reflecting on my first 2 weeks of research

Having completed my first two weeks of research with the Infancy and Sleep Centre in Durham I can already reflect on this short period and how my research has changed and expanded with the onset of Covid-19.

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I spent these first two weeks working alongside Francesca Tugwell, who is currently completing her MSc under the supervision of Professor Helen Ball. When I first applied to be a Laidlaw Scholar I hoped that in July/August I would be helping Fran collect data for her research on the differences between sleep patterns in babies and mothers who breastfed vs formula-fed. However with the onset of Covid-19 we have had to adapt the research. Unfortunately the sleep lab had to close in order to maintain social distancing, meaning no new data could be collected.


Rather than collecting new data I was able to code the existing data collected by Fran earlier in the year. The data collected consisted of videos that recorded mum and baby whilst in the sleep lab through three inbuilt cameras in the room that can be controlled by the researcher. Using Observer XT 14 I went through each video and coded for five different variables; baby location, baby activity, mum activity, baby state and mum state. As the week continued we encountered another challenge. Using Observer XT 14, a data profile was created for videos that both me and Fran had coded. However analysing the reliability of our coding we found that it was under the 80% threshold of agreement. This meant we had to go back to the beginning and find an objective way of deciding when e.g. a baby was active content vs calm content (baby activity). We decided that in order for a baby to be calm content it had to first be lying still for a minute, and that when a baby was sleeping it could only be calm content even if they turned their head or kicked their legs.


Having come up with a new set of rules for coding I went about the rest of the two week coding the remaining videos. I was also able to go over Frans literature review and other resources in order to gain a better understanding of the differences formula feeding and breastfeeding can lead to in infant and mother sleep. The research conducted by the Infancy & Sleep Centre in Durham plays a pivotal role in guiding parents on how their choices affect their baby, through articles and papers published on the BASIS (Baby Sleep Info Source) website. I would like to quickly thank Helen and Fran for allowing me to partake in research I’d otherwise not have known about, and the Laidlaw foundation for giving me this opportunity. I have thoroughly enjoyed working alongside Fran for the past 2 weeks and can’t wait to complete my other four in September.

Hannah Huysmans

Student, Durham University

I am an Anthropology student at Durham with a particular interest in global health. My research will focus on neonatal health and behaviour patterns of newborns, with a particular interest relating to the North-East. Outside of Anthropology I enjoy modern history, cooking and learning German.