The last thing parents need is to get tripped up by baby sleep myths. But sometimes, we accept crazy things as fact. In the 1960’s, doctors thought newborns felt no pain (even during a circumcision!) and that crying was good exercise for little lungs. Physicians even prescribed opium drops to babies to stop colicky crying! Yikes!
Fast forward to today: You may be surprised how many nutty ideas about infant sleep are still around. Here are 12 truly unhelpful sleep “myth-conceptions:”
Baby Sleep Myth 1: It takes months for babies to learn to sleep well at night.
No. Actually, it can take only a few weeks—that is, if you use the right sleep cues. Try swaddling and rumbly white noise, or SNOO smart sleeper, which has advanced smart technology that gives your baby the right combo of the 2, to help her nod off easily.
Baby Sleep Myth 2: Sleeping babies need complete quiet.
Huh? Did you ever see a baby fall deep asleep at a noisy party or sporting event? Remember, the womb is loud, 24 hours a day! So, a quiet, still room is actually a sensory desert to your baby.
Baby Sleep Myth 3: Rocking or nursing your baby to sleep every night creates a dependency.
Well…yes, it will! But it’s a myth that that’s a bad thing!
Let me explain: We all have sleep associations to help us relax into slumber. Think of your own habits. Do you prefer a dark room? Special pillow? Favorite sheets? Reading?
Long before delivery, your baby got used to the sensations in the womb – jiggly motion, rumbly sound and snug cuddling. That’s why rocking babies to sleep works so well. It’s also why car rides help. And it’s a reason nursing puts a baby to sleep — sucking is another baby sleep cue. My “5 S’s” technique pulls together all of these concepts.
But, problems arise because rocking and nursing to sleep: 1) are very hard to wean — you can’t really do either a little less every day, and 2) they undermine your baby’s learning to self-soothe, or the ability to fall back asleep.
The good news is that with the help of the wake-and-sleep technique, you can rock and nurse your baby to sleep AND still help her learn self-soothing skills. (SNOO’s smart sleeper technology actually draws from the principles of the 5 S’s and has an automatic weaning feature that helps make for an easy transition to the crib by 6 months. It’s pretty amazing!)
Baby Sleep Myth 4: Swaddling should be stopped at 2 months.
Totally wrong! In fact, 2 months is the WORST time to stop swaddling. Swaddling reduces crying and night waking, which both peak at 2-4 months. That’s exactly why marital stress, child abuse, postpartum depression, unsafe sleeping practices, breastfeeding struggles and car accidents increase around this time. While your baby may try turning over at this age, it’s much less likely she’ll succeed while swaddled. If she does, 1) check that you’re wrapping correctly or use our safe 5-second swaddle 2) make sure you’re playing strong, rumbly white noise – all night long.
Baby Sleep Myth 5: Never wake a sleeping baby.
Nope. You should ALWAYS wake your sleeping baby…when you place him in a sleeper! The wake-and-sleep method is the first step in helping your little one self-soothe, when a noise or hiccup accidentally rouses him in the middle of the night.
Baby Sleep Myth 6: Letting babies cry themselves to sleep makes them better sleepers.
No! Just no! Some books – and doctors – advise leaving crying babies alone, in the dark until the morning (the so called extinction method of sleep training). Or they say let them cry, but return every few minutes for a couple of seconds of reassurance (the so called controlled crying method of sleep training).
You may have guessed I’m skeptical of those techniques, which is in part why I invented the SNOO smart sleeper I mentioned earlier. Its responsive technology responds just as you would.
Ignoring your baby’s nighttime cries goes totally against your mama and papa instincts. I’ll admit that I’ve used controlled crying in rare cases when I’ve worked with parents who desperately needed some life-saving sleep, but it’s really a last resort.
Baby Sleep Myth 7: Some babies need their arms out for sleep
Nope. Does your baby resist swaddling: Many parents assume that a baby who resists having her arms straightened wants her arms “free.” (We certainly wouldn’t want to be tightly swaddled. But, then again we wouldn’t want to live in a uterus for 9 months, either…and yet babies love it in there.) Wrapping imitates the cuddly confines of the womb and prevents startles that can wake your little one up. So, even if she struggles against arms-down swaddling, you will see she settles pretty fast when you add some other S’s (like sucking, white noise and motion).
Baby Sleep Myth 8: Babies should sleep in their own rooms.
No. There’s no rush to have your baby “become independent.” In fact, putting your baby in another room is super- inconvenient for nighttime care and feeding. Plus, room sharing reduces your baby’s risk of SIDS.
Baby Sleep Myth 9: By 6 months most babies sleep through the night.
Actually, this one is wrong on two counts. First, even by 6 months 50% of infants still wake once a night…and babies who bed share do it even more often. Second, no baby ever sleeps through the night! (And, neither do older kids or adults.) We all wake—slightly—when we enter the light sleep part of our sleep cycle (2-3 times a night). If the room is the same as when we fell asleep (our pillow didn’t fall, we don’t smell smoke, etc.) we dive back into slumber and don’t remember waking. Likewise, once your baby learns to self-soothe she’ll be able to fall back to sleep, without assistance…unless, of course, she’s hungry or uncomfortable.
Baby Sleep Myth 10: Babies must adapt to the family, not the family to the baby.
This one is just silly. Having a baby is a huge change for a family, so of course we all have to make big adjustments. Think of it this way, one of your top goals is to build your baby’s confidence and trust. In fact, during the first 9 months, building that sense of security is much more important than pushing her to be more independent.
Baby Sleep Myth 11: Keeping babies awake during the day makes them sleep more at night.
Nope. Keeping a tired baby awake usually boomerangs…leaving him miserable, overtired and fighting sleep! On the other hand, babies given lots of sleep throughout the day are more resilient and balanced. They fall asleep faster and easier, as long as they’re put to bed before they get bleary eyed and exhausted.
Baby Sleep Myth 12: Swaddling is bad for nursing.
Quite the opposite. Swaddling will keep your baby from bringing her hands to the mouth (an early signal of hunger). But, in the middle of the night, you don’t want to respond to early feeding cues. Within 30 minutes, her hunger will increase and she’ll send you later hunger cues, like fussing and crying. In fact, by waiting she’ll get a bit hungrier and take a bigger, fuller feed.