A baby’s sleep is mysterious. Why don’t they sleep when they are tired? Sleep is amazing. As adults we know how good it is, but babies just don’t seem to have read that memo!
Once you have a baby, “experts” will offer you advice all day. They will tell you things like how to feed your baby and how to get your baby to sleep. This “expert” advice is usually a combination of old wives’ tales and urban myths passed on through generations and mothers’ groups!
So let’s take a look at 5 sleep non-truths and why they aren’t true.
1: Keeping your baby up late at night and getting them very tired will help them fall asleep quickly and then sleep through the night.
Not true! When babies are overtired, they are over-stimulated and can’t easily go to sleep. Stress hormones and brain activity when overtired means there is a lot of crying and they become very unsettled. When they do fall asleep they will often sleep badly and wake more frequently.
A better idea is to know how long your baby should be up for. Watch for tired signs. Have a loose routine and get them into bed before they are overtired.
2: Feeding your baby a bottle of formula before bed will help them sleep through.
Not true! If your baby is getting enough milk from the breast or the bottle then extra milk or formula won’t help. Try to make sure your baby isn’t snacking during the day or getting distracted while feeding. Feed them when they are hungry, not just when they have woken from a sleep.
3: Some babies just don’t need to sleep during the day.
Not true! All young babies need sleep during the day. There are some babies that need less and some that need more than others. If your baby doesn’t sleep they will get tired and cranky.
Try to get your baby to sleep around the same time every day. Have a ritual at bedtime and try to get them into bed before they are overtired. Some sleep is better than none!
4: Babies should sleep through the night by 12 weeks.
Not true! Babies have tiny stomachs (about the size of a golf ball) and can only hold a small amount of milk. Because they only drink small amounts of milk they can’t last very long between feeds. Babies usually need to weigh over 8kgs and be eating some solid food before they can do longer stretches overnight. Babies naturally sleep longer at night around 8 to 12 weeks.
5: Holding, feeding or rocking your baby to sleep when they are young creates bad habits.
Not true! Holding, rocking and feeding your newborn baby is a lovely thing to do. It promotes attachment, is great for your milk supply and helps settle your baby. If you can put your baby in their cot to settle, great, but babies under 12 weeks often can’t self-settle and will need some help. You can always try to settle you baby in their cot if they are calm. When they are upset or overtired, rocking or feeding until they are calm and sleepy is fine.
Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.