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6 Big Myths About Your Baby’s Sleep
When it comes to babies, there are no certainties. Pretty much any parenting strategy you can imagine that might work for one child can prove completely ineffective, or even counter-productive, for another. The fact that there is so much room for interpretation and such a wide variety of results with any specific practice means that…
Considering all the questions around baby sleep, and the infinite number of opinions on each of them, it’s no surprise that a lot of misinformation gets out into the atmosphere. That misinformation also often becomes accepted as fact. Today, I’d like to set the record straight on a few of the most common misconceptions when it comes to baby’s sleep. Alleviating some of the most common concerns and questions from new parents in the process.
Sleep Expert, Dana Obleman, breaks down 6 BIG MYTHS about your baby’s sleep. (We hope this helps you sleep better as well.)
Myth #1 – More awake time during the day means more sleep at night
Babies need sleep. I mean babies need a TON of sleep to compensate for all of the growth and development their bodies are doing. While you might be inclined to think that a really sleepy baby will sleep better at night, overtiredness actually stimulates cortisol production, which stimulates the fight/flight response, making it harder for baby to get to sleep and stay asleep at night. Sticking to a consistent nap schedule and making sure baby’s getting adequate nap time during the day helps to ensure a long, restful night’s sleep.
Myth #2- Babies aren’t supposed to sleep through the night
While it’s true that many babies will need at least one nighttime feed up until they’re around six months, that doesn’t mean that they’re supposed to wake up to feed every hour. More often than not, when a baby wakes up in the night, it’s because they’re coming to the end of a sleep cycle. If they fully wake up during that light stage of sleep, they might have a hard time getting back down on their own if they’re accustomed to being nursed, rocked, or fed to sleep. Breaking the dependency on those “sleep props” and helping baby learn to fall asleep independently will help them string those sleep cycles together. And don’t worry, if they wake up hungry, they’ll let you know.
Myth #3 – Babies can adapt to a flexible schedule
Even though babies can be pretty impressive with their ability to fall asleep in some loud and hectic environments, that doesn’t mean they’ll just fall asleep any time they’re tired. Babies sleep best when they’re on a consistent schedule, supported with a predictable, repetitive bedtime routine. Think of it the same way you would about feeding your baby. You organize your day around baby’s feeding schedule, so try to dedicate that same level of commitment to their sleep schedule as well.
Myth #4- A tired baby will just fall asleep
While it’s true that some babies can recognize when it’s time for bed, the majority will stay awake past their ideal nap or bedtime if there’s anything remotely interesting going on around them. Keeping an eye on baby’s sleep cues and sticking to a consistent schedule is the best way to prevent overtiredness.
Myth #5- Babies need a night light
Contrary to popular belief, babies are not scared of the dark. Up until around the age of 2 years, they haven’t developed the imagination to get themselves worked up about what kinds of things might be lurking in the dark corners of their bedroom. A dark bedroom, and I mean really dark, to the point where you can’t see your hand in front of your face, is a great way to encourage long, restful, uninterrupted sleep. My usual recommendation is not to introduce a nightlight until your toddler starts complaining that they’re afraid of the dark, and if you do intend to use one, make sure it’s warm in color. Blue light mimics sunlight which, in turn, stimulates cortisol production, which can keep baby from getting to sleep.
Myth #6- Teaching self-soothing skills can be harmful to your baby’s development
The topic of self-soothing has been the subject of a fair amount of controversy in the last few years, with some people even going so far as to say that it can be damaging to baby’s development, or that it affects the bond that babies have with their caregivers.
While I’m always in favor of more research into the science behind infant and baby sleep, the current data shows absolutely no negative effects from teaching your baby the skills to fall asleep independently. It doesn’t harm your bond with each other, it doesn’t teach baby to suppress their crying, and it doesn’t cause any detrimental effects down the road. All it does is help you and your baby get the sleep you need.
As a group, we parents are never going to agree on everything. Every parent on earth has at least a slightly different approach to parenting, but my hope is that we can all start with the most reliable scientific facts and data to make informed decisions as we develop our strategies. That is the foundation of being the best parents we can be.