5 Common Myths About Sleep Training

– Written by JoAnna Inks 

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I can remember so clearly the day I gave birth to my first child.  His entrance (butt first!) was quite an exciting one! I was over-whelmed with feelings of love and gratitude for this little being.

Cut to a few minutes later and it seemed I was inundated with advice, suggestions, and way too much information about babies!

I’m sure this was all with the best of intentions but it was definitely too much.  I heard so many times, “You should”, “I used to”, and “you better”. There should be a number like “bajillion” to measure the number of suggestions new moms receive in their first year of motherhood.

Of course, I still have those feelings of love & gratitude, and I’m still getting the recommendations.

This mom gig is no joke!  It’s full time, no matter if you stay-at-home or work.  We have access to SO much information about our children.  And, much of it’s conflicting.

I think when it comes to kids the discussion is even more heated than politics for it’s sheer divisiveness and claiming opinion as fact!

Today, I thought I’d focus on my area of expertise, sleep, and try to dispel some of the myths I’ve seen on mom forums and FB groups.

1. Too much daytime sleep will keep a baby up at night

This is very unlikely, except in the most extreme cases such as your baby is sleeping ALL day and up ALL night.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t concern yourself with your baby’s nap length.

Newborns need a ton of sleep and can only handle about 45 minutes of awake time.  This is a staggering fact that I was unaware of until I taught my older son to be a great sleeper at 8 weeks.

Up until about 6 months old your little one shouldn’t be awake more than 2-2.5 hours at a time.

What keeps babies awake more than anything at night is being over-tired.  It’s a common misconception that a tired baby will sleep better at night. An over-tired baby has missed the “tired” window and their body has started overcompensating so baby becomes almost hyper.

A baby who’s gotten good daytime sleep is much less likely to miss the “tired” window.

There’s quite a lot of variations in naps for a baby depending on their age.  But, up to that 6-month mark it’s normal for a baby to be sleeping about 4-5 hours a day plus 11-12 hours at night.  So, if your baby is within those guidelines, let them sleep!

2.  Sleeping isn’t something you can teach a baby

This is my favorite!

Teaching babies to sleep is my passion and I see it happen EVERYDAY, yet people still debate whether you can teach a baby to sleep.

Teaching a baby to fall asleep independently means they’ll be able keep putting themselves back to sleep between sleep cycles all night long.

You see, we all wake multiple times per night between sleep cycles.

If a baby is a “bad sleeper”, this baby isn’t in need of less sleep or a “light” sleeper as I hear so often.  They’re just dependent on outside “props” to get to sleep AND stay asleep.

Once your baby has learned to fall asleep independently and put themselves back to sleep between sleep cycles, you’ve cracked the “secret” to “sleeping through the night”.

3.  Babies should naturally dictate their sleep schedule

The notion that infant physiology is flawless and programmed to regulate a new baby’s schedule is pretty comical if you ask me.

Mother Nature doesn’t provide us with a “ready to sleep” baby.

Our babies need a lot of care and help in their development and their sleep cycles are no exception.

If a baby misses their natural sleep cycle by as little as 30 minutes, cortisol can spike which causes an energy surge and things can quickly spiral out of control.

As much as everyone wishes babies would just fall asleep when they’re tired, it often doesn’t work that way.

I’m not saying you should respond to their tired cues but don’t rely on them exclusively either.

4. Sleep training is stressful for babies and will affect the parent-child bond

No way!  And, this isn’t just my opinion.  It’s also the opinion of The American Academy of Pediatrics, which is the gold standard in our country for baby health information.

According to a 2016 study by 8 of their top researchers, sleep training, “provides significant sleep benefits above control, yet conveys no adverse stress responses or long-term effects on parent-child attachment or child emotions or behavior”.

Let’s just say they didn’t leave a lot of room for debate on this one!

5. Babies aren’t “designed” to sleep through the night

Let’s put aside our religious beliefs for a minute and I think we can all agree that, even if babies were “designed”, whoever did this design left plenty of room for upgrades!

I think it’s safe to say that trusting your baby’s physiology to dictate everything from their sleep schedule, to their eating habits, behavior or just about anything would be a recipe for disaster.

Will your baby eat 3 pounds of candy?  Surely not.

Will they if you don’t intervene.  Yes, it’s quite possible!

Is your baby able to avoid predators?

If so, nobody told my children, who would’ve happily hugged a mountain lion if it approached them.

My point is that our little ones need our expertise and parenting skills to guide them through their childhood, and probably long after that!

Sleep for our babies is no exception to where guidance from us is often needed.

There are some babies out there that are better sleepers than others for sure. But, don’t believe people when they tell you to let a baby dictate their own schedule.

I could go on and on about misconceptions about babies and their sleep, but these are the ones that really stand out to me and are most important for getting the facts straight.

There are endless social media posts and websites that claim to be factual regardless of their accuracy or any scientific evidence.

Trusting sources like the American Academy of Pediatrics,  Britain’s National Health Service, Canada’s Hospital for Sick Children, the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, and the like are excellent sources of information you can feel confident about using to answer questions about your baby’s health.

Want more information about the importance of sleep?  Great, because I can talk about that ALL day 😉

Want to teach your little one to be a great sleeper?

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

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