can be help promote more positive interactions with your baby! The authors also suggest that scheduling weekend naps may be useful for mothers that cannot nap during the week.
Past blog posts on napping:
Ronzio CR, Huntley E, Monaghan M. Postpartum Mothers' Napping and Improved Cognitive Growth Fostering of Infants: Results From a Pilot Study. Behav Sleep Med. 2012 Jan 18. [Epub ahead of print]