Children sleeping habits around the world

If you've ever been told that there is a single correct way of getting your baby to sleep, then you're not alone! It's a common belief (especially amongst non-parents!) that if your baby is not sleeping well, it's because you're not following that magical formula that gets all babies to sleep.

Of course, that "single correct way" is never the same from one person to the next. You might be advised by one person that you need to start your baby on solids early, while someone else will swear by bedtime massages, and a third person believes that a bath and a good bedtime story are the winning combo when it comes to getting a baby to sleep. 

But it's interesting to have a look at what people do in various parts of the world as it informs us that sleeping habits are not universal and that there isn't a one-rule-fits-all formula when it comes to successfully getting a baby to sleep.

While researching children's sleep across the globe, clinical psychologist Jodi Mindell was surprised to discover significant differences in bedtimes for infants and toddlers based on where they lived.

A study of almost 30,000 families across the globe found that sleep amongst infants and toddlers, including naps, varied from 13.3 hours in New Zealand to 12.9 hours in the United States and just 11.6 hours in Japan.

Does it really matter, though, if babies get a few hours less sleep a day here than they do there? Dr Elsie Taveras, Chief of General Paediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, has discovered that it actually does have an impact on physical and brain developpement. Sleep is linked to cognitive development. It consolidates memory in children and adults alike, and helps us to learn. 

Dr Mindell, a Professor at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia and Associate Director of the Sleep Center of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia insists on the importance of bedtime routines. She says: « Children who have consistent bedtime routines not only sleep better, but it also promotes things like literacy, attachment, language, bonding and self-care».

One of the biggest similarities when we look at children sleeping habits around the world is that most families include in their newborn's bedtime routine (up to 3 months) some type of feeding, whether it's breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. But apart from this, when we look at children's sleeping habits in different countries, we find more differences and similarities… 

 In the United States, it's common for parents to prepare their children for bedtime with a soothing bath followed by a lullaby or, for older kids, a book.

 In the Philippines and Indonesia, 29% of families include prayers as part of their bedtime routine. In Australia, only 6% of families do. 

 In Korea, parents often sleep in the same room as their baby, whereas American parents tend to leave their babies alone in their rooms, where the children must learn to put themselves to sleep.

 In Japan, babies and toddlers sleep everywhere: in their mother’s arms, in slings, in strollers, even on futons on the floor. Japanese babies also get belly pats to fall asleep.

 Dutch parents often follow the 'Three R's' of good parenting as commonly believed over there: 'Rest, Regularity and Cleanliness (which in Dutch is Reinheid)’. When it comes to sleeping, this theory entails establishing a firm routine featuring plenty of sleep on a regular schedule from an early age.

 The Norwegians, Finns and Swedes have a long tradition of wrapping up their young and popping them outside for a fresh-air nap in their buggies. 

 In the Swedish tradition, known locally as ‘buffing’, parents lie their baby stomach down and then buff the baby’s bottom, patting it firmly in a rhythmic motion until the child drifts off to sleep.

  Overall, it seems that there might be one common trait around the world. Routine seems to be an important element to getting your baby to sleep in dreamland regardless of where you live. 


Over to you. Do you know any other habits from other countries? We would love to read about it in the comment box below!

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