When baby isn’t sleeping, you may be willing to try anything to get those little eyes to close. And while well-meaning friends and family always have their best advice handy, many parents compound the sleep problem by following the wrong advice.
Here are 5 common sleep myths you’ll want to avoid:
Reality Check: Adults can compensate for a late bedtime by sleeping in the next morning. Babies often cannot.
A pattern of too-late bedtimes may mean earlier waking and sleep deprivation for baby. Overtired bodies respond by releasing hormones, such as the stress hormone cortisol, creating more difficulties in falling asleep and staying asleep.
Surprisingly, the fix is an earlier bedtime. Try it! Your child may sleep better and longer.
Reality Check: Following this guidance creates a vicious cycle of over-tiredness. Nap deprivation can cause difficulty settling, short naps, frequent night wakings, and early risings.
Improve your success rate by setting an appropriate bedtime.
Newborns must sleep about every 1-2 hours. For a fussy baby, try to start the soothing routine well ahead of sleep time.
Babies 6 months or older must sleep every 2-3 hours.
Toddlers can stretch 4-5 hours between naps. Figuring out your baby’s “sleep window” can mean smoother and longer nap times.
Reality Check: Yes, total sleep requirements vary from child to child. Some children reach developmental milestones earlier and seem to need less sleep. You know your child best, and no ‘rule’ can substitute for your own good sense.
But remember, some very alert children actually need more sleep, but are better at hiding signs of tiredness, and more tenacious in fighting sleep and routine. It’s less about how many actual hours of sleep your child needs and more about consistency and routine.
Reality Check: Sleep is a learned skill that can be practiced within any sleeping or feeding arrangement. Co-sleeping creates additional challenges, but shouldn’t stop you from helping your baby learn healthy sleep habits.
If you enjoy nursing and want to continue, that’s great! However, allow baby to practice falling asleep without the breast too. Again, to achieve success, create a schedule that doesn’t pressure you or baby.
Reality Check: The ‘cry it out’ debate has raged on for years. But it doesn’t work for everyone and gentler, more gradual methods exist that work just as well.
Certainly, be prepared for a few tears, but you can limit those tears and support your little one with, you guessed it, consistency! Choose a method that suits your lifestyle so you can follow through regularly.
It would be lovely to believe that, once your baby is sleep trained, you’ll never have to do it again. However, developmental milestones, especially in the early years, can temporarily disrupt even the best sleeper’s good habits.
Shake things up with travel, illness, moving, or a new sibling, and you may find you have to begin again.
Don’t worry – these changes are almost always temporary. Just think — one day, your baby will be a teen, and you’ll be looking for guidance on how to get him out of bed.
Erica Desper is a postpartum doula and sleep consultant in the Philadelphia area. For over ten years she has been supporting families through the choices and challenges that come with parenting. Erica can be contacted via her Confident Parenting website and on Facebook.
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