The first mother, from Kenya, had been attending parenting and birthing classes with her friends long before she was pregnant at age 26. She had defined hours of the day when she would communicate with her unborn baby towards the end of her pregnancy. During the active hours, she played music to keep him busy but never at night. The active hours were begun by her triggering his movements and kicks by singing and eating. He responded every time she woke up and started the active hours. During the quiet hours, she would not play any music or talk to him. Her goal was to train him to differentiate between the daytime and nighttime.
When her baby was born, he followed the same schedule, waking up at the same time of day as she had taught him. He slept quietly through the night. The mother also commented that he clearly understood the familiar rhythm he had been exposed to. He also had fewer tantrums. “Mommy-baby communication made us admire the whole process of being parents. It seemed to decrease the confusion babies have at first before they have time to figure out the world,” the mother stated.
Second Mother Worked Full Time
The second mother, from the U.S., didn’t have any preliminary ideas about how to shape the baby’s day/night cycles. She simply did what she had to do – continue operating her dance studio. She worked 50 to 60 hours a week and each day at work was filled with her own exercise, music, and training many students how to do gymnastics and tumbling. There were also days when they had big events for the parents of the children that were her students.
When her baby was born, 26 years ago, his mother was happy to find that he held the same sleep schedule as his mother. The sleep patterns had been established during the womb; he was active during times of the day the dance studio was open and inactive during times when the studio was closed.
Background on Sleep Deprivation
Mothers hold the reins in their hands of how their baby will turn out. Part of the mommy-baby communication that is established during the nine months in the womb is the hours that mom keeps herself active and when she sleeps. The hours she keeps becomes a message to her baby that becomes part of the internal rhythm – circadian rhythms – that are established. These rhythms continue after the baby is born, or until a new rhythm is set up.
New parent sleep deprivation is real, according to a survey of parents who had given birth within the past 18 months. They found that prior to having a baby, 68% of parents were getting 7+ hours of sleep per night. After the newborn arrived, only 10% of the parents hit the 7+ hours mark.
And research from Stanford finds that it takes babies three months to begin consistently sleeping for 6 to 8 hours. They also report on their website that newborns sleep 8 to 9 hours in the daytime and about 8 hours at night. They wake up ready to eat at least every 3 hours and because their stomachs are so small, they have to eat on this type of time clock.
However, that’s not what these moms from Kenya and the U.S. found. By establishing a natural rhythm in the womb, the rhythm carried over to what happened after birth.
“Although two cases are never enough to say that something should be considered, it’s stories like these that give us hope that we can have similar results. As I continue to collect and analyze mothers’ womb diaries, we may see a definite pattern. In the meantime, no harm can come to moms that build their mommy-baby communication skills to a high level,” Schwontkowski said.