Baby sleep can certainly be a mystery to some parents – it’s a topic that requires important education. With so much information available through books and online, you’re bound to find some outdated baby sleep tips and suggestions that have since been debunked. Plus, many sources offer such different advice it causes confusion on what parents should really follow to help baby sleep. Here are a few of the most common baby sleep myths all parents should know about:
Baby Sleep Myth #1: It’s never too early (or too late) to sleep train
Starting sleep training early is definitely a good idea, but it is possible to start too early. During the first few months of your child’s life, he/she will spend most of their time sleeping. You don’t want to do anything to disrupt their sleep and keep them awake when their body needs sleep just so that you can get baby to sleep on your schedule. This can end up having a serious negative effect on baby’s development. According to our friends over at SleepWell Baby certified child sleep consultants, a baby can begin sleep training at four months of age.
Why four months? Well, it’s all based on baby’s internal biological clock. We all operate on internal 24-hour clocks, which are genetically controlled. These clocks drive our circadian rhythms to tell our bodies when we should be sleeping. As baby adjusts to the day’s darkness and daylight, a baby develops their own circadian rhythm at four months of age. “If we overlook their need to sleep during the times when their body temperature dips and melatonin production increases, we see babies who do not settle easily or sleep for long stretches.” Read more about baby sleep at SleepWell Baby.
With this said, it’s also never too late to start sleep training. For example, I started sleep training with my son at nine months old (After 16 long weeks of hoping and praying his constant night wakings would end, but guess what? They only got worse as time went on!). We saw immediate results after working with SleepWell Baby and our son now sleeps 12 hours a night and two 2-3 hour naps a day like clockwork.
Baby Sleep Myth #2: Add rice cereal to your baby’s bottle at night
The idea behind this baby sleep myth is that if you add rice cereal to your baby’s bedtime feeding, baby will stay full longer and therefore sleep longer through the night. The truth is, it’s just not safe to give a baby under four months old rice cereal because their digestive system can’t handle it. Some pediatricians even recommend no solids until six months and no grains until 12 months.
Giving baby rice cereal at such a young age could cause tummy trouble which can keep baby awake and increase crying. Additionally, young babies need to eat every two to three hours so trying to get a baby to remain full for a longer period of time prevents baby from getting the nutrition they need to grow and thrive. As a mother I know it’s not easy to get up every two to three hours during the night, but it does not last forever and you will get through it. We must do what is best for our babies.
So when is baby ready to go longer without night feedings? A good rule to follow is if baby is gaining weight and weighs at least 15 pounds then baby is able to sleep 12 hours a night with no feedings. (Another tip I learned from SleepWell Baby).
Don’t worry that your baby won’t get enough nutrition because another cool thing I learned about babies is that they self-regulate their own bodies! When we started sleep training we went from 24 ounces of formula a night to no bottles at night COLD TURKEY and we noticed that our baby started eating more during the day instead. It’s truly incredible. We were so uneasy about stopping night feeding like that so suddenly, but we trusted our sleep consultant and they were right! Our baby did not wake up or cry to eat. He slept 6 hours straight the first night of sleep training and then 11 hours straight on night two and then since then 12 hours straight every night.
Baby Sleep Myth #3: You have to be quiet to not wake the baby
This is something that is constantly being said about a new baby, especially when visitors are over. Of course, you don’t want to go around making a huge racket, but babies are actually used to hearing loud noises from inside the womb. Baby finds these noises to be comforting, which is why white noise machines are recommended as a nursery must-have. Let your child get used to sleeping while the rest of the household is up and about making typical noises.
Sound Machine Tip: Choose a white noise setting that is constant and does not have high and low pitches. Choosing a sound like ocean waves or rain is actually stimulating for baby which can keep baby awake. Also, place the sound machine across the room on medium so that it’s not right next to baby’s ears. (Again, I must accredit SleepWell Baby for this educational tip).
Baby Sleep Myth #4: Rush to your baby if he/she cries
We all know that parental instinct to rush to baby’s crib the minute we hear a cry through the baby monitor. However, if you make a habit of this, your child will never learn how to self-soothe which means you’ll be waking up every time baby wakes up. This is not a good sleep habit to practice. Instead, when you hear baby wake up, give her a few minutes to put herself back to sleep.
As new parents, we made the mistake of picking up baby as soon as he cried and our son became dependent on mommy rocking him back to sleep EVERY SINGLE TIME he woke up which was every 1-2 hours a night. We then got into another bad habit of giving our son a bottle to help him go back to sleep faster. Because of this, our baby developed two sleep associations (or sleep crutches) that prevented him from learning how to self-soothe: rocking in arms and drinking a bottle.
After we worked with SleepWell Baby, our son quickly learned how to self-soothe. Now if he wakes up, he instantly will go back to sleep or sometimes he will babble and play and then go back to sleep. Babies wake up often throughout the night too as their sleep cycles are every 40 to 50 minutes based on age. So they naturally will wake up in between their cycles. It’s crucial that babies learn how to self-soothe.
I want to mention that don’t think you are abandoning your baby by not picking baby up instantly when he or she cries. You are actually helping your baby tremendously. There is a certain method that we used with SleepWell Baby that reassures baby that you are still there so if your baby already depends on you to go back to sleep, it’s best to work with a professional baby sleep consultant to help baby learn to self-soothe. I only say this because when we tried on our own, we were not successful or confident but when we worked with SleepWell Baby we were confident, educated and empowered which made the transition easy for us as parents and better for the baby.
Baby Sleep Myth #5: Put baby to sleep later at night to keep him/her from waking up early
While this sounds like it could make sense, it really makes bedtime worse for baby. By putting baby to sleep later, it makes baby overtired which makes it harder for her to fall asleep and get good quality sleep. If you put your baby to sleep earlier, he/she will be better rested and can actually sleep for longer hours so in this case, the opposite of this myth is true.
Depending on baby’s age there are certain windows of time that parents must follow to give baby optimal, healthy sleep. If baby stays awake past that window of time, they produce the hormone cortisol which makes it harder for baby to fall asleep.
Another myth worth mentioning is that skipping naps does not make baby more tired for night sleep! Again, it works exactly the opposite. Remember sleep begets sleep.
Written by Tasha Mayberry, Publicist of SafeSleep, makers of the Breathe-Through Crib Mattress. Shop here for the safest crib mattress for baby.