SLEEP MYTHS BUSTED
The subject of baby sleep might seem like an unsolved mystery to most, but by uncovering a few common myths, we can all sleep easy. Baby sleep consultant EMMA PURDUE explains
Baby sleep consultant Emma Purdue explains some common sleep myths
MYTH ONE: THE ONLY WAY TO TEACH YOUR BABY TO SELF-SETTLE IS CIO
This is a common one and many people believe self-settling and ‘cry it out’ are synonymous. But teaching your child to selfsettle doesn’t have to involve cry it out, especially if you are not comfortable with this. You can work on putting your baby into bed drowsy but awake in the first 12 weeks. This can sometimes lead to a baby naturally developing those self-settling skills, especially with a good sleep environment, a steady nap routine and lots of positive sleep associations. Or if you get to 4-6 months and want to try some sleep training and cry it out isn’t for you, there are lots of gentle options where you can stay and support your baby both physically and emotionally as they learn to self-settle.
MYTH TWO: BABIES NEED FORMULA TO SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT
Believing that babies need formula to sleep better is a myth that has been around since the 1940s when advertising meant infant formula gained immense popularity. The reality is that we have just as many breastfeeding babies on our books who sleep through the night as we do formula fed. The majority of night sleep issues in older babies are due to sleep associations as opposed to how they are fed.
MYTH THREE: PUT YOUR BABY TO BED LATER SO THEY SLEEP LATER
If your baby or toddler is waking early in the morning, chances are you are desperate for a solution! Unlike us adults who love to sleep in when we have a late night, babies and toddlers tend to wake earlier the more over-tired they are. So moving their bed time will probably give you an even earlier start to the day! Instead, try a much earlier bed time, even 30 minutes earlier than usual. Consider investing in some black out blinds.
MYTH FOUR: SLEEP YOUR BABY IN THE LIGHT SO THEY KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DAY AND NIGHT
Your baby’s circadian rhythm doesn’t fully develop until 3-4 months; the circadian rhythm is the system that lets us humans know what time of day it is. It is true that newborn babies don’t understand the difference between day and night. To help them learn and help the circadian rhythm develop, expose your baby to natural lighting when they are awake during the day, and keep the lights off when you are feeding at night. You will find trying to settle your baby for a nap in the light becomes increasingly more difficult as the weeks tick over. This is because the light interferes with their sleep hormones needed to fall asleep, and can be very distracting! Try a dark sleep space for naps and night sleep.
MYTH FIVE: NEVER LET YOUR BABY FALL ASLEEP AT THE BREAST, AS THEY WILL DEVELOP A FEED-TOSLEEP ASSOCIATION
Often in the late evening your baby will be so drowsy from their long day, they will be fighting the urge to fall asleep as they take their last feed. Their body temperature is dropping; their melatonin levels are rising and the drive to sleep is massive! So, when you throw in some skin-on-skin as you breastfeed your baby, chances are they fall asleep feeding. This will not result in a feedto-sleep association, I promise you! For a sleep association to take root, you need to settle your baby that way virtually every time they go to sleep. Relax and enjoy your snuggly sleepy evening feed.
MYTH SIX: YOUR BABY HATES THEIR SWADDLE; THIS IS WHY THEY FIGHT IT
Lots of babies cry and fight you when you try to swaddle them for a nap. It can appear that they don’t want to be wrapped up, but then you probably notice they sleep worse without it. You can’t win! They don’t hate their swaddle; they are probably just a smidgen over-tired at the time. Try swaddling your baby sooner in the settling process, and make sure you then pick them up to settle before popping them into bed to sleep. This will help build a positive association between the swaddle and cuddles with you, meaning less tears in the long run!
Emma Purdue is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the Block educator, director and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant Ltd and mother of three.