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What is 'normal' infant sleep?

How can an anthropological view explain our babies' sleep behaviour? Why are WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic) societies unusual when it comes to infant sleep? How can we alter expectations and address cultural pressure around the sometimes contentious subject of babies' sleep?

In this Q&A session for the Intellectual Forum and ThinkLab's Sleep Week, Professor Helen Ball, Director of Durham University's Parent-Infant Sleep Lab, answered questions about the work she presents in a previously recorded lecture.

More about the speaker:

Helen Ball is Professor of Anthropology and Director of Durham University's Parent-Infant Sleep Lab. She pioneers the study of infant sleep and the parent-infant sleep relationship from a biosocial perspective. She obtained her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1992. Her research examines sleep ecology, particularly of infants, young children and their parents. This encompasses attitudes and practices regarding infant sleep, behavioural and physiological monitoring of infants and their parents during sleep, infant sleep development, and the discordance between cultural sleep preferences and biological sleep needs.

Professor Ball has conducted research in hospitals and the community, and contributes to national and international policy and practice guidelines on infant care. She pioneers the translation of academic research on infant sleep into evidence for use by parents and healthcare staff via BASIS - the Baby Sleep Information Source website. In 2013 Professor Ball received an award for Outstanding Impact in Society from the Economic and Social Research Council for her work on parent-infant sleep.

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