Is the Western way of raising kids weird?

Even today, much research on infant sleep only looks at a specific subset of the global population. “So much of the research over the last several decades has been done on Western babies,” says Ball.

While there are undoubtedly differences between cultures when it comes to how we care for babies, there are many differences within them, too. Not everyone in the West thinks a baby sleeping in their own room is ideal. In one study, for example, Italian parents called it “unkind“.

Personal circumstances play a big part in how people care for their babies, and every parent finds their own particular way to do things. “All families are different, so a wide diversity is OK,” says Kuroda.

For her part, Kuroda co-slept with her four children as a way to adapt to being away from them during the day. “I’m working full time and if I separate the whole night, it’s really minimal time for the baby. We can intensely communicate, even in the nighttime. It’s real communication and time together.”

But she says, as with all parenting choices, people should find what works for them and their baby, rather than worrying too much about what anyone else is doing. “I think the parent and the infant can adapt to each other,” she says. “It’s like a tango.”

The key to thinking outside the Western box might be to remember that babies are not out to manipulate us, no matter how tempting it might be to see it that way at 3am. “What we really need with babies is to stop thinking about them as hard-to-please bosses,” says Dutta. “They’re helpless little beings that have come into this world, and we must look at them with empathy and compassion.”

This article was corrected on 23/2/21. A previous version referred to the American Academy of Paediatricians instead of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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