Following the birth of a baby, it is common for new mothers to awaken to the sound of their baby’s cry several times a night. Constantly getting out of bed to tend to their baby’s needs causes a disruption in the mother’s sleep, which may affect her physical and emotional well-being the next day. However, a behavioral-educational intervention may bring some much-needed relief to both mother and baby.

The study, conducted by Robyn Stremler, RN, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, focused on 30 first-time mothers and their infants, who were randomly assigned to sleep intervention or a control group. The sleep intervention included a 45-minute meeting with a nurse to discuss sleep information and strategies, an 11-page booklet, and weekly phone contact to reinforce information and problem solve. The control group received a 10-minute meeting during which only maternal sleep hygiene and basic information about infant sleep were discussed, a one-page pamphlet, and calls on the third and fifth week to maintain contact without provision of advice.

Questionnaires were completed at the beginning and after six weeks. Sleep diaries, along with mother and infant actigraphy, were completed at six weeks.

The results showed that the mothers in the sleep intervention group averaged 57 minutes more nighttime sleep and, as compared with the mothers in the control group, fewer rated their sleep as a problem. In addition, infants in the sleep intervention group had fewer nighttime awakenings and had maximum lengths of nighttime sleep that were, on average, 46 minutes longer than those in the control group.