Sleeping like a baby at Durham University

Researchers at Durham University have received the UK’s highest academic honour for a programme that has helped to shape the way babies sleep.

The Parent-Infant Sleep Lab won The Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its work with more than 5,000 parents and babies in the last 20 years. The research has substantially increased parents’ understanding of babies’ sleep, how best to care for babies during the night, and how best to keep them safe when asleep.

The Lab is managed by Professor Helen Ball and Dr Charlotte Russell, from the Department of Anthropology and projects include looking at the risks and benefits of bed-sharing with babies, safer sleeping arrangements for twin babies, and how parents understand infant sleep development.

Professor Ball, from the Department of Anthropology at Durham University, said: “The research we have published and shared has influenced how parents and health professionals think about baby sleep. It is amazing to hear our work quoted back to us when we speak to health professionals and parents.

“To receive recognition for this work via the Queen’s Anniversary Prize is tremendously rewarding, and we are most grateful to all the organisations and individuals who have shared our work and translated it into policy and practice.”

Working together with partner organisations, the research of the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab has helped to reduce rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) through evidence-based advice for health professionals and parents.

The Sleep Lab’s online Infant Sleep Information Source has been accessed more than two million times from countries across the world and is shared and recommended by parents and health professionals as a reliable evidence-based home of information on normal infant sleep.

A related app, called Infant Sleep Info, is also used by parents with new-born babies.

The Infant Sleep Information Source was set up in 2012 with funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in collaboration with UNICEF UK, La Leche League and the National Childbirth Trust, and continues with support from Durham University.

Find out more on the Sleep Lab website.

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