10 myths about babies' sleep
The reason so many myths about baby sleep exist is because well-meaning people want to share their own experiences. But children are different, and what works for one is not necessarily right for another. In addition, children's sleep is something that attracts marketers trying to sell ideas or products to parents.
1. MYTH - Babies need to go to bed at 7 o'clock
There is no research to suggest that. Especially for children under one year. There are studies that show that children in different countries fall asleep at different times and feel equally well. There are studies that recommend encouraging sleep between 6 and 8 in the evening to synchronize the baby's sleep pattern with the secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin, when it begins to affect sleep around 4 to 5 months of age. But to say that 7 o'clock is a must is not true. Small babies need to sleep when they are tired and they can be wide awake at 7. Trying to get them to sleep then is futile and often ends in tears.
2. MYTH - Never wake a sleeping baby
Healthy babies wake up when they are hungry and look tired when they need to sleep. Most babies wake up to eat about every two to four hours. Small babies need to eat often as their stomachs are small and can only hold small amounts of milk after each meal. In the beginning, most children eat irregularly, but after about 4 months a pattern usually forms. A healthy baby is unlikely to need to be woken to feed. However, children who were born prematurely, or who have problems keeping their weight up due to jaundice or some other illness, may need to be woken up to make sure they get enough food. However, this must be done in consultation with medical personnel.
3. MYTH - Children need quiet to sleep / Children need sound to sleep
What your baby needs to sleep is very individual. Some children can fall asleep and stay asleep anywhere, be it quiet or lots of noise. Other children are different and may need peace and quiet to be able to fall asleep. There are no studies that indicate that a certain environment would be more favorable for sleep, precisely for that reason, it is individual. Babies who have been able to fall asleep anywhere may find it harder to do so as they become more aware of the world around them. It is common for around 4 months of age to find it difficult to shut out stimulation and then they may need a quieter environment to sleep. The best thing is to observe your child to see what suits them best.
4. MYTH - Babies should sleep through the night from an early age
Of course that would be wonderful! But the reality is that babies need to wake up often to eat as their stomachs are small and can only hold small amounts of food after each meal. Your baby also depends on you 24/7 for physical contact and comfort. Most babies are unable to put themselves back to sleep if they wake up with gas or other discomfort. So they need us to calm down. Studies have shown both that babies who wake frequently to feed have a greater chance of long and successful breastfeeding and that it is associated with fewer cases of sudden infant death syndrome. A newborn does not have sufficient levels of the sleep hormone melatonin, so it is not realistic to expect a small baby to sleep through the night without waking. Remember that children are individuals with very different sleep patterns. Some sleep longer than others. If you are worried about your child's sleep and are thinking of starting some form of sleep training, it is good to consult a nurse or doctor first so that you get good advice and support and do not start too early when the child is too small.
5. MYTH - Put the baby to bed late at night and it will sleep longer in the morning
This myth does not need any further explanation as most people who have tried it know that it does not work. Not only do babies who go to sleep late tend to wake up at the same time in the morning, they often have a restless night as their sleep patterns have been disrupted. Babies who are overtired often have trouble settling down. So be careful if someone gives you this advice, as they probably haven't tried it themselves in that case.
6. MYTH - Babies should be able to fall asleep by themselves
Considering that babies have spent 9 months sleeping, growing and moving in a completely different environment, it is perhaps not so surprising that some babies need more help learning to sleep outside the womb than others. How children fall asleep is affected by various factors, such as their temperature and experiences. If your baby has trouble settling down, remember that babies are still developing and being able to fall asleep on their own is something they learn over time. Some adults have not succeeded in the art of falling asleep easily, so don't have too high expectations. Over time, children learn to calm down and fall asleep if they are comforted when they are anxious and allowed to calm down when they are calm. However, if a child becomes overtired, it is more difficult to get them to settle down, so try to avoid situations where the child may be too tired before they have a chance to fall asleep.
7. MYTH - Babies can only sleep in a warm environment
Most babies enjoy sleeping in our arms because the experience is similar to being in the womb. Over time, they become more and more used to sleeping in their own bed. The difficulty is that while they were warm and cozy inside their stomachs, they got all the oxygen they needed through the umbilical cord. After birth, there is an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome if the sleeping environment is not safe. Small babies should therefore sleep on their backs on a firm, flat surface. Sheets and comforters should be securely fastened so that they cannot end up over the baby's face, and stuffed animals and pillows should not be in a small baby's bed. If the child sleeps in a pram, babysitter, baby carrier or your arms. make sure their neck is straight so the airway is open. Also check that their face is not pressed into something that causes them to rebreathe the air they just exhaled.
8. MYTH - Swaddle your baby as long as you want
You can use a swaddle or sleeping bag where the baby has his arms free for as long as you want. But for safety reasons, babies should have their arms free when they sleep from being able to roll. Using a swaddle or sleeping bag with the arms inside often helps a small baby settle down and sleep. But after a while, the reflexes that a swaddle helps with (that the baby throws up its arms and wakes itself up, for example) start to disappear, so a swaddle is most effective in the beginning. If you have a sleeping bag that can be converted from a swaddle to a bag, you can let the baby sleep with one arm outside for the first few nights, then leave both arms outside. It can help in the transition from swaddle to sleeping bag.
9. MYTH - It's ok to let babies sleep on their side
According to research on sudden infant death syndrome, babies who sleep on their sides or stomachs are at higher risk of suffocation than those who sleep on their backs. A baby who sleeps on his side can easily roll over onto his stomach. In addition, babies have very soft chests and lying on their sides, the whole body weight presses on one half of the body while the body tries to fill the lungs completely with each breath. Allowing babies to sleep on their backs has been shown to be safest until they can change positions on their own, which happens after they learn to roll over.
10. MYTH - Give a breastfed baby a bottle with formula and they will sleep longer
There is no evidence that it would work and it can also cause the baby to have a stomach ache Babies need to eat often to get enough nutrition, so the recommendation is to feed them when they are hungry rather than offering something that inhibits digestion . Quick solutions are not always the best in the long run. Please speak to a medical professional before changing a breastfed baby's diet.
A word about myths: If someone recommends something that doesn't feel right to you, then it probably isn't right for your baby. No one knows your child like their parents, so if in doubt, listen to your gut.
Reference: ErgoPouch, 6 October 2017. Helen Stevens, Nurse and Midwife with focus on children and family and sleep in newborns as a special interest. Translated from English.