5 Myths About Babies' Sleep (#fakenews)
Have you ever been told to just skip baby’s last nap, and then they’ll sleep great at night? Or just feed them rice cereal when they are a month old, and you’ll start getting better naps?
There are SO MANY myths about baby’s sleep and it is so common to hear this #fakenews from friends and family.
Your mother-in-law isn’t TRYING to be evil (at least hopefully not) by telling you to skip your baby’s last nap. No, she’s genuinely trying to help by offering you this advice. Unfortunately, you can’t always believe everything you hear, especially when that advice revolves around sleep. Everyone has a different opinion, and it’s hard to know what will work and what will probably just make your baby more tired and upset. Read on to learn more about these sleep myths- I’ll debunk common myths, and give you straight truths from a certified sleep expert’s perspective.
MYTH #1: Babies are born already knowing how to sleep (well).
Babies are really good at three things: eating, pooping, and sleeping. Right? Wrong.
Lactation consultants exist for a reason! They are even employed in hospitals because it’s so common for babies to struggle with feeds in the first weeks and months of life. (Maybe sleep consultants should be in hospitals too…. hmm…)
Pooping- I’ve seen all sorts of products that exist for babies- probiotic drops, gas drops, even The Windi, which is a like a reverse beer bong but for baby poop (look it up, for real, this exists!). These products all exist because babies get constipated pretty frequently and need some help.
And sleeping. Again, listing some of the crazy products I’ve seen out there, there are all sorts of sleep sacks, crib rockers, and music machines to help babies drift off to sleep. There’s even a way to make your bed into a giant Pack-N-Play so you can co-sleep “safely”, if such a thing exists.
Yet none of these sleep-aid products really get at the root of the reason baby isn’t sleeping well- because baby is relying on YOU to help him or her fall asleep, instead of learning their own independent sleep skills. Because you may have never taught your baby how to truly fall asleep on his own.
I am not blaming you! This is a HARD task. It’s hard to first identify that you have a sleep prop that exists, and then to next remove that sleep prop, while still supporting your baby in learning a new skill, and reducing their crying and being upset as much as possible. (Literally… this is why my business even exists, because it’s such a complex subject!)
As parents, our #1 job is to teach our children the ways of the world. How to go poop in the potty, how to be nice to their classmates, eventually how to drive a car… all of these things require them to learn new skills.
Sleep is no different. We have to teach our children how to fall asleep, and how to stay sleeping through the night.
MYTH #2: Breastfed babies can’t sleep as long as babies who are formula-fed.
I probably get asked about this weekly. Yet, about 85% of the families I work with are either exclusively breastfeeding, or breastfeeding plus supplementing. So therefore, this myth is absolutely not true.
Babies that drink breastmilk can absolutely still be great sleepers.
I’ve always heard that breastmilk digests quicker, which means that the breastfed baby gets hungry quicker than a baby who is formula-fed. Ok, maybe that is true. But, if so, it’s only true in the first few months of baby’s life- this is when the size of baby’s stomach dictates how long baby can sleep for.
After about three months, babies go through a lot of development. They have gained weight, they are a lot more mobile, and they can sleep a lot longer.
I’ve seen babies who are only 10 weeks old sleep for 10 hours straight at night, and babies who just start a sleep plan at 13 weeks, sleep a 12-hour stretch only a week or two later. These babies were breastfed. Which means that older babies can absolutely sleep these long stretches, too.
Often, a baby wakes up multiple times a night because they have a sleep prop that exists, which means that mom or dad has to do that action again (nursing, rocking, playing music, etc.) until they can go back to sleep every time. By removing the sleep prop, that allows baby the skills to fall asleep without it, every time.
MYTH #3: Keeping baby awake longer will make him sleep better at night.
This is another myth that usually backfires and ends up causing baby to be more upset.
Depending on a baby’s age, there is an optimal window that she should be awake. This time period- which I refer to as a “wake window” is the amount of time a baby can handle being awake, before baby hits the point of becoming OVERtired. Once baby has been awake TOO LONG- and thus becomes overtired- they get an adrenaline surge.
In older children, this might show up as a “second wind” and result in kids running around the house screaming. You’re thinking, ‘There’s no way Johnny is tired, he’s so hyper!’ But it’s because Johnny has been awake too long and his body is trying to compensate for that tiredness by giving him an adrenaline boost (often coupled with dessert and some screen time in the evening, which doesn’t help).
