The last thing parents need is to get tripped up by baby sleep myths. But sometimes, we accept crazy things as fact and often we believe everything our grannies tell us, even though times have changed. In the 1960’s, doctors thought newborns felt no pain (even during a circumcision!) and that crying was good exercise for little lungs. Physicians even prescribed opium drops to babies to stop colicky crying! Yikes! Fast forward to today: You may be surprised how many nutty ideas about infant sleep are still around. Here are 10 truly unhelpful sleep myths.
Baby Sleep Myth 1: It takes months for babies to learn to sleep well at night
No. Actually, it can take only a few weeks—that is, if you use the right sleep cues. Swaddling and rumbly white noise and good routines that meet her needs to help her nod off easily.
Baby Sleep Myth 2: Sleeping babies need complete quiet
Huh? Did you ever see a baby fall deep asleep at a noisy party or sporting event? Remember, the womb is loud – between 90-100 decibels - 24 hours a day! So, replicating the noise of the womb will be more soothing than complete silence. White noise is brilliant for settling most babies.
Baby Sleep Myth 3: Rocking or nursing your baby to sleep every night creates a dependency
Well…yes, it will! But it’s a myth that that’s a bad thing! Let me explain: We all have sleep associations to help us relax. Think of your own habits. Do you prefer a dark room? Special pillow? Favorite sheets? Reading? Long before delivery, your baby got used to the sensations in the womb—jiggly motion, rumbly sound, and snug cuddling. That’s why rocking babies to sleep works so well. It’s also why car rides help.
Rocking your baby to sleep isn’t a problem until you decideit’s a problem. If you like rocking and feeding your baby to sleep until they are 18 years old then so be it! But it is likely that a time will come when it is just too time consuming and impractical for everyday life. And if it doesn’t serve you any more then this is the time to stop. I rocked my daughter, Sophie, to sleep until she was 18 months old. When I decided to stop, it only took three days to sort out because by then, developmentally, she was capable of self-soothing. So, don’t feel that you need to stop unless you want to.
Baby Sleep Myth 4: Swaddling should be stopped at 2 months
Totally wrong! In fact, 2 months is the WORST time to stop swaddling. To get the full benefit of swaddling (and to prevent the need to cry it out’) you need to swaddle until your baby can control his body and start rolling. This developmental stage is between 4 and 6 months old, at which point you then start to wean the baby off the swaddle. If you remove the swaddle at 2-months old, you might as well not have started it as you will undo all of the good work you have done so far.
Baby Sleep Myth 5: Letting babies cry themselves to sleep makes them better sleepers
This is the biggest load of nonsense I’ve ever heard in my life!!! Ignoring your baby’s nighttime cries goes totally against parents’ instincts and raises high stress levels in your beautiful newborns. So why would you do this? In case you are unsure I want to be clear: DON’T DO IT. I COMPLETELY DISAGREE WITH THIS. I have a whole section on Crying It Out and how not to do it.
Baby Sleep Myth 6: Baby doesn't like the swaddle
If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it 100 times! So many parents tell me that their babies need their arms out so swaddling won’t work for them. And my standard, and very regular response is that ‘your baby doesn’t know she has hands yet’.
Just think about that for a second... they don't even know they have hands yet!!!
How can she object to the swaddle when she doesn’t even know she has hands? Parents are right though - babies often cry and put their arms out when you put them down but this isn’t because they don’t like swaddling. More to do with the fact that they have just been moved from a warm tight cuddled environment and put down on a cold, unsecured swaddle. Stick with it, and think of swaddling as a gorgeous surrogate cuddle that babies love once mum an dad have put it on right and settled them. For further information, see the videos on our Swaddling section.
Baby Sleep Myth 7: Babies should sleep in their own rooms
No. There’s no rush to have your baby “become independent.” In fact, putting your baby in another room is super- inconvenient for nighttime care and feeding. Plus, keeping your newborn in your room reduces your baby’s risk of SIDS. The SIDS guidance advises keeping your baby in the room with you for 6 months.
Baby Sleep Myth 8: If you stuff a baby full of formula before bed, they will sleep through the night
This might be true for 2 or 3 days but if the baby’s routine is imbalanced it will inevitably cause damage to your breastfeeding or feeding routine. Yes – your baby definitely needs to be full before bed, but you don’t need to change to a formula feed if you are breastfeeding. Take a look at the whole 48 hour routine and make sure every feed is long and nourishing to fully sustain your baby. One long feed in a day (at nighttime) isn’t enough to get your baby through the night.
Baby Sleep Myth 9: Babies must adapt to the family, not the family to the baby
Everybody thinks that they are going to be the exception to the rule and that their baby will adapt to their lifestyle. I often find a lot of women take this approach while they are pregnant – and, quite frankly, I was like that too. However, now I tend to take a softer approach and look at it as a small bubble in time in which you can put your baby first and enjoy meeting her needs. By doing this, you are setting them up on an excellent path with their best foot going forward.
Baby Sleep Myth 10: Keeping babies awake during the day makes them sleep more at night
Have you ever been awake for 24 hours after clubbing all night and partying all day? The way you’d feel after this is pretty similar to how your baby would feel – exhausted, over stimulated and wired. That first sleep afterwards would probably leave you feeling awful, and is likely to muck up your body clock. It is, of course, no different for your baby. ‘Sleep begets sleep’ is a phrase you might have heard and, in my experience, it is totally true. The more your baby sleeps, the more sleep they will want.
A common mistake that new parents make is to keep their baby awake until Mum or Dad comes home from work, so they can have time to see and play with their little one. PLEASE don’t do this! This is an example of putting parents needs before the babies’ and now isn’t the time to do it. Keep you baby to his schedule and you will find it much easier to establish a good and successful sleep routine.