The Baby Sleep Myths That You Should Avoid
In partnership with Owlet
One of the skills new parents have to develop fairly quickly is the ability to sift through the barrage of parenting advice that gets handed out to them, often unsolicited, from well-meaning friends, family, and sometimes even strangers. It’s helpful to remember that different generations were often exposed to ‘expert advice’ that we would find laughable, and sometimes even horrifying, by todays standards. For example, in the 1960’s one expert (Dr Walter Sackett) recommended serving bacon and eggs to babies from 6 weeks and black coffee at 6 months, and an obstetric textbook from 1966 stated that expectant mothers could ‘safely’ smoke up to half a packet of cigarettes a day! All we are saying is, just because great aunt Mabel brought up 10 kids, doesn’t mean you have to take her word as gospel when it comes to the best ways to get your baby to sleep better.
We’ve compiled a list of common advice that new parents often hear from people offering their wisdom on babies and sleep, that would be best ignored.
Flipping your baby resets the sleep schedule for babies that are getting their day and night mixed up.
Despite the fact that many older people swear by ‘flipping your baby, ’which literally involves tipping them head over heels, (like resetting an egg timer) we’re placing this one firmly in the ‘superstition’ rather than ‘sleep solution’ category. Sorry nan! The fact is that in the early newborn days, it’s common for babies to sleep a lot during the day and be more wakeful at night. To get them into a routine that encourages those wakeful periods during the day instead, focus on feeding your baby frequently during the day and keeping activity at night low-key and quiet, preferably with low light, to encourage sleep.
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Adding rice cereal to your baby’s feed before bedtime will keep them full for longer so they sleep through the night
Don’t be surprised if your own mum or mother-in-law suggest adding a couple of spoonful’s of rice cereal into your baby’s formula or breastmilk to help them sleep longer at night – because this may well have been the expert advice they received during their early days of parenting. On the surface of it, it seems to make sense. A full tummy means that baby is less likely to wake up during the night hungry…right? Well, actually, no. Scientific evidence doesn’t support this idea.
Your baby is waking up at night because they are hungry
Babies can wake up for all sorts of reasons during the night, just like adults do. In fact, just like adults they go through sleep cycles throughout the night. Whilst some babies are able to self-settle, others might require a little assistance from mum, dad or their caregiver. Other reasons your baby may wake during the night include having a soiled and uncomfortable nappy, being too hot or too cold, or misplacing their soother.
Tip: Having a video monitor in your baby’s nursery can give parents the ability to check on the wellbeing of their child without having to jump out of bed every time they fuss or murmur during the night. Sometimes, given a moment or two, your baby will resettle themselves back to sleep.
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You should teach your newborn how to self-settle
Babies under the age of 12 weeks are genuinely incapable of consciously self-settling. Moreover, their tiny stomachs are about the size of a golf ball, meaning they can only hold a small amount of milk…certainly not enough to get them through 12 hours without a feed!
Babies should sleep through the night at 12 weeks
In general, sentences that contain the word ‘should’ can be anxiety-inducing for parents because it suggests that there is something wrong with their baby if they aren’t doing what someone says they ‘should’ be. As much as we might wish this nugget of ‘wisdom’ were the norm during those wee-small hours, it’s certainly not true. Whilst all babies are different, it’s not usually until around 9 months of age, when your baby’s diet includes less milk and more solids, that they can clock up 9-12 hours of sleep without eating.
Keeping your baby up late at night will help them sleep longer and wake later in the morning
Not only is this advice unlikely to live up to expectations, its likely to result in the exact opposite of what you intended. When babies are overtired and overstimulated from being kept awake late, they are more likely to wake multiple times during the night, and for longer periods. Contrary to your original intentions, they’ll also find it harder to get back to sleep, meaning you’ll spend more time up with them during the night. Seriously…steer clear of this one!
Remember, when it comes to your baby, you know them best! Expert health and safety guidelines have evolved over time, so don’t be afraid to do your own research and dismiss parenting advice from well-intentioned loved ones that doesn’t have any basis in fact.
Finally…all babies are different. Don’t get disheartened if everyone in your mothers group is raving about the great night’s sleep they got last night, while you struggle to focus through bleary eyes. Your baby will get there too, in their own good time!