*This baby sleep myths post is in collaboration with Nested Bean
You’ve read all the sleep blogs, asked for guidance from friends and family and now you need to declutter all of the information that has been thrown at you! Many commonly-held beliefs are actually myths; knowing the truth will help you set realistic expectations for your baby, so you can implement practical solutions.
It’s time to Spring clean – we’ve teamed up with Pediatric Sleep Consultant Jamie to find out the truth behind some of the most common baby sleep myths!
Jamie holds a BA in psychology, an MS in child development, and has spent many years providing personal, in-home support to new moms and families with young children. She is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and trained under Dana Obleman – renowned creator of The Sleep Sense™ Program, one of the most popular sleep training programs in the world.
MYTH #1: Never wake a sleeping baby
Jamie’s Answer: “ While some babies naturally fall into good sleep and wake patterns, it is also important that as parents we help guide them along when needed. This is especially true for newborns. Newborns should be eating every 2-3 hours during the day but are often so sleepy that they just snooze through their scheduled feeding time. Usually, once your little ones back at his or her birthweight and you’ve got the “okay” from your pediatrician, you can stop waking your newborn for feedings at night and allow them to wake when they need. However, during the day you should be waking your baby every 2.5-3 hours to keep feedings on schedule. Not only will this ensure that they get all the calories they need to grow and develop, but it will also help sort out any day/night confusion that can accompany the newborn stage.
Additionally, it can be important to wake your baby to keep their schedule on track if they are sleeping too late in the morning, too long at any one nap (over 2.5 hours usually), or the last nap of the day is creeping too close to bedtime. Maintaining an early bedtime is important not only for your child’s health but also your sanity as a parent! The only time I do not recommend waking your baby is when they are sick. Because sleep is so healing, it is absolutely fine to allow them to sleep later in the morning and take longer (or extra) naps during the day.”
MYTH #2: Adding cereal to the formula makes babies sleep longer
Jamie’s Answer: “Aside from the fact that adding cereal to bottles is not safe, research has actually proven that this is also not true! While calories are essential to helping your little one sleep well, sleeping through the night is actually not dependent on how/what you feed your baby (breast milk, formula, or adding rice cereal). Instead, it’s the way that baby falls asleep at bedtime that impacts their ability to sleep through the night. We all wake up several times throughout the night as we cycle through stages of sleep. If your little one falls asleep in your arms or taking a bottle, when they come to the lightest stage of sleep, they are going to realize that they are alone in a crib rather than snuggled in your arms and sucking on some milk. This will cause a full wake-up where you will likely have to repeat the process you used at bedtime to get your little one sleeping again.”
MYTH #3: Babies should start sleeping through the night at 3 months
Jamie’s Answer: “Babies at 3 months are certainly capable of sleeping through the night, but they most definitely are not expected to. Many babies at this age (depending on weight) may still need a night feed so it is very age appropriate for your little one to be waking once. However, if your baby has independent sleep skills, they are more likely to sleep through the night at a younger age. Babies who still rely on external help to fall and stay asleep will not sleep through the night whether they are 3-months-old or 12-months-old.”
MYTH #4 : It’s never too early to start sleep training
Jamie’s Answer: “While it’s never too early to start laying a foundation for healthy sleep habits, formal sleep training should not begin until at least 16 weeks adjusted age. Before this time, circadian rhythms are still developing, melatonin production is inconsistent, and, let’s face it, little babies still need a lot of help! Around 16 weeks adjusted age, things even out and infants are more capable of self-soothing and are ready for some independence around sleep. Prior to 16 weeks, there are many strategies you can use to help lay a healthy sleep foundation (all of which I cover in my Newborn Guide and work on with parents through one-on-one coaching) but none of which involve formal “sleep training” methods.”
MYTH #5: Babies need total silence to sleep
Jamie’s Answer: “The truth is, babies actually are freaked out by total silence! When your little one was in your belly, they become used to the loud sounds of your body – the whooshing of your blood, the movement of the fluid around them – as well as the amplified environmental sounds from the “outside world.” Studies have shown that the decibel level of sounds in the womb are similar to the volume of a vacuum. For this reason, babies often are calmed by and sleep better with continuous white noise.”
MYTH #6: Babies should always sleep in their own rooms
Jamie’s Answer: “Deciding where your baby will sleep is going to be a personal choice for each family, but the American Association of Pediatrics recommends room sharing for ideally the first six months as a prevention measure for SIDS. However, a follow-up study noted that after four months of age, room-sharing was actually associated with less nighttime sleep for the whole family.”
MYTH #7: When babies wake up, you should feed them
Jamie’s Answer: “While it is certainly important to be responsive to babies’ hunger cues, we also want to be mindful of other reasons why babies could be waking and crying other than needing a feed. For example, an older infant who is waking frequently at night may not be looking for calories, but is instead struggling to connect her sleep cycles independently.
Additionally, we want to make sure that babies are taking in nice, full feedings rather than frequently snacking throughout the day. That means, if your little one wakes up from a short nap, it may not be time for a feeding. On average, newborns are eating every 2-3 hours while older babies can go 3-4 hours between feedings.”
MYTH #8: Some newborns hate being swaddled
Jamie’s Answer: “Newborns are used to being snuggled close, so it is almost counterintuitive to think they don’t like being swaddled. They likely don’t hate it, but it is certainly possible that they are being swaddled too late or ineffectively. The most effective time to swaddle is before your little one becomes overtired. When they have maxed out on their awake time, they are likely to be very fussy due to exhaustion, not because they’re swaddled. If using a traditional swaddle blanket, you may have to try different methods (there are upwards of 15 on YouTube).
MYTH #9: When babies cry at night, something is wrong
Jamie’s Answer: “While babies will certainly cry when something is wrong, it is their only way to communicate so it is only natural that they will also cry for other things too. Oftentimes, babies cry when they are in the middle of the night because they are awake when they don’t want to be! For babies who have not learned to fall asleep on their own, it can be frustrating to feel so tired but not yet have the skills to fall back to sleep without help! Once babies learn to sleep independently, the frequent waking and crying will subside, and you can be much more certain that any crying throughout the night is a result of a true need rather than just an expression of frustration.”
MYTH #10: You should instinctively know how to calm your baby
Jamie’s Answer: “This is a great myth of parenthood and a source for a lot of mom-guilt. But remember that babies are individuals too! Just because something worked with your first child or your sister’s baby does not mean that it’s going to work effectively with your little one. Bonding between a parent and child is an intricate dance that requires a lot of trial and error. Additionally, there are a lot of different factors that impact a baby’s ability to calm, including how overstimulated/overtired they are. Give yourself grace and allow space and time for education and growth when it comes to the relationship between you and your little one.”
Committed to improving the lives of families everywhere, Nested Bean offers education and resources to help parents put their babies’ sleep challenges lovingly to rest.
Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you’ve enjoyed this guest post on baby sleep myths.
You can check out my baby section here for other helpful tips.