It seems everywhere you look we are inundated with information about the all illusive sleep.
There seems to be countless things that you need to do to get your children to sleep, and in equal measure, countless things you shouldn’t do.
What’s more – what do you do when so called sleep “experts” outright contradict each other?!
If you are a parent who has found this overwhelming, you are not alone!!
So I thought I would go through the top sleep myths and break them down for you.
MYTH 1: If you keep your baby awake longer during the day they will sleep longer at night
FACT: It is a commonly held myth that keeping a baby awake during the day will lead to longer stretches of sleep during the night, often referred to as the “tire them out so they sleep better” theory. This is patently untrue.
Day sleep and night sleep are intrinsically linked.
Keeping a baby awake during the day will simply make them more tired and harder to settle and stay asleep.
To promote long stretches of sleep overnight, make sure your baby is having regular napping opportunities during the day.
MYTH 2: You can’t train a baby to sleep
FACT: Sleep training is simply any parent lead change (usually designed to help your baby to fall asleep independently and/or consolidate into longer stretches of sleep).
This is a very personal choice and with vary from family to family.
For some parents this will be a more structured method and for others this will be incorporating small, gradual changes into their daily routine over time.
MYTH 3: Some babies just don’t like being swaddled
FACT: Swaddling babies has been proven time and time again to assist in settling.
Some babies seem to struggle or cry when being swaddled so some parents assume this means their baby “hates” being swaddled.
It’s much more likely that the baby is already overtired, the swaddle is too hot, or it’s not tight enough.
I can’t recommend swaddling strongly enough - babies who are swaddled almost always sleep better!
MYTH 4: Babies will just fall asleep when they are tired
FACT: While some babies will fall asleep when they are tired the vast majority will simply stay awake until they’re really overtired, making it almost impossible for them to settle themselves or sleep well.
It’s important to keep an eye on the time so that after your baby has been awake for the appropriate amount of time for their age (for example 45 mins in a newborn) you are looking for another sleep opportunity - whether he is displaying tired signs or not.
MYTH 5: Teething will cause your baby to sleep terribly
FACT: Teething gets blamed for a lot of sleep disruption!!
In reality, children will teethe on and off for about two years.
Pain may be associated with teething and is a true sleep disruptor, but typically it would be just as the tooth actually breaks the gum – so we are talking days, not weeks on end.
MYTH 6: You should never wake a sleeping baby
FACT: It’s important to take into account the total amount of sleep your baby is getting over a 24 hour period.
Some babies would quite happily sleep all day and then stay awake all night and you probably don’t want it that way around!
Waking your baby from their naps means you are able to control how much day sleep your little one is having, to enable them to sleep well at night.
MYTH 7: You should teach your newborn how to self-settle
FACT: Babies under about 12 weeks of age usually aren’t physiologically capable of self-settling.
It’s also not crucial that your baby has this skill until they’re over 3 months old anyway, when they start waking between each sleep cycle.
It is however, good practice to put them in bed when they’re drowsy but awake so they get used to doing the final bit of falling asleep by themselves.
MYTH 8: Formula fed babies sleep better
FACT: It is true that in those early months, formula-fed babies do generally nap more, wake less often and sleep for longer at night.
Why? Put simply, they have a fuller tummy for longer because formula takes more time to digest.
While breastmilk is naturally produced with components allowing it to be very easily absorbed into a newborn’s system, formula is artificially manufactured and therefore takes longer to break down in your baby's digestive system.
However, while it may be very tempting to use formula given the above promise of more sleep, keep in mind this is short term.
Not only do breastfed and formula-fed babies end up with the same (good, and bad) sleeping patterns by about nine months, they actually tend have the same amount of sleep in a 24-hour period from the beginning.
Kate has worked in the field of Sleep Medicine for over 15 years. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Melbourne and has since worked extensively both here in Australia as well as most recently in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is passionate about working with families to help children sleep better and is the founder of Babysomnia. She currently lives in Melbourne with her husband and four young children. If you have a question for Kate you can ask it on the Facebook page or for more information check out the website at www.babysomnia.com