In babies, who can’t just expend excess energy by running around the house- they cry. It’s true- overtiredness often leads to lots of tears, because baby is tired, but just doesn’t know how to fall asleep.
Sleep begets sleep. The better your baby naps during the day, the better your baby will sleep at night.
Therefore, ensure that you are sticking to the appropriate wake times, and offering a nap when baby is getting sleepy instead of keeping baby awake for hours and hours longer.
MYTH #4: Introducing solids will give you longer stretches of sleep.
My mom was the one that told me this one. When I was born, apparently I wasn’t getting enough milk, because I cried nonstop for the first nine days. And on day 9, reportedly, my grandmother gave me baby cereal. And I stopped crying.
When my daughter was crying, wailing, shrieking at the top of her lungs, my mom advised me to feed her baby cereal too. She thought that she was crying because she was hungry. But that wasn’t the case. We would try to feed her pumped bottles- that way, we could see how much she was getting, and she usually wouldn’t even drink a whole bottle, which suggested that she wasn’t hungry. So why was she still so upset?
Turns out, she was getting OVERstimulated and OVERtired from being awake too long, and expressing that through lots of crying. Also, she didn’t really know how to sleep… this was way before I became a sleep consultant, and being a first time mom, I had no clue what I was doing with sleep- I just thought she would fall asleep when she hit that point of being tired.
By helping my daughter learn how to fall asleep independently, and working on establishing a solid bedtime routine, and looking at timing during the day- these were the things that helped her become an amazing sleeper, and sleep 11-12 hours overnight.
Not by feeding her solids.
P.S. Feeding your child solids can actually have negative effects. Depending on the food, it can cause gassiness, constipation, or diarrhea… depending on how your babe’s digestive system responds. Not to mention food allergies. So always follow your pediatrician’s recommendations on when to start introducing solids, and ask about typical first foods and when to introduce potential allergens!
MYTH #5: Sleep will just magically get better one day.
This is perhaps the biggest myth of them all. And, I hate to say it, but so many moms keep perpetuating this one, especially on social media. We all have a love-hate relationship with our Facebook or Instagram feeds- it’s a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, but it’s also tough to try to keep up with the perfect moms out there. Let’s be real- we all post the best part of ourselves on social media. I’ll be the first to admit I am the mom that kicks the mess into the background when I take a picture.
But there’s always that mom- let’s call her Linda- that posts on your thread when you ask for sleep advice. Here you are, waking up several times in the middle of the night, and asking for help and advice to make those wake-ups end. And Linda just throws in her comment, “Oh, don’t worry, just wait _ months. My baby just starting sleeping 12 hour stretches when she was that age and it’s been great ever since!” Which makes you feel like shit, right?
Let me tell you a secret- Linda’s lying. Or at least not sharing the whole truth with you.
Babies don’t just magically start sleeping better. Linda probably changed something major with her baby’s sleep, such as their bedtime routine, or how she addressed her own nighttime wakings.
Or… it’s totally possible that Linda worked with me. ‘Cause it does kind of feel like magic when things are going pretty rough, and they all of a sudden get better after a few days of working together. Yet… it’s not. It just takes a sleep expert’s perspective, putting all of the right pieces into place, because I know they will work for your baby.
If you are out there, feeling so conflicted about all of the mom advice you are getting, and just not seeing anything really stick for your personal situation, it’s important to realize that you are not alone. Momming is hard work, especially when running on not enough sleep!
Let me help you by taking away that guess work. When you work with me, you don’t need to second guess anything, because you’ll get a step-by-step sleep plan, that’s PROVEN to work, and has worked for many families already.
There are two options to work together:
You can opt for a 1:1 private consultation and personalized sleep plan. Packages can be customized for all ages- newborns, infants, toddlers, and children, and can be done over the phone or in-person if you live nearby. To learn more about this option, schedule a free, 15-minute discovery call with me here: www.beewisesleepconsulting.com/schedule
If your baby is 3-18 months old, there’s also a self-guided, online course that is a great option too. This is a great plan for busy moms that need a little more flexibility or want to go at a slightly slower pace than the traditional program. Click here to learn more or sign up.
I hope you found this myth-debunking blog to be helpful! If so, feel free to post a comment or ask a question! Plus, coming up next week: Tips to transitioning your child to their school routine once summer break is over.