Baby sleep is a hot topic for many parents, especially those struggling in their baby's first year. So many parents find themselves seeking advice from anyone who is open to sharing information. But not all information is good.
We busted a few sleep myths to help rid the world of confusing (and inaccurate) sleep information to help your baby sleep better:
Myth #1: To stop an early wake-up, keep baby up longer.
I don't know about you, but this advice is typically doled out to me by those with a child so old that they can't remember what they did in those early child rearing days.
“Your baby goes to sleep way too early," they might say.
But the reality is science-based. A baby who's up too long will become overly tired, especially since infants are capable of sleeping 10 to 12 hours overnight once they reach 6 months old.
When you keep baby up late, they get an extra shot of cortisol that actually makes it harder to wind down. In other words, tired = wired. They are beat and yet they can't settle themselves, especially in those early-morning hours of light sleep.
Think of how you feel when you're about to go out late on a Saturday night after a long day. Before you head out, all you want to do is get into your cozy bed… and then you rally and the night turns out to be such a blast that you're the one dancing on the tables. (Okay, maybe that trip down memory lane was pre-baby.)
I can tell you from personal experience—every time I go to bed too late, I am more restless and can't get settled as quickly. And I'm an adult! Imagine the toll that a late bedtime can take on baby.
Myth #2: More food will make baby sleep longer.
Many of us hear advice to “put rice cereal into your newborn's bottle and they will sleep longer." Not so fast, mama. Not only is that advice inaccurate, it can also be detrimental to baby's health. The AAP indicates that feeding baby rice cereal in a bottle can lead to gagging and overfeeding .
As a newborn, your baby has a small stomach, and it's very common to have frequent feedings. But, for babies older than 4 months, duration of sleep is less about the food in their stomach and more about brain maturity and the habits they have formed during infancy.
This doesn't mean that all babies older than 4 months will sleep 12 hours —some require a late-night feed for a while longer. But, overfeeding baby before bedtime is probably not the way to go.
I know you are desperate for baby to sleep longer. We have all been there, mama.
If you think baby is waking up hungry, you can try cluster feeding (offering multiple feedings before bedtime) or dream feeding (offering one last feed while baby is sleeping before you hit the sack).
If you find that baby is still reluctant to sleep for more than two hours in a row, it may be time to focus on promoting healthy sleep habits for baby (and you), such as learning to fall asleep independently and finding a mutually agreeable bedtime and nap schedule.
Myth #3: Never wake a sleeping baby.
You'd think this one was in the owner's manual when having a baby. Everyone thinks that waking a sleeping baby is a deadly sin. But that's not always the case.
1. When your baby is a newborn, some pediatricians recommend waking your baby every three hours to feed.
2. What's also true is that once your baby is steadily on a schedule, it may be helpful to limit naps in order to keep their schedule on track. I can tell you firsthand that a long nap is awesome (especially when you have a short napper), but the excitement is over if the long nap thwarts baby's second nap of the day.
As a general rule, if you know that long naps interfere with your baby's sleep schedule, go ahead and cap the nap starting at two hours.
3. Another time to wake your sleeping baby is when the nap goes too late. I typically recommend ending all naps by four to five pm in order to keep bedtime on track for an awesome night's sleep.
Don't think that waking is only for babies either. Once your tot reaches the age when they aren't ready to drop their nap, but too long of a nap will result in a late bedtime, start capping the nap again as necessary.
These baby sleep myths may just be folklore, but that doesn't mean they aren't still passed on from generation to generation. So, the next time you hear a baby sleep myth, feel free to bust it!
You might also like:
Sleepy baby, happy mama: Your top baby sleep questions, answered
- Hush, little mama: Sleep strategies for tired mothers
- The science of sleep: 10 ways to build a better bedtime