Never Wake a Sleeping Baby…and Other Sleep Myths

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We are so excited to have this guest post from Bethany of Baby on Board Consulting. Bethany has a life-long passion for children and families. She has more than 15 years of experience as a professional Nanny and is a licensed Nurse in the states of Tennessee, New York, and Connecticut. Having worked with dozens of families and provided care for over 100 children, including 17 children as a full-time Nanny, Bethany adapts to fit each family’s parenting style and unique needs. She has worked with parents of newborns, premature babies, multiples, and siblings. Bethany founded Baby on Board Consulting as a way to positively impact even more families at times of need or challenge in the parenting journey.


Never Wake a Sleeping Baby…and Other Sleep Myths

After your baby arrives, it seems that everyone has good intentioned advice for you, whether you have asked for it or not (I’m looking at you stranger at the grocery store).  And while some advice are little nuggets of mom gold, it can be difficult to sift through all the information to find what’s best for your family.  As a Certified Pediatric Sleep Coach, my goal is to help guide families through what is fact versus what is a baby misconception. So go pour yourself another cup of coffee (I’m on my 3rd) and let’s get started! Here are my top 5 debunked baby myths:

 

Myth 1: Newborns Can Set Their Own Sleep Schedule

As adults, our bodies have long established a thing called the “24-hour clock” or “Circadian Rhythm”.  This clock helps regulate our body’s melatonin levels to know when to be awake (during the day) and when it’s time for sleep (at night).  Unfortunately, babies are not born with an established circadian rhythm (that would be nice, amiright?)… instead they typically sleep more during the day and are up for longer stretches at night.  This results in the sleep deprivation new parents know all too well. But why does this happen?

Well it’s partly due to day/night confusion, which puts your baby on an opposite sleep schedule as you.  While your sweet babe was in utero, your activity during the day gently rocked them to sleep, while your inactivity at night allowed them to stay awake.  That’s why your baby loved doing somersaults while you were trying to sleep. 

Melatonin, the sleep inducing hormone, also plays a role in a newborns sleep schedule. This hormone doesn’t start sufficiently producing in a baby until around the age of 3-4 months, which contributes to the inconsistent sleep that we usually see. While newborns have somewhat of a natural sleep pattern due to their frequent feedings (every 2-3 hours), I recommend that parents create a loosely based sleep schedule that includes all the elements of a safe and healthy sleep environment.

 

Myth 2: Never Wake a Sleeping Baby

I remember as a teenager, my mom giving me this advice when I was babysitting.  While newborns typically need a lot of sleep in a 24-hour period (16-17 hours), it is perfectly ok to gently help them establish their circadian rhythm.

There are many times when waking your baby is appropriate, such as to not miss a feeding or if their nap is lasting too long.  Following a loose sleeping and feeding schedule will help guide you through this process.  And as always, use your best judgement while you and your new baby are figuring out your family rhythm together.

 

Myth 3: If a Baby Has a Bad Night’s Sleep, They Can Make It Up During The Day

This is probably the most common sleep myth that I debunk with clients.  Nighttime sleep and daytime sleep are equally important to your baby, and while their natural sleep schedule is not established yet, having them catch up on sleep during the day does more harm than good. 

If a baby has had a bad night’s sleep, try continually sticking to your loose sleep schedule and waking baby up around the same time in the morning each day. While you might have a cranky baby for part of the day, this helps stop a negative sleep cycle from forming.

 

Myth 4: Babies Should Sleep In Silence

Everyone has specific ways that they like to fall asleep, and babies are no different. In the womb they hear many loud noises inside your body that include your blood pumping , your breathing and even your stomach! All these noises combined create the white noise that babies are so fond of.  That is why household appliances such as vacuums and hair driers help soothe baby…it’s the same kind of white noise!

Babies are very familiar with this noise and by including it in their sleep environment, it can help them stay asleep longer.  And as a bonus, you won’t want to sucker punch your mailman when he rings the doorbell during nap time…they have impeccable timing, don’t they?

 

Myth 5: Feeding a Baby Formula at Night Will Help Them Sleep Longer                                                                                                    

While there is nothing wrong with exclusively feeding a baby formula, supplementing for a better night’s sleep is not always recommended.  A common opinion is that formula metabolizes slower than breastmilk, causing baby to sleep longer. However, regardless of diet, all newborns feed approximately every 2-3 hours, so there isn’t a guarantee that formula will create longer sleep stretches.

Breastmilk however, naturally contains tryptophan (an amino acid that causes sleepiness) and melatonin.  These two natural sleep aids are at their highest concentration during the evening, so breastfeeding your little one before their nighttime sleep can actually help assist them in getting their much needed zzzz’s.

 

Being a parent is hard work and no one has all the answers!  Surround yourself with support and love and remember that you are doing an amazing job!