Most mothers I’m sure, can relate to those endless pieces of advice, suggestions, and information we receive on varying topics including sleep, feeding to sleep, sleep regressions etc, particularly with our first child.
This is all given with the best intentions, but it can be overwhelming nonetheless. It’s hard to imagine the number of times we mothers have heard the words, “You should”, “You shouldn’t”, “You’ll need to”, and “You’ve got to…” If we took a guess we could estimate it to be a ‘squillion’ times, that a new mother receives such suggestions just in her first year of motherhood.
And that’s coming from an expert, a professional, in the baby field. I can only imagine the tidal waves of hints and advice that must overwhelm a mother who openly asks for it.
There’s no such thing as a casual mum. This gig is full-time, no matter if you’re a stay-at-home-mom, a working mom, 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, I want to focus on one of my areas of expertise, sleep, and try to dispel some of the more popular myths I’ve seen in parenting forums and Mothers groups.
1. 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, however, you can teach 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 stringing those sleep cycles together absolutely effortlessly, and that’s the secret to “sleeping through the night” as most parents understand it.
2.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 tonne 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 pass 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 night time sleep, so if your little one is still within those guidelines, let them snooze.
3. Babies will naturally dictate their own sleep schedule
Our babies need extensive care and help in their development once they leave the womb, and their sleep cycles can be very 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. So as much as I wish babies could just fall asleep when they’re tired, it simply doesn’t work that way. So to ensure babies don’t miss their sleep window, being aware of their cues and awake windows can make all the difference to how easily a baby will fall to sleep and stay asleep.
4. Sleep training is stressful for the baby and can affect the parent-child attachment.
No, not in my experience and from what research says, this is not the case. The American Academy of Paediatrics, a reliable source of baby health information has research on this and 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 behaviour.”
5. Babies are not “designed” to sleep through the night.
I think we can all agree that, even if babies were “designed” somehow, whoever did the designing, left plenty of room for some upgrades. Trusting your child’s physiology to determine their sleep schedule, their eating habits, their behaviour, or just about any other aspect of their upbringing can lead to many parenting struggles.
Is your toddler designed to eat three handfuls of gummy bears? Surely not. Will they if you don’t intervene. Most probably. Our little ones need our expertise and authority to guide them through their early years, and probably will for many years after that.
This is especially true when it comes to their sleep. Some babies are naturally gifted sleepers, for sure, but don’t rely on the advice of those who tell you that babies will work it out themselves. You are the parent and your baby looks to you for guidance and will follow your lead, the stronger you are with this, the more responsive your baby will be.
There are obviously plenty more myths and misconceptions surrounding babies and their sleep habits, but these are some of the most important ones to break down first.
Remember excellent sources of information you can feel confident about using to answer questions about your baby’s health are peer-reviewed scientific studies and trusted sources like the American Academy of Paediatrics, the National Institutes of Health, Britain’s National Health Service, and The World Health Organisation.
And if you want more information about the benefits of sleep, I’m willing to talk about it forever and a day. Click here to book a chat with me about your baby’s sleep.