Most people have good intentions when doling out advice on any subject, but when it comes to sleep, there are many misconceptions about sleep that are passed down in well meaning tidbits of advice. How do you know which ones to take action on and which ones to politely listen to then ignore? Take it or leave it, in the end, you will do what you feel is best for your child. Here are six common misconceptions about sleep that we hear on a regular basis. We hope this helps you weed through all the conflicting recommendations and opinions.
1. The Misconception: “Never wake a sleeping baby.”
The Reality: Normally, we might agree with this one, but there will be times when waking your child will be required. You may need to wake an infant to feed them, a baby to help protect the schedule, or an older child to ensure quality overnight sleep.
To help your child establish a schedule, a consistent yet flexible wake time is important. It is best to wake up within the same thirty minute window every day. This will help not only the schedule but will also balance their internal clock.
2. The Misconception : “Skip naps and keep them up later at night. They’ll sleep better.”
The Reality: This is a very common misconceptions about sleep. Daytime sleep is crucial for overnight sleep! When you keep your child from napping or keep them up late, they may sleep better for a day or two only because they are exhausted! But those sleep deficits will require payback. Losing sleep has a domino effect on other areas of sleep and may lead to more wakings during the night, early rising and a harder time settling to sleep.
Encouraging and making time for naps at regular intervals during the day will actually make getting ready for sleep for manageable, plus, a more predictable day for both parent and child and make overnight sleep better. Daytime sleep varies from age to age and decreases, as they get older.
3. The Misconception: “Fill them up before bed, they’ll sleep longer.”
The Reality: Yes, there are some foods that can help sleep, but there are also foods that interfere with sleep. Some foods can cause gas or have hidden caffeine. Nightly habits create sleep associations, whether it’s eating, nursing, bouncing, rocking, walking or a car ride, when the child wakes they will need that same thing again to help them get back to sleep. It’s also important to mention that we don’t recommend adding baby cereal to your baby’s bottle.
If you feel like your little one is waking out of hunger through the night, chances are, you’re right. The body becomes very dependent on those calories, which means it expects those calories. Slowly transferring those calories from overnight to during the day will ease the transition from night eating and will ensure that your child isn’t feeling hungry.
4. The Misconception: “Don’t hold your baby too much or pick her up as soon as she cries, you will spoil her and she will become dependent on you”
The Reality: There is no such thing as spoiling an infant! After spending the last nine months inside of you they need you to help them adjust to the outside world. Some babies adjust quickly, while others need more time. By responding to your child’s cries, you are teaching her that you are there for her when she needs you. You are nurturing the bond you have created with her, and you are building her confidence in how she handles the world, which will encourage her independence down the road.
Wearing your baby can help keep your little one close while still having free hands to attend to older children or accomplish small tasks throughout the day. Please be sure to research and seek help for proper baby wearing techniques.
5. The Misconception: “They will outgrow their sleep challenges”
The Reality: Although some children outgrow sleep challenges on their own, there are very few who actually do. It is common for babies with sleep challenges at one year of age to still have sleep challenges at four years of age if nothing has been done to help them.
Falling asleep is a learned behaviour. It’s never too late to start working on your child’s sleep. Working on sleep during childhood will make a difference for them through their teenage, young adult and adult years.
6. The Misconception: “Some children just don’t need as much sleep as others”
The Reality: Although the amount of sleep needed varies from child to child, a chronically overtired child will start to show signs of tiredness through other means. They may have a harder time adjusting in social situations, they may not adapt well to change and they may exhibit more emotional meltdowns or temper tantrums. An overtired or sleep-deprived child may also show more signs of aggression and behavioural challenges as they grow and through their school years. In study after study, behaviour has been linked to poor sleep habits and sleep deprivation.
Generally, an overtired baby or child will have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep!
We hope that you feel like you have gained some knowledge about the most common misconceptions about sleep! Now you can feel confident giving your own sleep advice 😉