The University of Notre Dame Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab is both a research and teaching laboratory. Upperclass undergraduate students at Notre Dame gain first hand experience conducting cutting-edge research examining issues of national and international significance. These issues include the safety of different sleep environments as well as the the physiological and/or psychological consequences of the different choices of sleeping arrangements parents make.
The laboratory research techniques we employ traditional anthropological research methods to help answer clinically important pediatric questions. For example, we integrate traditional ethnographic interviewing techniques to elicit parental viewpoints on how and where infant and children should sleep, with nighttime observations (using a infra red video recording system) which helps us to understand how or if parents fulfill their care-giving goals, and whether or to what degree, parents are able to ,indeed, practice, what they say they practice. We collect "ethnohistories" about the parents' worldviews and expectations about childhood sleep as it occurs in the context of their own experiences and family life, and are particularly interested in learning what makes some families struggle with childhood sleep issues while others do not.
With the cooperation of pediatric nurses from St Joseph's and Memorial Hospitals in South Bend who visit the homes of new parents within the first week or two following the infant's birth, we include in our recruitment strategies all socioeconomic and racial categories. Our studies begin with the participants keeping a two-week sleep log of their sleeping arrangements and behavior prior to coming to the laboratory. Our participants have divergent ideas about where and how babies and children should sleep, and practice differing feeding methods andsleeping arrangements. One goal of the study is to illuminate what influences the decisions parents make about sleep and feeding issues, and to determine how closely they are able to abide by those decisions, and how satisfied they are with their own and their childrens' sleep behavior and arrangements.
We are especially interested in describing what occurs during the sleep night, who takes care of the infant or child, what kinds of responses are given, how much feeding occurs and how is it elicited by the infant or child. Unlike our previous studies fathers are included in the sleep studies and are an important new factor in understanding altogether infant and childhood sleep in the context of family dynamics.
While families can arrange their sleep in any number of ways, once they come to the lab (which resembles an apartment rather than a scientific laboratory) they are asked to match as closely as possible their home with the sleep laboratory arrangement. They may choose to bedshare, have the infant sleep in a crib in a separate room, have the infant sleep alongside the parental bed in a cosleeper, or sleep in a crib apart from the parental bed but in the same room. During the night student researchers record all of the nighttime behavior using infra red video cameras which are set up in each bedroom to run simultaneously.
The diverse data we collect helps to answer several important questions. What is the basis by which parents make decisions about how and where their infants and children can sleep? How closely do parents abide by their own descriptions of their sleeping arrangements? How satisfied are they with their children's sleep and what factors influence how parents evaluate their own and their childrens' sleep? How do breast feeding and bottle feeding families vary as regards sleep and feeding behaviors, and how do parents evaluate their nighttime restfulness?
We also look at what parents remember and what they forget about their previous nights caregiving behavior? We are examining how or if mothers and fathers differ as to their nighttime caregiving? We ask: how responsive are men to their infant's needs or sounds and, over time, to what extent do parents change their attitudes about where an how infants should sleep? We also ask: to what extent are parents knowledgeable about safety issues and/or how to minimize the chance of injuries to infants or children during sleep?
Each family unit is paid $35 per night for their participation. We accept babies through to their second birthday, but are especially interested in infants less than a year of age. We encourage the participation of fathers! If interested, please call Dr. John Kubinski at 219 631-5909 or Dr. James McKenna 219 631-3816.