A baby’s sleep – the myths explained
The myths about your baby's sleep explained
So many myths you hear about regarding a baby and their sleep. I can clearly remember, like most mothers I’m sure, the very moment I gave birth to my child, I was buried in feelings of love and gratitude. Then about ten to fifteen seconds later, I was equally buried in conflicting advice, suggestions, and information.
This was all thrown at me with the best intentions, but it was overwhelming nonetheless.
And that’s coming from an expert, a professional, in the child care field. I can only imagine the tidal waves of hints and advice that must overwhelm a mother who openly asks for it.
No matter if you’re a stay-at-home-mum, a working mum, or somewhere in between. Your kids are on your mind 24/7, no matter what else might be going on, so we tend to do a lot of research, and with access to unlimited data via the internet, or your mother-in-law, (the latter having the most to say, by a mile) it’s inevitable that we get some conflicting information.
So today, I want to focus on my area of expertise, that being sleep, and try to dispel some of the more popular myths I’ve seen in parenting forums, heard from Mum groups I’ve talked with.
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 - 21/2 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.
There are substantial variations depending on baby’s age and the length of their naps, but up to that 6 month mark, it’s really not uncommon for baby to be sleeping around 5 hours a day outside of nighttime sleep, so if your little one is still within those guidelines, let them snooze.
2. Sleeping is a natural development. It 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. But, you can teach them 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 stringing those sleep cycles together absolutely effortlessly, and that’s the secret to “sleeping through the night” as most parents understand it.
3. Babies will naturally dictate their own sleep schedule.
The idea that infant physiology is so flawlessly, naturally programmed to regulate a baby’s schedule is, to be blunt, laughable. Nothing against Mother Nature, but she doesn’t provide us with a ready-to-run baby like she does with say, the blue wildebeest. (Seriously? Walking six minutes after birth? Outrunning predators within a day? Our babies are cuter, but clearly not as prepared for battle straight out of the womb.)
Our babies need extensive care and help in their development, and their sleep cycles are unbelievably erratic if left unregulated. If they miss their natural sleep cycle by as little as a half hour, their cortisol production can increase which causes a surge in energy, and things quickly spiral out of control. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t respond to their cues, but you shouldn’t rely exclusively on them either.
4. Sleep training is stressful for the baby and can affect the parent-child attachment.
This just isn't true. This is the American Academy of Paediatrics talking. If there’s a more reliable source of baby health information, they’re astoundingly bad at marketing themselves. According to a 2016 study
conducted by eight of their top researchers, behavioural intervention, (A.K.A Sleep training) “provide(s) significant sleep benefits above control, yet convey(s) no adverse stress responses or long-term effects on parent-child attachment or child emotions and behavior.” Not a whole lot of grey area there.
5. Babies can't sleep through the night
However did the baby designing left plenty of room for some upgrades! Trusting your child’s physiology to dictate their sleep schedule, their eating habits, their behaviour, or any other aspect of their upbringing is a recipe for disaster.
Is your toddler designed to eat three pounds of gummy bears? Surely not. Will they if you don’t intervene. Without a doubt. Is your baby designed to avoid predators? If so, nobody told my little one, who would have happily hugged a hungry Siberian tiger if it approached them. (They might still, I don’t know!)
Our little ones need our expertise and authority to guide them through their early years. This is especially true when it comes to their sleep. Babies can be naturally good at sleeping. However, don’t rely on the advice of those who tell you that babies should dictate their schedules. You’re in charge because you know best, even if it may not feel like it sometimes.
There are obviously plenty more myths surrounding babies and their sleep habits. These are some of the most important to get the facts on.
There are endless posts on social media and websites that portray themselves as factual. Remember, there’s nothing stopping them from making that claim. So speaking to a specialist or finding peer-reviewed scientific study on all things baby-related is best. For example the the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organisation are excellent sources of information. In addition if you wish to speak more about your own babies sleep issues then don't hesitate to get in touch for a free consultation