16 Baby Sleep Myths You Can Stop Worrying About
1. Never wake a sleeping baby. Newborn babies aren’t meant to sleep for longer than a 2-3 hour stretch because they need to eat. They have tiny stomachs that fill up and empty very quickly. Letting them sleep for longer stretches could impact their weight gain, so always contact your pediatrician before starting a sleep journey. For babies over 3 months, there could be cause to wake them such as their nap is too long (more than a 3-hour nap can impact their overnight sleep), or it’s approaching 5pm and they need to wake up so they can have a decent stretch of awake time before bedtime.
2. The nursery (and entire house) needs to be completely quiet. Newborn babies don’t do well with complete silence. They’re used to being in a loud womb with constant noises of mom’s blood pumping and her heartbeat, so silence is a new concept for them. White noise can help break this silence, and allow for you to get things done around the house without tip-toeing around the nursery.
3. Formula fed babies sleep longer than breastfed babies. Although the consistency of formula is often denser than breastmilk, this does not always mean that a formula fed baby will sleep longer. Each baby is unique in how their metabolism works and how often they will need to eat throughout a 24-hour period.
4. Mixing rice cereal into the bottle will fill my baby up and get them to sleep longer. No doubt this is grandma talking. Rice cereal should never be mixed into a bottle unless specifically prescribed by your pediatrician (often for reflux issues). There is no nutritional value in rice cereal, and therefore it will not keep your baby fuller longer.
5. Crib bumpers will protect my baby from getting hurt. Crib bumpers should not be placed in an infant’s crib until they are at least 12 months old. These bumpers are actually a safety hazard that can cause suffocation for a small infant. Once your baby starts rolling around and you’re worried about getting their arms and legs stuck in crib slats, use a mesh breathable bumper instead.
6. 12 hours at 12 weeks. This may be true for some babies, but not all. There are dozens of factors that play into your baby’s sleep, including temperament, development, birth, and nutrition, that not all babies can be expected to do the same things at the same age.
7. Keeping baby awake longer during the day will get more sleep at night. Babies follow general awake times (how long they can stay awake between naps) that coincide with age and development. Keeping them awake for too long during the day will cause over-tiredness and an inability of your baby to fall asleep easily. Sleep begets sleep – the more they sleep during the day, the more they’ll sleep at night too.
8. Babies only wake up at night because they’re hungry. While this is most likely true for newborns, babies at all ages will wake for a variety of reasons. Discomfort, practicing a milestone, and habit are the most common reasons baby could wake up.
9. I’m only a good mom if I tend to my baby each time they wake in the night. Again, babies wake for a variety of reasons, and just because your baby is awake doesn’t mean you have to get up or else you’re a bad mom. Letting your baby work it out on their own can do wonders for fostering their independence and ability to self-soothe.
10. The later I put my baby to bed, the later they will sleep. It’s the opposite – the earlier bedtime will result in a later wake up time. Babies need sleep and operate based on their circadian rhythm, so generally when the sun comes up so will they.
11. A dream feed will help my baby sleep through the night. Dream feeds (nursing or giving a bottle while baby is asleep) are great for babies under 3 months. You can put your babe down around 7-8, get some quality time in with your partner (or just go to bed), then do a dream feed between 10-11pm (have your partner give a bottle so you can get extra rest), and baby may sleep until 3am or so. The idea is that baby’s stomach is full and won’t need to wake again for a few hours. But at some point this needs to be faded and so it is treated as regular wake up night feed for most sleep coaches once baby is past 3 months.
12. It’s okay to let the family pet sleep in the nursery. Animals are unpredictable and you just never know what might happen. You know your pet best on whether or not they get aggressive, but more importantly a pet can climb into a crib and essentially smother a baby while they’re sleeping. Better to be safe than sorry and ban the family pet from sharing naptime and sleep with your little one.
13. My baby is just a bad sleeper and always will be. This just isn’t true! Some babies need more help than others when it comes to learning how to self-soothe and sleep on their own. If your baby is older than 6 months and isn’t sleeping for at least a 9-10 hour stretch at night, contact your pediatrician, or a professional sleep coach like myself, for help.
14. My baby’s just an early riser. Early risers are often victims of being over-tired. When we talk about infant and child sleep, we look at sleep over a 24 hour period. Babies who don’t get enough daytime sleep and go to bed too late, are often early risers as well.
15. SIDS is unexplainable. There has been a ton of research attempting to explain Sudden Infant Death Syndrome as it used to be thought of as an unexplainable death of an infant. Although there are a percentage of infant deaths that have no explained cause, many of them do have explained causes and could have been prevented. Suffocation and over-heating are some of the most common causes, so make sure to always place your baby on their back to sleep with no objects in their crib, and don’t leave a baby to sleep for long periods of time in a car seat (when outside of the vehicle). For more information on preventing SIDS, check out a blog I wrote about it.
16. Crying it Out will damage my child and create an insecure attachment. Being a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, I’ve done a ton of research on empirically validated research of sleep training methods. While there isn’t a lot out there, there is no scientific evidence verifying that controlled periods of crying will psychologically damage your child. Remember that a baby’s only form of communication is through crying, and so this is how they will protest. Nobody likes change and your baby will let you know this. That being said, CIO is not the only approach to learning to sleep and there are a variety of other methods that have proven to work (albeit a slightly longer process).