Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Maori Child Rearing and Infant Sleep Practices

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Maori Child Rearing and Infant Sleep Practices

Article excerpt

Broader perspectives of infant sleep

Due to the diversity amongst Maori perspectives on infant sleep in New Zealand today, there is growing demand for research that explores infant sleep practices amongst Maori whanau (extended families) (Abel, Park, Tipene-Leach, Finau, & Lennan, 2001). Very little is known about how Maori parents care for their infants in the context of conflicting advice, and how they decide which approaches to try. Research exploring sleep location and approaches to infant sleep may provide insight into how Maori whanau negotiate this important parenting choice.

Sleep patterns in adults and infants are the result of both biological and environmental processes (Jenni & O'Connor, 2005). Biological processes (circadian and homeostatic) determine the duration of sleep needed, which matures during early infancy and varies from person to person (Jenni & O'Connor, 2005; Mindell, Sadeh, Kwon, & Goh, 2013). Sleep patterns develop further as a child is socialized to their environment and the cultured patterns of the context they are in (Owens, 2005). Across cultures, there is broad variation in parents' approaches to infant nighttime care. These variations are driven by cultural expectations and health messages, as well as parents' socialization goals, their physical environment, the nature of support received.

In Japan, for example, cultural values centered around interdependence and collectivity are associated with more parent-assisted approaches to infant sleep and bed-sharing (Jenni & O'Connor, 2005; Mindell, Sadeh, Kwon, & Goh, 2013). Conversely, in the United States, the values of independence and individualism shape sleep practices for infants, with these practices often focused on establishing separate sleep spaces and encouraging infants' self-soothing (Jenni & O'Connor, 2005). Japan, the United States, and New Zealand are industrialized and technologically advanced societies; however, cultural differences in values and expectations have shaped infant sleep practices in each location, with variations in approaches to soothing infants, bedtime, length of sleep, sleep consolidation, and sleep location (Jenni & O'Connor, 2005; Commons, Miller, & Lamport, 2010; Mindell, Sadeh, Kwon, & Goh, 2013).

Due to the variety of different cultures and traditions around sleep and parenting styles, infant sleep has been a topic of debate in New Zealand for many years (Herbert, 2001; Mindell, Sadeh, Kwon, & Goh, 2013). Western perspectives on infant sleep, which promote separate sleep locations, have been found to be more practiced and promoted in New Zealand, even though these approaches contrast with indigenous cultural values and traditions regarding infant sleep (Abel, Park, Tipene-Leach, Finau, & Lennan, 2001). The continued focus on promotion of separate sleep (Plunket, 2017; Ministry of Health, 2016) may be related to perceptions of an association between bed-sharing and dependence on parent intervention during the initiation of sleep, perceived heightened risk of SIDS, and the need for parents to get sufficient sleep. Further, pressures on parents, such as work and study requirements, have increased the need to establish consolidated sleep (sleeping through the night) from a young age (Sadeh, Tikotzky, & Scher, 2010).

Infant sleep in New Zealand

Abel, Park, Tipene-Leach, Finau, and Lennan (2001) described infant care practices of 150 families who identified as being of Tongan, Samoan, Maori, Cook Islands, Niuean, and Pakeha descent. Maori parents who had strong ties with their Maori whanau and cultural background were more inclined to bed-share and also were more likely to seek advice from whanau around best practice infant care. Conversely, nuclear Maori families without strong ties to their whanau and cultural background were found to be more likely to place babies in a separate bed/room, as they believed it helped to increase autonomy, make the baby less reliant on their mother, and reduce night time waking (Abel et. …

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