Parenting is a sensitive topic to say the least. I’m not going to sugar coat it…it’s a minefield of information and misinformation. It all starts with cute little note cards containing advice from well meaning family and friends at your baby shower. And, once you’ve given birth you are peppered with questions left and right on if the baby is sleeping before you’ve even had a chance to settle into a new routine at home. So, as an ode to all of the awful and unsolicited advice offered to new parents, I’m going to now share the most common myths about sleep training.
Your first few weeks of being a parent blessed you with an almost magical baby who slept more hours during the day than were awake. And rather than taking advice from Aunt Marge to “Sleep When the Baby Sleeps” you would stay awake and admire that beautiful little angel you created for hours on end. But soon enough, your baby began showing signs of having their days and nights flipped and you found yourself waking more often during the night to have little bonding sessions with your baby. It’s during these middle of the night powwows…or power feedings that you frantically scroll the internet for advice on how to get your baby to a.) sleep at night (like the rest of the human world), and b.) sleep longer. And it’s in the process of surfing the web for information, and checking our books on baby sleep (there are A LOT of them, and getting advice from well meaning friends, family, and strangers, you discovered that the wealth of information you were being given was conflicting and more confused than when you first started scrolling. TAKE A DEEP BREATH, put the bad advice, books, cute note cards containing anecdotes, and bookmarks aside and read on while I debunk common myths about sleep training.
1. If you let your baby sleep too much during the day, it will keep them up at night.
Unlikely, but it does occur on occasion. Now, if your little one is sleeping through the day and not getting a wink of sleep at night, you may need to take a look at daytime napping, but again, “sleeping too much” is rarely the case. In fact, newborns need a lot of sleep (sometimes up to 18 hours of of shut eye per day), and I don’t recommend that your baby be awake for more than 45 minutes to 1 hour at a time as a newborn and up to 2 – 2.5 hours at a time under 6 months of age.
You might be surprised to learn that overtiredness often keeps babies awake at night because it goes against what we think we know about sleep. The reality is that an overtired baby has missed falling asleep when they were tired, and their bodies are cycling back into wakefulness. This is why many overtired babies and small children appear hyper awake or hyperactive when overtired.
2. Sleeping is a natural development and can’t be taught.
Yeah…kinda/maybe. All humans cycle through sleep stages through the night, waking briefly and falling back asleep each night (over and over). Yeah…even you and most likely you don’t even remember it happening as you slid right into the next sleep cycle using your super sleep skills on autopilot. However, babies aren’t born with this ability and can take some time to learn how to smoothly transition between sleep cycles. Some babies will even make noises or briefly cry out when transitioning.
If you’re needing to nurse or rock your baby to sleep, your little one can become dependent on that motion or routine to fall asleep – this is commonly referred to as a sleep prop or a sleep association. As baby cycles through stages of each sleep cycle and begin “rising to the surface” they wake looking for the same rocking or nursing in order to enter the next sleep cycle (and usually begin crying out for you). An important part of sleep training is to help babies learn how to fall asleep independently.
3. Babies will naturally dictate their sleep schedule.
In a perfect world, babies would regulate their own sleep needs and always be well-rested; unfortunately this is not the case in the real world. Much like the constant care babies need with diapers and feeding, they rely on their caregivers to help them develop healthy sleep habits. Left unregulated, babies’ sleep cycles would become erratic; missing a sleep cycle by just 30 minutes can cause cortisol levels to elevate which is when we experience cranky babies who are overtired and fight going down to sleep.
4. Sleep training is stressful for the baby and can affect the parent-child attachment.
This is simply not true! In fact, you may have consulted the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for information about safe sleep practices, a source I’m sure you trust. Well, a 2016 study conducted by the AAP found that “Both graduated extinction and bedtime fading provide significant sleep benefits above control, yet convey no adverse stress responses or long-term effects on parent-child attachment or child emotions and behavior.” And both parents and babies slept better through the night. WINNING!
5. Babies are not “designed” to sleep through the night.
Sadly, babies don’t come with manuals (wouldn’t that be awesome if they did), so I’m not entirely sure who dictated what babies are or are not “designed” for – seriously! What I can share is that trusting your child’s physiology to dictate their sleep schedule, their eating habits or their behavior is a recipe for disaster.
Bottom line, you’re obviously reading this for a reason – most likely because you’d like your baby to sleep better (I’d like that too). I’m here to tell you that I can help you and your baby develop healthy, independent sleep skills that will have the entire family getting restful nights of sleep. Just click here, book a call with me so I can learn how best I can support you in achieving your sleep goals for your little one. Let’s get your family better rested for the holidays!