The fascinating connection between your baby's sleep and their language development

This study found that 6- to 8-month-old babies were able to create a meaning for a word, but only after they'd had a nap.

The fascinating connection between your baby's sleep and their language development

Ever watched a sleeping baby and thought that behind those peaceful brows their brain was processing information? No, me either.

I loved to watch my sleeping babies and enjoy their cuteness without any demands on me. It never occurred to me in these moments that their brains were processing their daily learning as they slept. Everything is new for a baby. With each new experience, their brains have the job of organizing and categorizing all that information. It is thought that sleep is integral to this process.

This study found that 6 to 8-month-old babies were able to create a meaning for a word, but only after they'd had a nap. Creating meaning for a word was previously only thought possible in older children and adults.

The researchers exposed 6 to 8-month-old infants to fictitious objects, which they gave made-up names such as “Bofel" or “Zuser." Objects that were similar but not the same were all called a “Bofel" or “Zuser" accordingly. The researchers used fictitious objects to make sure the babies could not use their preexisting knowledge in the tests.

After the first learning phase in the morning, the babies' brain responses showed that they did not recognize a new Bofel as a “Bofel," although it was quite similar to the previously seen Bofel versions.

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When tested again, after their nap, babies' brains were able to differentiate between the right and wrong name for a new object. The babies could see the commonalities between the similar pairs, known as generalization.

It seems that babies had generalized their knowledge during their sleep, because babies that stayed awake during their nap were still unable to generalize their learning.

The amount and quality of the learning was dependent on the amount of sleep they got in their nap. Babies who slept for about 50 minutes showed a brain response called the N400 component that indicated to the researchers they had created meanings for the words. The N400 component is also found when older children and adults learn a meaning for a word.

Babies that slept 30 minutes or less, however, were only able to filter out the similar features of the contexts and link them to the sound of the word. They had not created a meaning for the word.

“Our results show that infants can form long-term memory for word meanings much earlier than previously thought. Even though the brain structures that are relevant for this type of memory are not fully matured, they can already be used to a certain extent," explains Angela D. Friederici, senior author of the study.

The researchers say that one particular stage of sleep is responsible for the memory of word meaning. This is the second of the four sleep stages. This stage of light sleep allows the transition from simple early learning, like that seen in the babies who napped for 30 minutes, to an advanced form of memory as seen in the babies who napped for 50 minutes.

Compared to other types of development which can take months, this learning is happening in a matter of minutes, leading the researchers to deduce that language development appears to occur in “fast motion" during sleep.

“In our study, however, infants were exposed to a large amount of information within a narrow time frame, which they normally experience over a much longer period of time," study leader Manuela Friedrich adds.

“But only during sleep, when the infant brain is isolated from the surrounding world, can it extract and save relations incorporated in this information. And only the interaction of an alert state of experiencing the environment with the offline state of sleep, in which experiences are organized and stored, enables early cognitive and language development."

Next time you see a sweet sleeping bundle, think about all the development that's going on inside that brain. All the words and activities you shared with them that morning are being categorized and developing meaning. It just goes to show that babies are amazing, even when they sleep.


I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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