Your little one is here. You are in a beloved bundle of happiness on the sofa, reveling in the sweetness of just spending time with your baby. Wait…. This is not always how it is – right? This is the photoshoot someone posted on Instagram.
In the real world, the sink is full of dishes, there is damp laundry in the machine that smells of wet dog, and you dream of taking a long bath on your own. The reality is sometimes not up to expectations.
First, it is hard in the first few days, weeks and months. The endless days of cuddling and pottery in your home while waiting for your baby to wake up that you might have imagined might not be your reality at all.
Second, many parents don’t know the right thing to do when it comes to sleep. We are bombarded with myths from well-meaning friends, family, medical professionals, and Dr. Google. Some are weird, some are wrong, and some are misinterpreted. It can be difficult for many people to distinguish fact from fiction and evidence from pseudoscience.
Having supported families for almost twenty years, it’s fair to say that I heard some big white lies about sleep in my day. Here’s a roundup of the most common myths about baby sleep.
Give your baby a bottle
First, it’s not about judging your food choices. But many breastfeeding parents are told that if they give their babies a bottle of formula, they will sleep better. Not only does the research not confirm this, but every year I hear from hundreds of parents who try this and find it unnecessary. Granted, if you need or want to bottle-feed your baby, it’s absolutely your choice, but don’t do it for sleep – it’s a promise that probably won’t keep.
Feed only every 3/4 hours
Many people claim that strict routines can help babies sleep. The idea is that if they feed less frequently, they will take in larger volumes and last longer between feedings. The problem is, all babies are different. Strict routines don’t work for around 80% of the population and are often stressful for everyone involved. They can be restrictive, inflexible, and not all babies can handle heavy feeding. This strategy can just make you and your baby unhappy and potentially uncomfortable – which, guess what…. can make sleep worse.
By x weeks / months / weight your baby should be sleeping x solid hours
This is based on myths that are not supported by research. I have met tiny babies who sleep for 10 hours and huge babies who wake up every 2 hours 24 hours a day. I have met 6 week old babies sleeping and 16 month old babies who do not sleep. Babies sleep the way they sleep, for many reasons. But they all get there at the end …
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
Do not panic! How to survive the first 3 months with baby
Allergy to cow’s milk proteins: replacement milk and nutrients
Another idea not supported by research. There is no food we would give a young baby that is richer in nutrients than milk. A bowl of steamed carrots and broccoli really won’t leave your baby stuffed. This advice also assumes that the reason babies wake up is hunger. This is certainly one of the reasons, but there are around 567,318 other reasons babies can wake up at night.
Again, to be clear, it’s not about whether the time is right you to stop breastfeeding. It is your personal choice. But the idea that breastfeeding is the barrier to sleep is not true. Stopping breastfeeding eliminates a parenting tool. If you are not breastfeeding, you will need to find another way to feed and comfort your baby. Stopping doesn’t change the fact that your baby needs you at night.
Stop sharing the bed
This is based on some research that has found a link between bed sharing and frequent nighttime awakenings. But sharing the bed is often the reply wake up frequently at night, not cause. Most parents take their babies to bed with them to maximize sleep. Bed sharing is not safe for everyone – you will need to check if there are any reasons and risk factors that make bed sharing riskier for your family, but whether you have made an informed choice to share the bed and stop it, you will probably find that getting out of bed to resettle your baby is a more difficult job, at least in the beginning.
Move them to their own room
This is based on the idea that you might disturb your baby during the night. Some people also think that parents react to their baby too quickly at night, and if they were in another room, they might ignore some of the quieter noises. First of all, it’s not a safe idea if your baby is less than 6 months old, and second, many babies sleep better when they are close to their parents.
Ignore your baby’s crying
I doubt there is anyone who has not heard this. The idea is that by ignoring your baby, he learns that crying doesn’t give him the response he wants. The problem with this is that it can be stressful, loud, doesn’t always work, and it leaves out other objections to letting babies cry.
Put them sleepy but awake
It is often almost impossible to achieve. Many babies do not appear to have a ‘drowsy’ stage. They go from awakening to fainting in 2.1 seconds. Or they fall asleep while feeding (which is also normal!). Other babies will wake up completely as soon as they are placed in their crib. This idea can be really stressful and difficult for parents.
If you don’t train sleep, it’s bad for your baby’s development
And finally, some people claim that normal early childhood fragmented sleep is bad for a baby’s long-term cognition. It’s really naughty because what people have been doing is looking at research that applies to school-aged children who don’t get enough sleep a night. They extrapolated the results of poor memory and poor academic performance to infants. This is not true and can cause many parents to panic unnecessarily.
So there we have it. This, unfortunately, is not an exhaustive list of all the wacky advice out there. You get an extra hug if you’ve heard all of these myths and more. They can be demoralizing, frustrating, and confusing. So, arm yourself with decent information to find out what is true and what is not. Good luck!
Article by Lyndsey Hookway, author of Let’s Talk About Your New Family’s Sleep.
5 reasons to buy Babysense 7
Choosing a bedside bed: a look at the all-new Joie Roomie Glide