The minute we announce pregnancy, we receive advice. While it is well-meaning, some of these pieces of advice can confusing and some just might not work. I’m just gonna say it: there are sleep truths and there are sleep beliefs. We want the truth!
The amount of information out there about sleep is insurmountable. The advice you will get will be confusing. The internet is confusing, one page says one things and the other page says the opposite. I am sure that you have heard adages like: “never wake a sleeping baby,” or ones of the like. So, how do you know what is true and what is not. Let’s break down some of the things you may have heard:
Never wake a sleeping baby: Part true, part not!
Yes, if your baby is under 4 months of age, you may want to let them sleep for almost as long as they want (they need to be woken for feedings every couple of hours). If your baby is over 4 months of age, letting them sleep as long as they want could negatively impact their sleep.
See, after the 4 month mark, your baby’s body has developed an internal sleep clock (circadian rhythms). You’ve heard of it right? This means that there are certain times of the day where your baby’s body will get more restorative, feel-good, sleep. It will be important to wake them in the morning at a set time to make sure their body is ready for the rest of the day (naps). It will also be important to not let that nap go to long, so as not to impact the next nap or bedtime. Their schedule will be important.
A later bedtime will mean a later wake time: Not true!
Believe it or not a later bedtime might actually cause an earlier wake time. Or worse, it may cause night wakings. Now we don’t want that! An early bedtime could just be your ticket to a full night’s sleep.
This may seem backwards and feel weird, but more sleep equals more sleep. Yes, as our babies bodies get more sleep they take more sleep. This is part of why an early bedtime is so important. If we put our babies to bed at an age appropriate time in the night, it will help him or her to sleep through the night. It will actually also help them to lengthen and take more restorative naps. Babies need LOTS of sleep.
If baby wakes in the night, they are hungry: Not necessarily true!
OK, yes, this may be true for a baby who is under 4 months of age or one who is struggling to grow and gain weight well. It is not true for babies who don’t fit into those two categories. A baby who is growing well and gaining weight well can actually sleep through the night without a feeding starting at about 4 months of age.
But why are they waking then? Well, this could be one or a combo of a number of factors. Take a look at their sleep schedule, is it age appropriate? Are they getting enough sleep? How about how they fall asleep and fall back to sleep? Can they do that on their own? It is possible that they are waking because they are not getting enough sleep and/or they are passing through a sleep cycle in the night and need your help to get down into the next.
There are good sleepers…and not so good sleepers: Not true!
One of the first things a strangers asks: “How is he sleeping for you?,” right? Somehow that question tends to give an answer that determines if they are a “good” or “not so good” sleeper. Then leading a parent to believe over the long run that their child is one or the other. Ugh, this irks me. Here’s why:
All of our babies can be “good” even “great” sleepers. Some may struggle to learn the skill (yes it is a skill to be learned) and some may just fall into it. BUT our children are fully capable. Believe in them! They may just need a little nudge and some guidance. After all, it is a skill that they need to learn.
It’s OK to put baby on their side or belly for sleep: Not true!
It can be very tempting to lay your baby down on their side or belly, if they sleep better that way. Also, the opinions on how a baby should sleep has changed so much over the years. The truth is that a baby is safest on their back. So, until your child is 12 months of age, lay them down on their back. The “back to sleep, tummy to play” campaign has significantly reduced the chances of SIDS and is much safer for sleep.
For good measure, you can read up on more safe sleep tips here.
How many of those had you heard before and thought they were true? The information out there between the web and what we hear can be a bit confusing. I hope I have been able to clarify some of it for you. Here’s to happy and healthy sleep!