Baby Sleep Myths
In those first few months of new parenthood, everything can seem like a blur of exhaustion. You may feel like you are doing everything wrong, and you are sure to get plenty of advice, both solicited and unsolicited.
One subject that it seems everyone has an opinion on is sleep. Advice about sleep is so widespread and so varied that it can feel impossible to separate fact from baby sleep myth. Getting better sleep is important for both the parents and the baby, so it is important to understand some common misconceptions and separate myth from fact.
1. Babies need to put down in a totally quiet and dark room to sleep.
Truth: Your baby will quickly learn to sleep in whatever environment he is exposed to. He may actually sleep better when there is activity going on around him, as it can create a kind of white noise.
2. You shouldn’t expect your baby to sleep well for months or even the first year.
Truth: Babies can learn to sleep well in just a few weeks. Doing so takes effort on your part, and it can be frustrating but will result in better sleep for everyone. Teaching sleep cues, or methods that your baby learns to associate with sleep, such as swaddling, is a great way to improve sleep patterns.
3. Babies wake up during the night because they need to eat.
Truth: Once your baby is between 4 and 6 months old, if he is gaining weight, he is thriving physically, and, if the mother is nursing, there are no problems with milk supply, there is no need for your baby to wake up to eat.
4. Nursing or rocking will make it impossible to get your baby to sleep any other way.
Truth: Your baby will want what he is used to, that is only natural. But there is nothing wrong with rocking or nursing your child to sleep. The key is to help him learn to put himself back to sleep when he wakes up. Helping him learn self-soothing techniques allows him to put himself back to sleep during the night.
There are a variety of behaviors you can encourage that teach your baby to self-soothe, including:
- Sucking or cuddling a toy or blanket
- Using a pacifier
- Humming softly, you can teach this by humming softly as you rock him.
- Stroking his hands or cheeks. Again, you can model this behavior for him when you are rocking or feeding him.
5. Cutting back on daytime naps will improve nighttime sleeping.
Truth: This is a common thought, but it doesn’t work. An overly tired baby will be fussy and much more difficult to get to sleep than a well-rested baby. Instead, make naps a priority, and start the bedtime routine a little earlier than you think is necessary so you aren’t rushed getting your baby to sleep.
6. Babies can go along with a flexible schedule, depending on what the parents want to do.
Truth: Sure, you can tote your baby around wherever you go. If you want to improve the quality of sleep for everyone in your family, you really need to dedicate yourself to developing a consistent nap and bedtime routine. This may mean being close to home while you establish consistent sleep habits, but it will pay off with a baby that goes to sleep easily and sleeps well.
7. Letting a baby “cry it out” is harmful
Truth: Studies have shown that there is no harm done by letting your baby cry it out at night. If he is fed, clean and dry, and has a safe, comfortable crib, letting him cry it out will not cause any problems.
However, that does not mean it is the only way to help your child sleep through the night. There are a variety of ways to encourage sleeping through the night, and all can be effective. If you are not comfortable letting your baby cry it out, there is no reason to use that method of sleep training.
8. Babies sleep better if you add a little cereal to their nighttime bottle.
Truth: As mentioned above, a healthy, growing baby does not need to wake up to eat. Adding cereal to his bottle is not only unnecessary, but it also doesn’t actually work and can create other problems.
It is not recommended to start solids before 6 months of age, and at that point, it should be as part of a meal. Adding calories from cereal in a nighttime bottle can lead to excessive weight gain.
As you can see, there are a lot of myths surrounding baby sleep habits and patterns. For every baby sleep myth you hear, there is another that contradicts it. Remember, as a parent, you have to do what works for you and your family. If someone offers advice that sounds beneficial, you can certainly consider it, but make the decisions on your own. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your pediatrician.