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Māori child rearing and infant sleep practices

Sleep is important to a healthy lifestyle for parents and children, and having effective ways of putting a child to sleep contributes significantly to mental and physical wellbeing. Cultural groups around the world have developed a variety of approaches to this task, for example, rocking, co-sleeping, bed-sharing, breastfeeding to sleep, and encouraging infants to self soothe through various methods of infant sleep training. In New Zealand the continuation of traditional Māori approaches to infant sleep, e.g. co-sleeping, bed-sharing, responsivity to infant cues have been over-shadowed by its negative association with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and dependence on parent interaction when initiating infant sleep. In this study, we were interested in the approaches Māori parents used to put their pēpi (child, 2 months-2 years of age) to sleep and the various factors that have influenced these approaches. Data were collected through online surveys (n =58) and face-to-face interviews (n =10) with Māori parents. Survey results indicated that being held and breast or bottle fed to sleep were the most practiced techniques by Māori parents. Parent assisted approaches, e.g., rocking, feeding, lying with baby until they go to sleep, were the most practiced. Many parents planned for their babies to sleep separately but very few actually persisted with self-soothing approaches due to a number of factors, such as discomfort with listening to their babies cry, culture, whānau (extended families) influences safety, and convenience. The majority of participants expressed a desire for separate sleep; however, few within the interview group actually successfully practiced separate sleep regularly.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Jones, H. M., Barber, C. C., Nikora, L. W., & Middlemiss, W. (2017). Māori child rearing and infant sleep practices. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 46(3), 30–37.
New Zealand Psychological Society
This article is published in the New Zealand Journal of Psychology. © 2017 New Zealand Psychological Society. Used with permission.