Baby Sleep and Cultural Differences
Looking around the world, we have learned that what time baby’s bedtime is varies greatly, depending on what country you live in. Here in the U.S., it seems young children (especially babies) are put to bed early — usually around 7:00 or 8:00 p.m., and sometimes even 6:00 p.m. ala Weissbluth. A lot of Americans also view bedtime as ” fixed” which means it happens around the same time every night with little variance.
Looking at Asian and European families, they routinely put their toddlers and babies to bed later – at around 10 or 11 pm. Many of these clients say that late bedtimes are very normal in their countries; parents enjoy spending time with their children after work, so bedtime gets pushed back so more family time is created. This means that bedtime is not fixed and more fluid. So it seems that bedtime being at the same time each night is not as prevalent in some countries as it is in the US.
Co-sleeping isn’t exactly the norm, apparently, in the Western world. We tend to sleep our babies in bassinets, cribs, or in a separate bedroom, which we identify as a “nursery” in the Western World. For the first 6 months or so, room-sharing is still popular, however other forms of co-sleeping (like long-term, bed-sharing or co-sleeping long-term) are still not very common among Western parents.
This is not the case in countries around the world. In many other countries, parents and children share the same bed for several years. This is common in many Asian countries — babies often sleep with their parents until they’re toddlers, and then, they move the child to their own small bed which is close to the parents’ bed.
Also in some countries, it is common practice to have the baby sleep in the same bed with extended family members – an Aunt or Grandmother. This is particularly true for countries where living with extended family members under the same roof is the norm.
Naps and Schedules
In the U.S., Canada and some other Western countries, many parents want their babies on regular schedules and work hard to get them on predictable, regular schedules. And there’s a lot to be said for establishing a routine — it often helps regulate a baby’s nap time sleep and even their nighttime sleep.
However, looking at other countries, we’ve found that parents tend to have a more relaxed, on-the-go mentality when it comes to baby’s routines and schedules. In these countries, it’s normal for baby’s sleep schedule to be different every day. And it’s fine for naps to happen on the go, while Mom and Dad are out visiting with friends or family, doing errands or even working.
Help With Childcare
There is a big difference in how much help is provided to help with childcare depending on where you live in the world. In many Western countries, parenting tends to be fairly isolated. Child rearing is the parent’s job and if the parents happen to need help with childcare, they generally have to use an outsource like a daycare provider.
In many cultures around the world, this is far from case, the extended family is very active in helping to raise the children. Sometimes, family members even live together under one roof, and this means that the Aunt takes the night shift to look after the baby as much as the Mom does.
In some countries, middle-class families are able to hire house help, like maids or nannies. This is very helpful to the parents as it is not always Mom or Dad providing care for the baby like changing, feeding or cleaning up which provides parents with extra help as well as it gives the parents a break or rest from parental care.
In some countries around the world, maternity leaves can be lengthy and paid. In Denmark, Serbia, Croatia, Canada and the U.K., for example, maternity leave is a full year long, and Mom receives 90-100% of her normal working wage.
It is fairly obvious the implications of a 90%- 100% paid year long maternity leave would be. It’s no wonder that many of American parents want to get their babies on a sleep schedule and routine, and to start the sleep training early. They need to return to work so the babies need to nap well and to sleep through the night because they have to go back to work. Parents from other countries , however, don’t face the same pressures — their maternity leaves are often longer, so generally speaking, they’re more relaxed about their babies’ sleep habits, especially when their babies’ are very young. Parents who are at home and do not have to return to work may not always have it easy either.
The different cultural perceptions of sleep training are interesting. It can actually be unheard of in some countries around the world.
In the Western World, the concept of sleep training has become has become fairly common and mainstream. The idea that some parents take steps to teach or train, their babies to sleep is accepted and understood even if the Western parent does not agree with some practices associated with sleep training, like cry it out methods.
In other countries around the world, the idea of “training” a baby to sleep is not used and is in fact the idea is even foreign to them. Some international parents report that in their home countries, allowing a baby to cry, even for a moment or two, is considered unnatural and even cruel. Instead, it’s the norm that babies will wake up in the night and the family with help whether it means getting up with the baby in the night and allow the Mom to sleep or allow Mom to nap during the day while they take care of the baby.
We hope that this information is of some value for you to have a glimpse at how the perceptions and practices around baby sleep vary from country to country. This is not to judge parents from any country. Every baby and every situation is unique and we hope that we can learn from each other. Ideas from other parents from other countries may hold a tip or key to how to help your own baby or toddler to sleep better and this would be a good thing for all. If you are interested in knowing some sleep practices from another country as what you are doing is not working for you or baby, research it more and see what other parents are doing that is working for them.
Let us know if this was of value or of help or even if you have some suggestions or input we would love to hear it.