Everyone seems to have an opinion to offer when it comes to baby sleep. Some of it is based on fact or experience, but there are also a lot of myths about baby sleep.
As a new parent, sleep is a hot topic. And it can be tough to sift through what's true and what's not...especially when you're tired! Chances are you're doing a lot more right than you think.
To help you out, we've compiled 5 major myths about baby sleep. Pour that extra cup of coffee and read on...
Myth 1: Sleep training will harm your baby.
There are two major camps when it comes to how parents approach their baby's sleep. Some parents are eager to get their babies on a schedule through a sleep training model while others take on an attachment parenting approach. Even though a neutral party looking in could see pros and cons of both methods, parents often feel very strongly for or against one of these types of methods.
The truth is that parents who choose to put their baby on a schedule are doing so completely out of love. They don't love their babies any less than parents with an attached parenting style.
Sleep training often involves some fussiness or crying from your baby as they learn how to fall into a predictable routine. Some might say you are harming your baby when you do this. This is a myth! If you have ensured that your baby is fed, is clean and dry, is sleepy, and has received plenty of love and attention throughout her waking hours, you should not feel guilty at all about a few tears from your baby. This is part of her learning to become an independent sleeper.
Even the Duke Department of Pediatrics agrees that there are no long-term risks to sleep training your baby.
Myth 2: Your baby should be sleeping through the night by 4 months of age.
Let's first address that when experts refer to a baby sleeping through the night, they often only mean 5-6 hours. We know that you, as a parent, are really looking for that 8-9 hour stretch when you say it. But your friend who tells you their baby is sleeping through the night at the ripe age of 2 weeks just might be exaggerating.
Are there babies who consistently sleep full nights at 2 months old? Yes, but this is not the norm. As babies approach 4 months old it is much more likely that they have the ability to sleep through the nigh. But, that doesn't mean that most will. According to whattoexpect.com, many babies aren't physically ready to sleep through the night until 6 months of age.
So, if your baby takes a little longer (especially if they're on the smaller side) you have nothing to worry about!
Myth 3: You should never wake a sleeping baby.
This is a myth about baby sleep that has stood the test of time. I mean, why WOULD you want to wake a sleeping baby? The peace and serenity that radiates from a slumbering infant is one of the most beautiful things in the world. But alas, waking a sleeping baby is sometimes necessary (even if great-grandma strongly disagrees!)
- Your newborn baby should be woken to eat every 3-4 hours (even at night) those first couple of weeks. Once your doctor has determined at their 2-week appointment that they're gaining weight well, you can start going by their nighttime cues.
- New babies have no way of knowing daytime from nighttime until you help them learn. In order for them to adjust to the normal circadian rhythms that you follow, you'll need to make sure they aren't sleeping too long during the day. If you let your baby sleep 6-8 hours during the day, they will surely be up partying all night long.
- Sometimes naps can interrupt nighttime sleep. If your older baby is napping more than 3-4 hours per day total (or 2 hours at a time) and sleeping poorly at night, it's likely they need to be woken up from their naps.
Sometimes waking a baby is the best thing you can do for them.
Myth 4: All sleep props are bad.
Sleep props get a bad rap. Yes, of course, we want our babies to learn to fall asleep on their own but we also have to remember that these tiny little humans want to be loved and comforted just like you do.
For example, agonizing over whether or not you should give your baby a pacifier just isn't necessary. Clearly, if the nurses are offering your brand new baby a pacifier at the hospital it can't be all bad. There are plenty of parents WISHING their baby would take a pacifier. Even the AAP recommends them.
Though some sleep experts offer great arguments against the use of sleep props and share how they can affect your baby's sleep negatively, the truth is that sometimes you're just giving your baby what she and you both need.
Loveys and white noise machines can be comforting ways to help your baby fall asleep on their own if you're looking for a substitute. But there's also nothing wrong with giving your baby a pacifier or cradling your baby in your arms once in a while as they drift off to dreamland.
Myth 5: Starting solid foods earlier will help your baby sleep through the night.
I guarantee you will hear this myth about baby sleep and it will likely be someone from an older generation. There is no evidence to suggest that starting solid foods sooner will help your baby sleep through the night. In fact, starting them too soon actually can have the reverse effect. For the first year of life, breastmilk or formula is your baby's number one source of nutrition and is the only food your newborn needs for the first 6 months. The same is true for adding rice cereal to your baby's bottle.
Giving your baby their first solid food can be an exciting milestone after 4-6 months of age (if they show readiness signs), but it won't affect how well or how long they sleep. It sounds like it should work, but it is a myth!
The Truth About Baby Sleep
With the abundance of information available, it can be hard to determine where the myths about baby sleep lie. The truth about baby sleep is that it's rarely an easy road for any new parent. The hardest part is that every baby's needs are different. It definitely takes a village (and a visit to Google every now and then), but never take for granted that you know better than anyone how to best support your baby to get the quantity and quality of sleep they need.