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Babies Who Keep Waking Up at Night May Be More Intelligent, Says Expert
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  • A baby's cry as he emerges out of the womb is music to his parent's ears — it may even move them to tears. A loud, good cry is a sign of good health, and it matters in the first few hours of life when his APGAR scores are taken.

    But ask a mom whose baby has been keeping her up at night for weeks, and she'll probably show some hesitation before she would say she welcomes the crying. To recover fully after childbirth, new moms need to rest — something she'll never get in long stretches if she has to wake up every few hours to pacify a newborn. However, there could be a silver lining! The incessant crying may be a sign that your baby is smart, an expert says.

    Now, you're probably raising your eyebrows or rolling your eyes at this point, but just stay with us a minute. According to Peter Fleming, a professor on infant health and developmental psychology at the University of Bristol, "There's a link between very high levels of developmental and intellectual achievement and not sleeping throughout the night."

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    He tells Buzzfeed, "Human infants are not designed to sleep for long periods. It's not good for them, and there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that there is any benefit to anybody from having a child that sleeps longer and consistently.

    "That's not perhaps what most parents would like to hear," he acknowledges.

    He goes on to explain the sleep cycle of infants. "Typically, babies love sleeping during the day, and 6 p.m. to midnight is the time they're going to want to be awake the most.


    "Actually, biologically that's a big advantage because they will have more attention from their two primary caregivers at that time of day than at any other, because there are fewer distractions. From a biological point of view what the baby is doing is completely normal and sensible. It just doesn't fit in with our 21st-century expectations."

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    The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) states there is a recommended amount of sleep (including naps) for children per age/stage, as follows:

    • Infants (4 months to 12 months) - 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours 
    • Children (1 to 2 years old) - 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours 
    • Children (3 to 5 years old) - 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours
    • Children (6 to 12 years old) - 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours 

    The AASM maintains that adequate sleep benefits children emotionally and physically and helps improve their attention span, memory, and learning skills. 

    Professor Fleming added that babies are supposed to stay close with their parents at all times, even during sleep. "If we go back to evolutionary history of humans, babies spent all their time in close and continual contact with their mum, they get carried around everywhere.

    "They're asleep when they need to sleep, and they're awake when they need to be awake, but they're constantly with their mother and that facilitates breastfeeding."

    He goes as far as saying that co-sleeping is the way to go, and that evidence suggests sudden infant death syndrome risks are higher with babies who sleep in separate rooms. "The idea that sharing a sleep surface with your baby is in any way wrong, abnormal, or peculiar is just nonsense," he adds.

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    Professor Fleming's research on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the 1980s has been acknowledged to have helped bring down the number of SIDS cases dramatically in the UK just by teaching parents to put babies on their back when they sleep. 

    In its Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) maintains that "Infants should sleep in the parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed, but on a separate surface designed for infants, ideally for the first year, but at least for the first six months."

    The AAP also recommends removing soft objects and beddings from the baby's sleeping area, and to avoid using baby wedges and baby positioners, which are inconsistent with safe sleep recommendations. 

    This article was updated on February 4, 2019 to include the latest AAP recommendations for safe sleep.

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