Myth busters around baby sleep – part 1
Strongly influenced by our family, culture and especially by our own upbringing, we tend to fall into specific patterns when it comes to raising our own child. Strangely enough, most of the times, even if we totally disagree with the way our mother (or mother in law 😉 raised their own kids, we tend to apply the same methods, more or less.
It is normal to be confused and to doubt yourself especially if you are a first time parent. Even when we rely on our mother instinct, we sometimes feel off the track, because parenting is an ongoing learning process and we are never really done with it.
So, the first thing to do is to be open about it, to trust your instinct but also listen to a very few people you really trust and resonate with.
In terms of baby sleep, there have been many changes and studies in the last decades because like in any other field, we want to grow and evolve and therefore discover new interesting things even in this science fairy land of sleep.
Here are some myths which have been busted in the realm of baby sleep coaching:
Myth no. 1
You need to sacrifice your sleep for the first 1-2 years of your baby’s life
This is a common pattern we easily fall into because of our culture and the influence we get from our extended family. The reality is that you don’t have to sacrifice your own sleep, health and sanity just because you are fresh new mom. To start getting improvement in terms of sleep and to help develop lifelong healthy sleep habits for your newborn baby, you can look at important elements such as sleep environment, props, age appropriate awake time, feeds and growth and an age appropriate settling technique. Moreover, helping your baby learn to fall asleep more independently and for longer stretches of time will create benefits for the entire family, for the physical and mental balance of parents or care-takers involved. Because a happy, rested parent has a huge positive impact on his/her baby.
Remember also that it is not selfish to sleep train your baby so you could better cope with life stress and be a more conscious & responsive parent!
Myth no. 2
A later bedtime means later morning wake-up
It may seem counter intuitive, but keeping your baby up later in the evening (e.g. after 7pm) may cause more wake-ups during the night as well as early morning rising. That is because if he/she is exhausted or gets overtired, the process of falling asleep becomes harder and therefore later on at night, baby will find it more difficult to connect sleep cycles. Moreover, he might get into the “witching hour” in the evening when his/her body issues another shot of cortisol if he does not get the sleep he actually needs (due to sleep hormone starting to rise). As a result, parents ironically think that their baby is full of energy, but in fact he just got a “shot of espresso” to hold on because of sleep deprivation. This obviously leads to more bedtime battles.
Myth no. 3
Feeding your baby on demand is the only way of getting more sleep
Feeding your baby on demand is a healthy habit for the first couple of weeks of a baby’s life, until he/she manages to learn how to properly latch and regain the weight at birth. Afterwards, feeding too often can lead to tummy issue as well as to developing a feed to sleep association which is harder to undo. Because babies thrive on predictability, a flexible routine with feedings every 3 hours (for example) would be more beneficial for the baby who will then try to have full feeds, snack less and therefore sleep longer stretches. Moreover, as sleep cycles tend to be longer during the night, it would be healthier for the baby to drink less during the night and more during the day, thus entraining his circadian rhythms at the same time.
Myth no. 4
Co-sleeping with your baby in the same bed is what the child actually needs
First of all, co-sleeping in the same bed with your baby is not recommended by AAP and WHO before 1 year of age because of safety measures. It has been proved that the safest way for a baby is to sleep on his back on a flat and firm surface, like a bassinet or a baby cot, close to his/her mother’s bed. Also, it is important that the mattress fits the bassinet or cot well and that there are no large gaps between the mattress and bed frame. A fitted sheet, with no other loose bedding or toys, should cover the mattress. It is extremely difficult for a family bed or a sofa to comply with all these safety measures. Moreover, even if there is an innate sync between the baby and his/her mom, if baby sleeps between the parents, there is also the risk of leaning on him/her during the adults’ sleep. Especially in this case, it is much more important to be safe than sorry! So, basically what the child needs is his/her mom to be close by (not necessarily attached to her baby), to feel loved, safe and protected.
Myth no. 5
If you keep your baby from napping, he/she will sleep better at night
Sleep begets sleep, so as long as babies sleep enough (but not too much) during the day, considering a flexible routine and age appropriate wake times, they will fall asleep easier at bedtime (because they will not get overtired) and have a longer restorative sleep during the night as well. Until the age of 3 years old, children do need their nap(s) to recharge their batteries and last until bedtime.
Stay tuned for the next myth busters around baby sleep so we can break free of old patterns and make room for something new.
If you need help improving your baby’s sleep habits, feel free to connect.