Busting Baby Sleep Myths With Kerry Secker
When it comes to baby sleep, there are a lot of myths bandied about. A big part of my sleep approach is reassuring you what’s natural and normal. I love busting a bed myth or two for you! So without further ado, let's get myth busting!
Myth: Never wake a sleeping baby
Fact: Sometimes waking a sleeping baby is the key to getting on an even keel and keeping you there!
Sleep can breed sleep, and I certainly wouldn’t wake a sleeping baby unless I absolutely had to and I was quietly confident it could help their sleep. I really dislike waking a sleeping baby myself, let alone suggesting a parent do this. Mainly because I spend so much time trying to get babies to sleep that it seems silly to suggest waking them up! Sometimes, waking your sleeping baby is the key to getting their sleep on an even keel, and keeping it there!
Three reasons why I might suggest waking a sleeping baby are:
- If they wake up in the morning at different times and it’s a big difference
- If the morning nap is too long and impacting their afternoon nap
- If the last nap was going on too late and impacting their bedtime
Ultimately, if it’s working for you, your baby, and their sleep I wouldn’t suggest changing anything.
Myth: Naps need to be in the cot to count
Fact: Wherever naps happen, they all count!
Your baby’s sleep during the day is slightly different to their nighttime sleep. This is because during the day your baby doesn’t produce their sleep hormone AKA melatonin. Naps happen when they’ve had enough awake time and built up enough pressure to fall asleep.
Babies also naturally have lighter sleep cycles and don't sleep as deeply as they do at night. Daytime sleep is about preventing them from getting overtired, and sleep at night is about rest and restoration.
It’s for these reasons that a nap is a nap, wherever it takes place! Naps never need to be in a cot unless you want them there. A nap in a car, sling, pram or on a parent are not bad habits, and are only an issue if they are causing problems for you and your little one. If they’re working for you, your baby and their sleep you don’t need to stop.
For reassurance, know that where or how your baby naps is very, very unlikely to impact where they sleep at night, or be the reason why they wake frequently at night.
Myth: Put your baby down to sleep drowsy but awake
Fact: Put them down in a way that’s working for you!
There’s so much pressure to put your baby down to sleep drowsy but awake. It’s often sold as the holy grail when it comes to baby sleep - get your baby down drowsy but awake and all their sleep issues will be solved! However, the reality is a drowsy but awake state is very hard for your baby to reach. So hard, in fact, I call this the unicorn sleep state!
Some babies will naturally do drowsy but awake but for most, they’re either drowsy or awake. There’s no in-between, and it’s very hard your baby to do both at the same time! It's natural to worry about how your baby is going down to sleep. However, I want to reassure you that it is rare that the way your baby goes to sleep will cause frequent wake-ups at night. In fact, it’s the last thing I look at because it’s so unlikely!
If your baby doesn’t do drowsy but awake you aren’t doing anything wrong. Equally, if your baby does go down drowsy but awake, there’s no need to change a thing.
Myth: Sleep is all about getting your baby to self-soothe
Fact: Your baby doesn’t have the ability to self-soothe!
There’s so much pressure to teach your baby to self-soothe otherwise they’ll never sleep well or independently. Self-soothing is the ability to calm yourself down once you’ve lost control of your emotions AKA self-regulate. To effectively self-soothe, you need three important parts of your brain to be fully wired. Often, the pathways needed to do this can take up until puberty to be fully formed
When your baby loses control of their emotions, they’re unable to calm down by themselves because their brains aren’t wired to do this yet. And they need your help and support to calm down and co-regulate!
I want to reassure you that self-soothing isn’t something you can teach or train or your baby to do. It happens when their brain is fully developed. It’s always ok to respond to and support your baby if they cry. This helps them develop their self-regulation skills later on. Sleep aids, and soothers such as teethers or dummies, as well as their favourite toy can all help your little one calm down and ease them back into a relaxed sleepy state.
Remember, self-soothing has nothing to do with falling asleep. Nor does it have anything to do with your baby putting him or herself back to sleep when they wake at night. Independently or not!
Stay Sleep aware
I really hope you found these sleep myths interesting and reassuring to read. With all the information out there with regards to your baby's sleep, and the expectations placed on new parents, it can feel like an absolute minefield. The reality is that every baby and family is different, and what works for some won't work for others. While there may not be a magical quick fix or holy grail, one-size-fits-all method, there will be a right way for your baby. Trust your instinct, and don't be so hard on yourself!