Myth busters around baby sleep – part 2 –
Here we go on with another set of myths which have been busted in the field of baby sleep coaching:
Myth no. 6
A dark room could scare the baby
A pitch dark room is essential for a baby to sleep better. That is because darkness encourages our body to issue the sleep hormone – melatonin and therefore it is optimal for sleep. Moreover, babies do not feel scared (it’s more like a parents’ fear projected on them up to 2,5 years of age) as long as they have their parents around and this closeness gives them the security they need to sleep and thrive. That does not mean our baby sleeps on us all the time, but rather that we give them constant reassurance that we are close and they are not alone even if don’t watch them 24/7 while sleeping.
Myth no. 7
The only baby sleep training method is CIO – Cry it out
Many people think that baby sleep training and cry it out settling method are synonyms. CIO was probably the first sleep training way until some more gentle and caring sleep training methods have been developed. Cry it out means leaving your baby to cry, unassisted until he/she falls asleep from exhausting. However, other baby sleep training methods like Shush-pat, PU/PD, Controlled Comforting or Gentle Withdrawal imply the presence of the parent and the constant reassurance that the baby is not alone in this learning process. This makes a huge difference and the message you send to your baby is that you are close to him/her whereas he/she is strong enough to fall asleep pretty much by himself.
Myth no. 8
To be a good parent means to promptly react when your baby starts to cry
If we react to every sound or cry our baby makes, we send him the message that he does not have to do anything by himself, that he gets what he wants the minute he cries for it. In other words, if we jump the minute the baby makes a sound, we don’t give him the opportunity to self settle to sleep or find his own way of comforting. To be a good parent, in my opinion, means to be a conscious and responsive parent, taking care of baby’s needs more than of his wishes, giving him the love and care he needs, while allowing him also the space and time to discover and activate his own innate powers.
Myth no. 9
Cry is always a sign for hunger with babies
First of all cry is a baby first and main way of communication until about 2 years of age.
If we could understand that and look at it that way, we would not try to shut it up so quickly. First we should listen to our baby’s cry, let him express and decompress a bit and then try to make sense of it. Is it a protest cry which happens usually at the beginning of bedtime, after the baby has been laid down in bed? Or is it a peak cry occurring a few minutes later, when baby screams as loud as possible to get some reaction from his/her parents? Is it a mantra cry in a lower tone, with breaks, which is a serious attempt of baby’s self-settling? Or is a falling asleep cry like a babble, a yawn or a long “ahhhh” very close to baby drifting off? Or is it an overtired cry with baby coughing from time to time which means he/she should have been in bed 15 minutes ago? If we manage to tell the difference between all these baby sounds, we could say we have just got our master degree in “banguage” (baby language) 😉
Moreover, there are different reasons why a baby cries, apart from hunger. Sometimes it’s a kind of protest to change, some other times is frustration for not getting something they were used to (like feeding or rocking to sleep), sometimes it is because of tummy pain or breathing difficulties and some other times it is just discomfort from wet nappies or thirst.
I think the main challenge for us, parents is actually not to panic but find the inner calm and patience to listen to our baby’s cry and not get triggered by our own discomfort. If we send our baby the message that we know what we are doing, that we are in control of the situation and make sure we give them what they need to thrive, they will feel more secure and find their rhythm sooner than we think.
Myth no. 10
Waking your baby up (from napping or over sleeping in the morning) is bad
If we understand that babies, like adults, need references and guidance to function well, we realise that an age appropriate routine is what they actually need for encouraging good eating and sleeping. However, following their natural sleep patterns and entraining the Circadian Rhythm does not mean they should sleep and eat more during the day and less during then night. On the contrary, we could help them entrain their circadian rhythm (the system which lets us know the difference between night and day), by making sure they sleep enough during the day so that naps do not steal away from the night restorative sleep. This is the reason why we sometimes need to wake our baby up after a certain time of napping or when they oversleep in the morning so that they slowly follow their routine and get the optimal sleep they need according to their age and temperament.
I hope these myth busters gave you some food for thought and you might reconsider some old patterns we automatically follow just because we grew up with them or because we’ve never questioned them.
If you need help improving your baby’s sleep habits, feel free to connect.