As parents you’re going to get a lot of advice from well-meaning family and friends (and maybe totally strangers!) about your child’s sleep. Some of this information I see and hear given really frustrates me because to be honest, it is just wrong. I’m going to discuss seven of the most common sleep myths and set the record straight.
Myth: There are some children who just don’t need very much sleep.
Most children need a certain amount of sleep, within a range that is based on their age. If they are not getting near this amount of sleep, it may lead to irritability, frustration, moodiness, emotional problems, aggressive behaviors and a decreased capacity for memory, learning, and reasoning.
Myth: Children won’t sleep through the night until they are 1-2 years old.
Healthy, full-term babies who are six months or older and getting plenty of calories during the day can usually sleep 11+ hours at night. Of course, they have to know how to put themselves to sleep independently at bedtime before this will happen, but it is definitely possible.
Myth: You should never wake a sleeping baby.
Newborns may need to be woken for feedings. I also recommend waking children at 7:30 am if they aren’t awake already, so it doesn’t interfere with naps. This ensures that the baby is on a schedule in sync with her circadian rhythm. You should also wake a child if her nap is getting too long so you can preserve the next nap or bedtime.
Myth: You need to get your baby used to sleeping with lots of noise, so that he will sleep anywhere.
Most adults don’t want to sleep in a noisy environment, so why should we expect our children to be able to? I recommend white noise while baby sleeps. This helps him get more quality sleep.
Myth: Feeding your baby solids will help her stay asleep longer.
This is probably one of the most common myths I hear, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until six months to start solid foods. Babies should be able to get all the nutrients they need from breast milk or formula until then. One of the first things you will hear when you discuss your baby’s lack of sleep is, “Oh! Try some rice cereal in her bottle!” This advice has been around forever. However, starting rice cereal early may actually result in more disrupted sleep since a baby’s little, immature digestive system may not be able to digest it and that can lead to a tummy ache.
Myth: Skipping naps will help your child sleep better at night.
This sounds like it would make sense, but in order to get a good night’s sleep, a child needs an age-appropriate daytime schedule with good naps and proper intervals of wakefulness. Yes, now and then if you keep baby up the whole day one day they may sleep the whole night through because they are absolutely exhausted, but this will not continue to work. The sleep debt will add up and the nights will become disrupted. Well-rested babies actually sleep better at night.
Myth: If you make your child’s bedtime later, he’ll wake up later.
The thought that children will sleep later if put to bed later is another common myth. While it makes sense it is very rarely true. Children sleep better and longer if they are put to bed earlier. The reason for this is because children who go to bed too late are often over-tired. (Which can look like a burst of energy: “the second wind”.) What this really is, is a rush of cortisol, a stress hormone, which is not only going to make it harder for your child to put himself to sleep independently, but to also stay asleep through the night, and those children often wake earlier in the morning as well.
So, when someone recommends any of these to you just politely go along with it and then do the opposite!