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5 Common Myths About Baby’s Sleep

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

Like most mothers, when I gave birth to my first child my heart exploded and I was buried in feelings of love and gratitude.

Literally, about ten to fifteen seconds later I was equally buried in information, advice and suggestions. No doubt it was all thrown at me with the best intentions, but it was overwhelming nonetheless. I lost count of the number of times I heard “You should,” “You’ve got to,” You’ll want to.” If there was such number as “kajilion” it should be created specifically to measure the number of suggestions a new mother receives in her first year of motherhood.

Those feelings of love and gratitude carry on and grow to this day, and so do the recommendations!

And that’s coming from an expert, a professional, in the childcare field. I can only imagine the tidal waves of hints and advice that must overwhelm a mother who openly asks for it.

If you ask me there’s no such thing as a casual mum. This gig is full-time, no matter if you’re a stay-at-home-mum, a working mum or somewhere in between. No matter what you are doing your kids are on your mind 24/7, so we tend to do a lot of research, and with access to unlimited data via the internet, Barnes & Noble, or your mother-in-law, (the latter having the most to say, by a mile) it’s inevitable that we get some conflicting information. Although when it comes to kids, I think the discussion even eclipses politics for the sheer divisiveness and claiming opinion as fact.

So I would like to focus on my area of expertise, that being sleep, and try and dispel some of the more popular myths I’ve heard from places like Mothers’ groups and parenting forums

1. Sleeping too much during the day will keep baby awake at night.

This is unlikely, except for in extreme cases. Unless your little on is practically sleeping all day long and is up all night, you probably don’t need to be over concerned about the length of their naps. Newborns in particular need a ton of sleep. In fact, up until about 6 months of age I don’t recommend that your little one be awake for more than about 2 – 2 ½ hours at a time. For newborns that number is more like 45 minutes to an hour. (Yes, you read it right!)

What keeps babies awake at night, more than anything else, is overtiredness. You may believe that an exhausted baby is more likely to sack out for a full night than one who slept all day, but the truth is, it’s the opposite. The reason we refer to it as “overtired” is because baby missed their “tired” phase and their little bodies have kicked back into gear, keeping them from falling asleep and staying asleep. A well-rested baby who has gotten a decent amount of sleep during the day is far less likely to miss the sleep window.

There are substantial variations depending on baby’s age and the length of their naps, but up until that 6-month mark, it’s really not uncommon for baby to be sleeping around 5 hours a day outside of nighttime sleep. So if you baby is still within those guidelines, let them snooze.

Remember, sleep promotes sleep!

2. Sleeping is a natural development and can’t be taught.

Sleeping is natural, absolutely. Regardless of their age, everyone wakes up and falls back to sleep multiple times a night. So no, you cannot teach a child to be sleepy. However, what can be taught is the ability to fall back to sleep independently.

The typical “bad sleeper” of a baby isn’t less in need of sleep, or more prone to waking up. They’ve just learned to rely on outside assistance to get back to sleep when the wake up. Once baby has figured out how to get back to sleep on their own without any assistance, they will start stringing those sleep cycles together effortlessly and start “sleeping through the night” as most parents understand it. That’s the secret.

3. Babies will naturally dictate their own sleep schedule.

The idea that infant physiology is so flawlessly, naturally programmed to regulate a baby’s schedule is, to be straight with you, laughable. Nothing against Mother Nature but she doesn’t exactly provide us with a ready-to-run baby like she does with say, the blue wildebeest. (Seriously? Walking minutes after birth and outrunning predators within a day? Our babies are clearly not as prepared for battle straight out of the womb!)

We need to give our babies extensive help and care in their development, and their sleep cycles are unbelievably erratic if left unregulated. If babies miss their natural sleep cycle by as little as half an hour, their cortisol levels can increase causing a surge in energy with things quickly spiraling out of control. Therefore, as much as I wish babies could just fall asleep when they’re tired, it simply doesn’t work that way. That’s not to say you shouldn’t rely on your baby’s cues, but you shouldn’t rely soley on them either.

4. Sleep training is stressful for the baby and can affect the parent-child attachment.

Nope. And this isn’t just me talking here. This is the American Academy of Pediatrics. And according to a 2016 study conducted by eight of their top researchers, behavioral intervention, (A.K.A Sleep training) “provide(s) significant sleep benefits above control, yet convey(s) no adverse stress responses or long-term effects on parent-child attachment or child emotions and behavior.” Not a whole lot of grey area there.

5. Babies are not “designed” to sleep through the night.

So, if we put our religious beliefs aside for a moment, I think we can all agree that, even if babies were “designed” somehow, whoever did the designing left plenty of room for some upgrades. Trusting your child’s physiology to dictate their sleep schedule, their behavior, their eating habits, or just about any aspect of their upbringing is a recipe for disaster.

Is your toddler designed to eat 1kg of lollies? Surely not. Will they if you don’t intervene? You bet they will! Is your baby designed to avoid predators? If they were, nobody told my little one who would happily hug a hungry Siberian tiger if it approached him.

Our precious little ones need our authority and expertise to guide them through their early years and probably will for decades after that. This is especially true when it comes to their sleep. Sure, some babies are naturally gifted sleepers, but don’t rely on the advice of those who tell you that babies should dictate their schedules. As their parent, you are in charge because you know best – even if it may not feel like it sometimes.

Obviously, there are plenty more myths and misconceptions surrounding babies and their sleep habits, but these are some of the most important to get the facts on.

Always remember, there are endless posts on websites and social media that present themselves as factual, but there’s nothing stopping them from making that claim, regardless of their accuracy or biases on actual scientific evidence. Google scholar is a great place to find peer-reviewed scientific study on all things baby-related, and trusted sources like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institutes of Health, Britain’s National Health Service, Canada’s Hospital for Sick Children, the World Health Organization, and other national children’s health organizations are brilliant sources of information you can feel confident about using to answer questions about your baby’s health and wellbeing.

Contact our sleep consultant today to book your free introductory consultation.


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