A baby’s sleep can be mysterious. I mean why don’t they just sleep when they are tired? Sleep is amazing, right? We all love it and wish we had more than we do, so why don’t babies want that as well?
I bet since you had your baby you have been offered a plethora of “expert” advice from everyone telling you how to get your baby to sleep which is usually a combination of old wives tales and urban myths on what will give you that elusive 12 hours a night!
So let’s take a look at the top 5 sleep myths I hear all the time and the facts on why they are in fact myths.
Myth 1: Keeping your baby up late at night and getting them really tired will help them fall asleep quickly and stay asleep.
Fact: This is just plain wrong! When babies are overtired they wind-up and can’t drop off to sleep. Stress hormones and brain activity mean they just can’t drop off and there is a lot of crying and un-settledness. Furthermore, when they do fall asleep they often sleep badly and wake more frequently.
Better option: Know how long a baby should be up for at your baby’s age and also watch them for tired signs. Have a loose routine based on how long your baby should be up and get them into bed before they are losing it. Have a ritual around bedtime so that your baby becomes familiar with it and knows what is happening.
Myth 2: Feeding your baby a bottle or formula before bed will help them sleep through.
Fact: If your baby is getting adequate milk either via the breast or the bottle, then extra milk or formula won’t make any difference to how they sleep at night.
Better option: Try to make sure your baby isn’t snacking during the day or getting too distracted while feeding. SO feed when hungry not just when they have woken from a sleep.
Myth 3: Some babies just don’t need to sleep during the day.
Fact: All babies need sleep during the day though there are some babies that need less or more than others. If they don’t sleep they get tired and cranky. See Myth #1.
Better option: Work on trying to get your baby to sleep around the same time every day. Use rituals around bedtime and get them into bed before they are overtired. Some sleep is better than none, always!
Myth 4: Babies should sleep through the night by 12 weeks.
Fact: Babies have tiny stomachs (about the size of a golf ball) and they can only hold a small amount of milk. So if all they are getting is a small amount of milk they won’t be able to go 12 hours without a feed. Babies usually need to be over 8kgs and eating some solids before you can expect them to sleep most of the night.
Better option: Babies naturally stretch out overnight feeds around 8 to 12 weeks and can start to have one long block of sleep followed by a couple of shorter blocks. Also try not to feed your baby back to sleep overnight if you feel they don’t need the feed. Resettle.
Myth 5: Holding, feeding or rocking your baby to sleep when they are young creates bad habits.
Fact: Holding, rocking and feeding a newborn baby is a lovely thing to do and promotes attachment, is great for your milk supply and helps settle your baby. If you can put your baby in their cot to settle then do but don’t worry about helping your baby to sleep. Babies under 12 weeks often can’t self-settle and will need some help.
Better option: If your baby is ready for sleep and is calm and settled then try and put them in their cot to settle, but if they are upset then rocking, or feeding until they are calm and sleepy is totally fine.
Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.