I can clearly remember, like most mothers I’m sure, the very moment I gave birth to my daughter. I was absolutely buried in feelings of love and gratitude.
And then, I was equally buried in advice, suggestions, and information.
This was all thrown at me with the best intentions, but it was overwhelming nonetheless. I can’t imagine the number of times I heard the words, “You should,” “You’ll want to,” and “You’ve got to.” If there’s no such number as a “kajillion,” it should be created specifically in order to measure the number of suggestions a new mother receives in her first year of motherhood.
Of course, those feelings of love and gratitude persist to this day, and so do the recommendations.
There is no such thing as a casual mom. this gig is full-time, no matter if you’re a stay-at-home-mom, a working mom, or somewhere in between. Your kids are on your mind 24/7, no matter what else might be going on, so we tend to do a lot of research, and with access to unlimited data via the internet, it’s inevitable that we get some conflicting information.
So today, I want to focus on my area of expertise, (that being sleep), and try to dispel some of the more popular myths I’ve seen in parenting forums, heard from Mom groups I’ve talked with, or had angrily shouted in all caps on my Facebook page.
Here it goes!…
1. Sleeping too much during the day will keep baby up at night.
Not likely, except in extreme cases. Unless your little one is sleeping practically all day and up all night, you probably don’t need to concern yourself with the length of their naps. Newborns especially need a ton of sleep. In fact, up until about 5 months, I don’t recommend that your little one be awake for more than about 2 – 2 1/2 hours at a time. For newborns, that number is more like 45 minutes to an hour.
What keeps babies awake at night, more than anything else, is overtiredness. You might think that an exhausted baby is more likely to sack out for a full night than one who slept all day, but it’s actually just the opposite. The reason we refer to it as being “overtired” is because baby has missed the “tired” phase and their bodies start to kick back into gear, which keeps them from falling and staying asleep. A baby who has gotten a decent amount of sleep during the day is far less likely to miss the sleep window.
2. Sleeping is a natural development and can’t be taught.
Sleeping is natural, absolutely. Everybody wakes up and falls back to sleep multiple times a night, regardless of their age. So no, you can’t teach a child to be sleepy. What can be taught, however, is the ability to fall back to sleep independently.
The typical “bad sleeper” of a baby isn’t less in need of sleep, or more prone to waking up. They’ve just learned to depend on outside assistance to get back to sleep when they wake up. Once your little one has figured out how to get to sleep without assistance from outside sources, they start stringing those sleep cycles together, and that’s the secret to “sleeping through the night” as most parents refer it.
3. Babies will naturally dictate their own sleep schedule
Noooooo…Our babies need extensive care and help in their development, and their sleep cycles are unbelievably erratic if left unregulated. If they miss their natural sleep cycle by as little as a half hour, their cortisol production can increase which causes a surge in energy, and things quickly spiral out of control. So as much as I wish babies could just fall asleep when they’re tired, it simply doesn’t work that way. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t respond to their cues, but you shouldn’t rely exclusively on them either.
4. Sleep training is stressful for the baby and can affect the parent-child attachment.
Nope. And this isn’t just me talking here. It’s also the American Academy of Pediatrics. If there’s a more reliable source of baby health information, they are really bad at marketing themselves. And according to a recent study conducted by eight of their top researchers, behavioral intervention, (A.K.A Sleep training) “provide(s) significant sleep benefits above control, yet convey(s) no adverse stress responses or long-term effects on parent-child attachment or child emotions and behavior.” Not a whole lot of gray area there!!
5. Babies are not “designed” to sleep through the night.
I don’t even know where to begin trying to explain this one… But again. WRONG!
Is your toddler designed to eat three pounds of gummi bears? Surely not. Will they if you don’t intervene. Without a doubt!
Our little ones need our expertise and authority to guide them through their early years, (and probably will for decades to follow)! For babies it’s especially true when it comes to their sleep. Some babies are naturally gifted sleepers, for sure, but don’t rely on
the advice of those who tell you that babies should dictate their schedules. You’re in charge because you know best, even if it may not feel like it sometimes.
There are obviously plenty more myths and misconceptions surrounding babies and their sleep habits, but these are some of the most important to get the facts on!
And if you want more information about the benefits of sleep, come back next week! I’ll share more with you!
In the meantime, Sleep Well!