New Dad Diaries – Week 20: Beach baby




 Chronicling life as a new father to his beautiful firstborn child – daughter Thea – Chris Kerr’s goal is to provide all men experiencing fatherhood for the first time with some invaluable tips and tricks as they are learned – the hard way. This week, Chris explores the benefits of taking Thea outdoors (and bringing her home again).  

If you need a laugh, I highly recommend you have a read of my Google search history during those times that Thea isn’t sleeping well. It starts off constructive: ‘How do I help get my baby to sleep?’ Then, as each hour (five minutes) passes, the questions get progressively desperate: ‘Do five-month-olds sleep eight hours in a row?’ ‘Why won’t my baby sleep?’ ‘Can I leave my baby in the house whilst I sleep in my garden shed?’ ‘Does God hate me?’ ‘How do Navy SEALS deal with sustained torture?’.   

There were some interesting answers, with many bordering on the ridiculous.  One site recommended the key to a good night’s sleep was breakdancing with your baby (I’m not joking). Another suggested giving them a small drop of whiskey (NO!). Some people tried to sell me ‘sleep solution courses’ for £100, seducing me with promises of a guaranteed good night’s sleep. None of them agreed to a ‘no-win, no-fee’ payment structure though, which makes you wonder…

The reality is, babies sleep well some nights, and not so well on others. There are things that we can do to help them get to sleep, from having good bedtime routines to comforting them when something wakes them. But mostly, you just have to adapt to the sleepless nights, safe in the knowledge that they do not last. At least that’s what people have promised me.   

One thing that did catch my attention, and will definitely maximise your chances of a good night’s sleep, was the link between the time babies spend outdoors and the quality of their sleep. For example, in 2004, scientists studied the sleep habits of 56 babies under 13 weeks old. Without exception, the babies who slept well at night spent twice as much time in sunlight than babies who were not sleeping as well. And that’s why my wife and I sold our house, and now live in a tent in the Brecon Beacons (I’m joking – for now).  

The reason for this, it is hypothesised, is that the infants who spent more time outside will establish their circadian rhythms (the natural process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle) sooner. That makes sense as exposure to natural light is key to our bodies producing melatonin – the hormone that helps us to feel sleepy in the evening.

There are other benefits to getting your baby outdoors too. Research tells us that there are various health benefits to babies (and toddlers) from time spent outdoors, including increased exposure to Vitamin D and reduced viral and bacterial loads, potentially leading to less illness.

Indeed, the many benefits of getting your baby/toddler outdoors is long-established, even dating back to the 19th century. Friedrich Froebel, the scholar who coined the term ‘Kindergarten’, emphasised the importance of nature and gardens in child development., His work is highly celebrated in child development circles.

So, think about ways you can incorporate time outdoors with your little one. We take her to the park, walk her around local beauty spots and book in one ‘adventure day’ per month, which has seen us hike in the Brecon Beacons, surf in the sea (don’t worry, she just watched her Father get battered by the waves) and even take a trip to a waterfall. She loves it, and it really has helped her sleep and develop.   

Here’s the other thing about getting outdoors with your baby. It is good for you too. Being a dad is extremely difficult at times, especially in the seasons where sleep is interrupted. I have found that the worst thing I can do during the sleepless nights is stay in the house, even though that is all my weary body wants to do. Getting out, somehow, stops the anxiety, reminds me of the impermanence of these sleepless nights and allows me to create new memories with my family, that make me smile.  Even at 2am. 

TIP OF THE WEEK: If you go on a long-trek, be sure to have plenty of nappies, milk, food and the infrastructure needed to ensure your baby can nap (pram or baby carrier). Pack the night before to minimise the risk of forgetting something in the morning rush!

Chris Kerr

Chris is a husband to Alicia and father to Thea, who is the subject of his columns on Fatherhood for Sorted.  In his spare time he works for a national law firm in an executive capacity and provides crisis leadership consultancy support for non-profits across the UK.  He attends Urban Crofters Church in Cardiff.  A keen weekend adventurer, Chris is regularly spotted in the sea or on mountains.

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