We've all heard the term "sleeping like a baby." But, um, have you ever been around a sleeping baby? As it turns out, they're not so peaceful. There are a ton of baby sleep myths that can affect how you feel about the wee hours with your little one—and these exaggerated “facts” can make you feel frustrated and clueless when it comes to the Land of Nod. By knowing what to believe and what to ignore, you'll sleep a lot easier and so will your babe.
"You should feed your baby solids to sleep better at night."
There's a good chance a well-meaning aunt has totally you to put cereal in your baby's bottle to fill him up and get him to sleep better. But the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't recommend starting solids until six months—and besides, this approach is ineffective. "My thoughts are that introducing solids is fun, but there's no need to rush it," says infant and child sleep consultant Krista Guenther."If your child is having disruptive wakings, cereal isn't going to keep him sleeping." Feeding too early can also rob your little dreamer of nutrients he needs from breast milk or formula.
"All sleep problems are just phases."
Let's be honest: most sleep problems during the first year are phases that your little one goes through. He'll slip from waking three times a night to sleeping peacefully and then back to waking again. But some behaviors are more than just phases, according to Kim Schaf, Midwest Regional Director for the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants. "The [myth] I hear most often is that children will grow out of their sleep problems—it's just a phase. But if it lasts longer than about 2 weeks (long enough to determine if sickness, teething, travel, etc are the culprits), it's become a habit." If you suspect that your little one's sleep issues are becoming habitual, talk to your pediatrician about unlearning those bad sleep habits or medical issues that could be contributing.
"Babies sleep through the night by three months."
Hear that noise? It's the collective scoffing from every woman who has ever been told that her baby should be sleeping through the night. All babies have different sleep patterns and there's no true normal except for the amount of time your baby should sleep in 24 hours, which is anywhere from 12 to 18 hours. Comparing your little one to another person's baby can make you feel discouraged. Relax! You have a normal, healthy baby on your hands.
"If you keep your baby up later, he'll sleep better at night."
Naps are nothing to mess with. In fact, sometimes, a fussy baby at night could actually mean overtiredness, not being too wakeful. Keeping your baby awake during nap time or waking him up while he rests doesn't automatically mean you'll get more shuteye at night. Instead, you could be shooting yourself in the foot by making your little one even more cranky and less likely to fall asleep, not to mention missing that hour of sanity you get from naptime.
"Your baby has to sleep in a crib for it to count as sleep."
Any parent knows the feeling of relief that comes with a baby fast asleep in a stroller or slumbering in the car seat. But some say that sleeping anywhere other than the crib doesn't really count toward your little one's healthy sleep total. Guess what? If your baby's eyes are closed and he's busy dreaming of a never-ending supply of milk, it counts. Pat yourself on the back, breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy a few relaxing moments of me-time.
"Babies need complete silence to sleep."
Tip-toeing around your sleeping tot might seem courteous, but it could hurt you in the long run. Babies who only sleep in perfect quiet conditions can have trouble getting to sleep and may not sleep soundly. Any little noise, ding-dong or car driving by could interrupt what was supposed to be nap time. Instead, invest in a white noise machine or fan—it'll create constant noise so your little one can sleep, but you won't have to stay completely silent.
You should start sleep training your baby right away."
Sleep training methods, like Ferberizing or the Pantley Method, are meant to help your little one get to sleep and stay asleep so you can catch up on your own z's. But sleep training should never be used on a baby under six months of age—until then, he'll cry when he's hungry, wet or needs his mama, not because he's manipulating you. Don't cut him off until you know he's big enough to go all night without a bite to eat or a changing. Until then, you're at baby’s beck and call.
Your little one's sleep schedule can be your source of stress, but it's a normal part of the first year of your baby's life. What's right for someone else's baby might not be right for your little one, so trust your instincts. Expect plenty of ups and downs, nighttime waking and midnight snuggles. While you might feel like a sleep-deprived zombie, you won't want to have it any other way.