Sleep Myths – Shattered!
“Awww so cute; how’s he sleeping?” “Are you getting any sleep?” “Has she slept through the night yet?” Sound familiar? Chances are if you’re a parent, the answer is “yes.” Few topics are so highly discussed as sleep (or lack thereof it!), especially when it comes to babies. And few sleep-related topics are as controversial as the methods parents use to get their wee ones to sleep.
Rocking, soothers, car rides, stroller walks – the methods are endless. But one you so rarely encounter is “He was a great independent sleeper right from the beginning – falling asleep all on his own!”
Sleep training is a hot-button topic and can be a point of contention and heated discussion between many moms and dads. From attachment to free-range parenting, co-sleeping to crib sleeping, everyone has their beliefs and opinions. But regardless of what school of thought you subscribe to, everyone can agree that a good night’s sleep is essential to remaining sane, satisfied and serene.
So, your child’s not sleeping (or well or enough), and you’re torn. Does your babe really need to be taught to sleep? Won’t they figure it out on their own eventually? Is anything really wrong with what you’re doing now?
Below are five common myths about sleep – shattered. We’re here with the answers.
- Babies will figure out sleep on their own – they don’t need to be taught.
This myth presumes that babies who, since the day they were born, have been reliant on external stimuli to help them fall asleep, will blissfully and magically all of a sudden figure out how to go from awake to asleep entirely on their own. Oh, and then sleep 10-12 hours at night, straight. Unfortunately, many babies who have always been reliant on sleep “props” – like pacifiers, rocking, feeding, etc. – will consistently rely on these stimuli to get to sleep (and will rely on them again, every… single… time… they… wake), until such a time that those associations are removed and baby learns to sleep without them.
2. Feeding or rocking your baby to sleep is not a habit that needs to be broken – it will go away on its own.
While it’s true that you don’t see many 18-year-olds who need to be rocked to sleep, I have certainly seen many four-year-olds who do. Which means – for four years – that child’s parents have been waking up multiple times a night – every night -- to rock her to sleep. And, that in four years, that child has never once had a full night of healthy, restful, uninterrupted sleep. Myth-goers will argue that, in every scenario, parents should just “do what they have to do” to get their child to sleep, whether that means rocking, feeding, bringing their child to their bed, or driving around the neighbourhood for hours while the child sleeps in the car. Among the many issues associated with these strategies is the fact that no one – neither mom, dad, nor baby – is getting healthy sleep. And most of these strategies are not sustainable for anyone.
- Sharing a bed with your baby is safe.
A multitude of research exists that illustrates the dangers associated with parents and infants sharing a sleep space, and leading health experts and regulators attest that the safest place for a baby to sleep is in their own crib, cradle, or bassinet that meets proper regulations. Further, sleeping next to mom and dad can become a prop (see #1 and 2!) that your little one relies on to fall asleep. This is why I speak with parents on a daily basis who haven’t seen their spouses past 7 p.m. since the day their child was born. Why? Because they have to lay with their child in order for him or her to fall asleep and have to stay in the bed or else their child will wake. Who wants that?
- Sleeping through the night means your baby should never wake up, and that won’t happen until they are at least two years old.
Neither you nor your baby will ever sleep through the night – if by sleep through the night you assume this means never once waking between the time you initially go to sleep and the time you wake to start the next day. Instead, we all wake multiple times a night in light stages of sleep. The difference, for both babies and adults, is that those who have healthy, independent sleep habits are able to simply continue on into their next sleep cycle without fully waking. They don’t have significant difficulty returning to sleep without the assistance of external stimuli (feeding, rocking, etc.). The good news is that infants who have had healthy sleep habits promoted from an early age are able to sleep through the night without difficulty because they can easily transition from one sleep cycle to the next without the assistance of sleep props.
5. Babies who wake at night are doing so because they are hungry, and you should continue to feed at night as long as your baby is waking.
Certainly, newborn babies and young infants require nighttime calories. But, imagine you woke at 1 a.m. every day, and someone fed you a bowl of fettuccine alfredo. Imagine this happened every day and then, six months later, your pasta-provider decided to stop bringing you that 1 a.m. meal. You’d still wake, hungry – right? But you’d also go back to sleep because it’s the middle of the night and you are tired and what you really need is not a bowl of fettuccine alfredo but, in fact, sleep – right? This is the habitual feeding pattern that is often broken when a parent decides – based on their own intuitive and informed knowledge of their child – to remove night feeds and help their child consolidate their calories into proper daytime feedings, while also gaining restful, healthy, uninterrupted nighttime sleep.
Janey Reilly, well-rested President and Founder of WeeSleep™, is an expert Infant & Toddler Sleep Consultant who consults families around the globe and coaches and mentors a team to do the same!
WeeSleep™ launched after I realized how important infant and toddler sleep is, and after struggling with my son’s sleep issues and seeing and hearing about so many families having difficulties. I knew providing babies and families with healthy sleep was where I would find the most rewards in my professional life. I am passionate about healthy living, nutrition and fitness and, of course, BABY & TODDLER SLEEP! Myself and the WeeSleep™ team are dedicated to helping parents solve their baby’s sleep challenges in a positive and personal way so babies can rest and thrive and parents can rejoice!
Link to WeeSleep: https://weesleep.ca/