Professor Sarah Blunden sees it all the time.
At her Paediatric Sleep Clinic in Adelaide, mums come in feeling terrible about their parenting skills, because their babies aren’t sleeping through. But their babies don’t actually have a problem.
“If someone comes in to me and their baby is maybe waking once, twice a night, and they’re under one, that’s very, very normal,” she tells Mamamia. “In fact, that’s really good sleep for a baby under one.”
Professor Blunden says in one day this week, she saw four mums in this same situation.
“We told them what was going on. We said, ‘Do you want us to do something?’ They said, ‘No, no. I’m fine. I just wanted to know that I was doing the right thing.’”
So why are so many mothers convinced that their babies have sleep problems when they don’t? New research by Professor Blunden and Rebecca Sharkey has shown that women are often turning to friends for advice about babies and sleep – and what they’re being told isn’t always right.
Professor Blunden says the talk in mothers’ groups often centres on whether babies sleep through the night. Women who have babies that sleep through are seen as “terrific” mums, and they wear it as a “badge of honour”. But it’s usually nothing to do with their parenting skills.
“They got a lucky draw,” Professor Blunden explains.
She says when babies do sleep well, it’s due to their temperament.
“Separating from parents makes babies cry. Some babies just cope better with that than other babies.”