Here are the top 4 most common sleep myths I’ve heard:
1) “If your baby doesn’t nap well during the day, don’t worry! He’ll sleep more at night!”
WRONG. Babies need ample restorative daytime sleep, otherwise they become overtired. Good quality naps are not optional when it comes to improving nighttime sleep, they’re mandatory! An overtired baby is a parent’s worst sleep nightmare, and here’s why: when a baby becomes overtired, his body begins producing a hormone called cortisol, which is a stress-related hormone produced by the nervous system. This hormone causes hyperactivity in babies and can cause any of the following problems:
a) difficulty falling asleep at night;
b) frequent night-wakings; and
c) early rising.
In addition, an overtired baby is often cranky, clingy, difficult to engage, startles often, experiences extreme separation anxiety, and requires constant attention. If you hit the jackpot, you might end up with a baby with ALL these problems!
In order to avoid this potential catastrophe, it is essential that your baby naps consistently throughout the day and has a regular early bedtime.
2) “If your young baby is waking up at night, adding rice cereal to her bottle will help her sleep longer.”
WRONG. *Sigh*. I WISH it was that easy to get a baby to sleep. In fact, several studies have shown that starting solids before 4-6 months of age actually disrupts sleep! Contrary to popular belief, hunger is not the only reason babies wake up at night. Night-wakings can be caused by a multitude of factors that have nothing to do with food. As a result, stuffing your baby’s tummy with rice cereal when the sleep problem isn’t nutritive is as useful as prescribing antibiotics for a child with a broken arm (i.e. USELESS).
3) “If your baby is not sleeping through the night, you have two choices: let him cry-it-out, or remain sleep deprived forever.”
WRONG. I can’t tell yow how many times I’ve heard moms say that they don’t want to sleep train their baby because they’re not comfortable with cry-it-out. Thankfully, there are many wonderful sleep training methods that are gentle, effective, and don’t involve letting your baby cry it out alone! As a sleep consultant, I can educate you on the variety of effective methods you can use for your child and will guide you along the way to ensure your sleep goals are met.
I want to emphasize that sometimes behavioural sleep training isn’t necessary. I’ve worked with babies and children with some AWFUL sleep issues. With simple changes to their sleep environment, nutrition, schedule/routine, timings, and behaviours, the issues were resolved!
4) “All babies and children eventually learn to sleep through the night, just give them time!”
WRONG. Many studies show that sleep issues can often take YEARS to resolve themselves without any intervention. Many parents still deal with their grade school children waking at all hours of the night! If you are struggling with your baby’s sleep, and you’ve chosen to wait for that magical day when she finally sleeps through the night on a consistent basis, you might be waiting for a long time!
Poor sleep in babies and children has been linked to ADHD, decreased academic performance, obesity, as well as a whole slew of other health problems. Teaching your baby healthy sleep habits is an investment in your child’s future health and well-being.