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Infant Sleep and Paternal Involvement in Infant Caregiving During the First 6 Months of Life

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In solitary sleep arrangements, mothers were more involved in nighttime parenting than fathers, and breastfeeding was related to less father involvement. More father involvement early on predicted fewer night-wakings by 6 months.

[popup title="Sample, Hypothesis, Variables Measured, Study Design" format= "Default hover" text='

Sample

  • N: 56 families
  • Subject Ages: Children followed from birth to age 6 months
  • Location: Israel
  • SES: Upper-middle class
  • Eligibility: Not available
  • Additional:
    • 34 infant boys (61%)
    • Mean maternal age of 29.13 years (range 22–37) and average education was 16.15 years (range 12–22)
    • Mean paternal age of 31.3 (range 25–48) and average education was 16.03 years (range 12–22)
    • Mean number of rooms at home was 3.3 (range 2–6)
    • None of the mothers reported medical problems during delivery or following birth
    • None of the parents met the Israeli cutoff scores for psychopathology
    • Mean gestational age was 39.52 weeks and mean birth weight was 3.31 kg (range 2.3–4.2). All infants were healthy during the assessment period.
    • At the age of one month, all the infants were taken care of by their mother at home
    • At six months, 34% were completely home-reared with their mothers and 66% were in day care (babysitter or nursery)
    • At the age of 1 month, 93% of the infants were (fully or partially) nursed, whereas at the age of 6 months, 30.4% were still fully breastfeeding and 28.6% were partially breastfeeding

Hypotheses

  1. Mothers would be more involved in infant caregiving than fathers.
  2. The involvement of fathers in the infant caregiving would increase over the first six months of life.
  3. Higher involvement of fathers in overall and nighttime infant care would be associated with more consolidated sleep after controlling for breastfeeding.

Variables Measured, Instruments Used

  • Assessment of parental involvement in infant care - the Parental Involvement Questionnaire
  • Sleep assessment -
    • actigraphy
    • sleep diary
  • Feeding -
    • general scale (formula-fed, partially breastfed, exclusively breastfed)
    • Soothing Scale (five-point Likert scale for frequency of using breastfeeding to soothe at night)

Design—Longitudinal

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Findings

  1. Mothers were significantly more involved in putting the infant to sleep than fathers.
  2. Breastfeeding was related to more frequent night-wakings, later sleep onset and less paternal involvement at bedtime.
  3. Higher involvement of fathers at one month predicted a lower number of infant night-wakings at 6 months.
  4. Higher paternal involvement in infant child care at 1 and 6 months was associated with shorter total sleep time at 6 months.
  5. Higher paternal involvement in infant child care at 6 months was associated with later sleep onset.
  6. There were no significant correlations between paternal involvement at bedtime and infant sleep. 

Limitations

  • The parents in the study represented an upper-middle class socioeconomic status in Israel, limiting the generalization of these findings.
  • All of the participants adopted solitary sleep arrangements.