Sleep is one of the most confusing topics for new parents and the information out there on how to help your baby sleep better is everywhere. Your mom, best friend, and heck, even the checkout girl at the grocery store is more than willing to offer their sleep training advice. So how do you weed through every sleep tip being thrown at you so that you can make the best decision for your family?
It’s time to break through those common baby sleep myths with our 10 top sleep myth busters!
MY BABY SHOULD SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT
The most confusing term in the entire sleep training world. So here’s the thing – we all wake throughout the night, sometimes partially and sometimes fully. You don’t sleep straight through the night and neither does your baby. Instead of believing that the term “sleeping through the night” means your baby sleeps a full 10-12 straight hours without waking let’s redefine it to be that your baby can sleep through UNASSISTED throughout the night. Your baby is able to transition between sleep cycles without crying and without needing you to help them fall back asleep. Rethinking this terminology may help to take some of the pressure off when your baby does wake throughout the night. If they can fall back to sleep on their own, that folks is sleeping through the night.
MY BABY WILL WORK AROUND MY SCHEDULE AND LIFESTYLE
This is when all the been-there-done-that parents throw their heads back in laughter. Before having children that’s what we often think, isn’t it? “No way will I be that parent who is stuck at home because my baby has to sleep.” And in the first few months, when your newborn is more portable, that’s a possibility. Your baby will sleep soundly on the go. But at some point, when parents are wanting to start working on instilling better sleep habits they need to reign in their active social life and focus more on a consistent sleep routine for their little one. Your baby will thrive from set nap times and bedtimes, and protecting these routines will be key in your sleep training process. Also having a consistent environment will help promote the proper quality of sleep that your baby needs.
IF I KEEP MY BABY UP ALL DAY THEY WILL SLEEP BETTER AT NIGHT
Guilty! I am totally guilty of thinking this exact thought when I had my first baby. I remember my husband and I purposely keeping my first daughter awake all day so that she will sleep in longer stretches throughout the night. If you’ve done your sleep training homework you know that most books will tell you sleep equals sleep and those books don’t lie. The better rested your baby is throughout the day and at bedtime, the easier they will fall asleep at night and sleep more restfully throughout the night. Focus on better naps and earlier bedtimes. That alone can help your baby sleep better at night.
MY BABY WILL SLEEP BETTER EVENTUALLY
Possibly, but what parents need to understand is that while we are all born with the ability to sleep, falling asleep unassisted is a learned skill that we need to give our babies the opportunity to learn. Starting to incorporate healthy sleep habits right from the beginning can save you the headache of trying to teach your toddler or preschooler to sleep better at night. While it’s not impossible to help your child sleep better when they are older, it can definitely be more difficult once they are in a bed, able to move about freely, and speak their mind loudly!
MY BABY JUST DOESN’T NEED THAT MUCH SLEEP
Nap struggles and bedtime battles are the two most common issues I hear amongst parents with babies. At some point parents just decide that their baby is that baby that just doesn’t need to nap and can stay up and watch the Late Show with mom and dad. I’m here to tell you that your baby needs much more sleep in a 24-hour period than you do. Your baby needs up to 14-15 hours of sleep per day up to 1 year of age and up to 12 hours a day for toddlers. It’s important to offer the quantity of sleep that your baby needs to promote better cognitive ability, hand-eye coordination, better behavior and mood, and stronger immune system.
MY BABY IS TEETHING SO I CAN’T SLEEP TRAIN
I tend to smile when I hear this, because I hear it often. It’s an easy go-to excuse, one that as a new parent I even used! Here’s the thing. Teething shouldn’t affect your child’s sleep, or ability to sleep too much. I’m not saying there isn’t any pain associated with teething, there can be and every child is different but it doesn’t mean that you have to throw all your sleep rules out the window and resort to helping your child fall asleep. If you have been dealing with sleep struggles for a long time chances are it’s not teething that’s the issue. It may be time to consider sleep training and working on breaking some of those sleep habits.
MY BABY CAN’T BE SLEEP TRAINED
While certain medical issues can be an obstacle for sleep training, for the most part we need to remember that our children are 100% capable of putting themselves to sleep. If you don’t have a proper plan in place and consistency is lacking sleep training seems like an impossible feat. This is why creating the right plan for you and your partner, and having proper support to keep you consistent throughout the process is key. If you want to make changes there has to be changes. It’s as simple as that.
MY BABY WAKES UP BECAUSE SHE’S HUNGRY
By 4-6 months of age, provided your baby is thriving, mom’s breast supply is good, and there are no medical concerns, nutritionally your baby no longer needs feeds throughout the night. If your baby is having a full feed throughout the night it’s because they need that feed to fall back to sleep. This is the habit that has been created. Once we remove that feed, they can learn how to fall back to sleep without it, and they will readjust to take in those calories throughout the day.
SLEEP TRAINING WILL DAMAGE MY BABY’S PSYCHE
The biggest myth of them all. If I allow my baby to learn how to fall asleep on their own they will feel abandoned and unloved. First of all sleep training isn’t only choosing the method. There are other tools within the sleep training tool kit that need to be implemented to teach your little one to sleep better. I also imagine that most reading this are raising their baby in a loving and attachment filled home. Can I promise no tears at all when you take on sleep training? No. No matter what method you choose, change will result in some tears. But I can promise that your baby will still wake up feeling your love and attachment, and that is a guarantee.
YOU WILL HAVE TO KEEP SLEEP TRAINING OVER AND OVER AGAIN
This is may be my favourite myth. Remember, your child must learn the skill of independent sleep. This skill is no different then any other skill they will learn throughout their life. Those skills aren’t forgotten but do need to be brushed off every now and then. Like the skill of riding their bike. At some point you have to let go, and that is scary! They may fall and hurt themselves but they will also learn how to ride their bike. Then winter comes and the bike is put away and come next Spring there may be some short term weebles and wobbles in the beginning but they will be peddling fast in no time because the skill is already learned.
So when your child get’s sick or you travel on vacation you may have to brush off the independent sleep cobwebs once things have settled but provided you get right back on track and don’t stick with any bad habits trust that your child is capable of doing it because the skill is there. The skill to sleep.
Alanna McGinn is a Certified Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips, subscribe to our newsletter and visit Good Night Sleep Site.