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Infant Behav Dev. 2020 Mar 17;59:101426. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2020.101426. [Epub ahead of print]

Experimental manipulation of maternal proximity during short sequences of sleep and infant calming response.

Author information

1
Psychology Program, School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
2
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, USA; Institute for Fiscal Studies, UK.
3
Psychology Program, School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Electronic address: psetoh@ntu.edu.sg.
4
Psychology Program, School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science, University of Trento, Italy; Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Electronic address: gianluca.esposito@ntu.edu.sg.

Abstract

This study aimed to understand how different mother-infant sleeping arrangements impact infants' self-regulation, particularly their calming response. Thus this study investigated the effect of three prevalent mother-infant sleeping arrangements, co-sleeping (CS), sleeping beyond arm's length from their mother (BAL), and solitary sleeping (SS), on infants' physiological calming through self-regulation during a nap session in 24 infants (50% female, M = 1.85 months SD = 0.93 months), who were identified as either regular co-sleepers with their mothers, infants who slept in the BAL sleeping arrangement from their mother, and infants who are solitary sleepers (SS). The effect of all three sleeping conditions amongst all the three types of infants with different habitual sleeping arrangements was assessed. All infants spent 10 min (2 × 5 min sessions) in each sleeping condition (CS, BAL, SS) during which electrocardiographic recordings were collected to obtain interbeat intervals (IBI) and rMSSD, a measure of heart rate variability (HRV) an index of physiological calming, maintained by the parasympathetic pathway involved in self-regulation. Infants who regularly co-slept with their mothers had the highest IBI, indicating greater physiological calming and self-regulation across all sleeping arrangement conditions (CS, BAL, SS), followed by infants who regularly slept in the BAL sleeping arrangement from their mothers. IBI was lowest amongst regular solitary sleepers, potentially indicating physiological stress due to mother-infant separation. However, HRV indices during the sleeping arrangements (especially across regular solitary sleepers) were inconclusive as to whether the lack of change in HRV across all sleeping conditions was due to physiological stress responses or greater physiological regulation. This study is the first to investigate the effect of manipulated and habitual mother-infant sleeping arrangements on infant physiological calming.

KEYWORDS:

Co-sleep; Infant calming response; Maternal proximity; Sleep within the vicinity of the mother; Sleeping arrangement; Solitary sleep

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