From the moment that the little baby bump goes from “I’ve-had-a-few-extra-burgers” bump to an obvious “there’s-a-baby-growing-in-here” bump, the outpour of advice comes rolling in. Every single person, starting from grandma, your great aunts, your mom, the mother-in-law, and even the mailman have some piece of advice to share about baby sleep. It’s safe to say that with each piece of good advice, (go ahead and take the one where they say “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Trust me.) there are about three that go against exactly what you SHOULD do. They all mean well, but the results, if followed, well…doesn’t turn out quite well.
As a first time mom (and an extremely exhausted one, might I add), I vented about my exhaustion to anyone who was willing to listen. Moms were either sympathetic, because they were as exhausted as I was, or I was usually told the same piece of advice, over and over again. Putting those to practice clearly proved (based on the permanent bags under my eyes) that these were simply myths, and very little proven information was being shared. It wasn’t until I studied sleep, that I learned the truth behind all the advice that I was given.
Now, I obviously wasn’t the only one being given this advice. The countless families I speak to on a monthly basis, mostly share the same information that I was given. To help stop the spreading of all this misinformation, I am going to share with you the top myths about baby sleep and I know that you’ll be nodding your head, “aha-ing”, and “uh-hmm-ing”, because things finally make sense, once you learn the truth.
Let’s do this.
Myth 1: Sleeping too much during the day will keep baby up at night.
Not likely, except in extreme cases. Unless your little one is sleeping practically all day and up all night, you probably don’t need to concern yourself with the length of their naps. Newborns especially, need a ton of sleep. In fact, up until about 6 months, I don’t recommend that your little
one be awake for more than about 2 – 2 1/2 hours at a time. For newborns, that number is more like 45 minutes to an hour.
What keeps babies awake at night, more than anything else, is overtiredness. You might think that an exhausted baby is more likely to sack out for a full night than one who slept all day, but it’s actually just the opposite. The reason we refer to it as being “overtired” is because baby has missed the “tired” phase and their bodies start to kick back into gear, which keeps them from falling and staying asleep. A baby who has gotten a decent amount of sleep during the day is far less likely to miss the sleep window.
Myth 2: Sleeping is a natural development and can’t be taught.
Sleeping is natural, absolutely. Everybody wakes up and falls back to sleep multiple times a night, regardless of their age. So no, you can’t teach a child to be sleepy. What can be taught, however, is the ability to fall back to sleep independently.
The typical “bad sleeper” of a baby isn’t less in need of sleep, or more prone to waking up. They’ve just learned to depend on outside assistance to get back to sleep when they wake up. Once your little one has figured out how to get to sleep without assistance from outside sources, they start connecting those sleep cycles together absolutely effortlessly, and that’s the secret to “sleeping through the night” as most parents understand it.
Myth 3: Putting baby cereal in the bottle will help baby stay asleep longer
This old trick is a myth that I’m surprised to hear from clients, even today. Even more surprising is that they are being told this piece of advice from their pediatrician.
Most of the reasons why babies end up waking up through the night after 4 months is usually based on the habits they have developed. Putting cereal in a bottle has proven to be a dangerous trick as it can cause baby to aspirate. Babies between 4-6 months often do not know how to swallow anything other than breastmilk or formula and “gulping” a bottle of cereal may cause great danger, if they end up spitting up.
Myth 4: Babies like to sleep in noisy environments
This myth needs some clarification of the term “noisy”. If noisy is referring to a room full of adults having a loud conversation over some drinks, the myth is absolutely not true. Although many newborns can sleep through, really anything, it doesn’t mean that this is the ideal sleep environment.
The kind of “good” noise that babies enjoy sleeping to is the “shushing” noise that resembles the sound of mom’s body at work. This is the reason why white noise machines can be so effective because it blocks out any environmental noise that is not familiar to baby, hence preserving sleep. This type of noise creates a familiar environment, one that baby enjoys sleeping in.
Myth 5: Putting baby down to sleep later, will help baby sleep in longer
This myth is actually the exact opposite from the truth. The later that baby sleeps, the earlier they are to waking up. When baby becomes overtired, her stress hormone, cortisol, starts to go up and causes baby to have difficulty falling asleep as well as getting quality sleep overnight.
In turn, it causes baby to wake up earlier. The ability to “sleep in” doesn’t come until about 6 to 8 years old.
If you have an early riser, try to put baby down 30 minutes earlier and see if baby will give you some more Zzz’s in the morning, and not play the role of your alarm clock.
There are obviously plenty more myths and misconceptions surrounding babies and their sleep habits, but these are some of the most important ones to get the facts on. Find peer-reviewed scientific study on all things baby-related, and trusted sources like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institutes of Health, Britain’s National Health Service, Canada’s Hospital for Sick Children, the World Health Organization, and other national children’s health organizations are excellent sources of information you can feel confident about using to answer questions about your baby’s health.
If you want more information about the benefits of sleep, click on the link below to talk to me about any other piece of advice that you’ve been given, that hasn’t quite proven to give baby that sweet slumber you’ve been hoping for.