New parents receive a lot of things. Of course, the most important is their new bundle of joy! But there are also the cards. The congratulations. The cute baby clothes. The nursery furniture. The list goes on and on…
But new parents also receive something that they might never have imagined (or wanted)… unsolicited parenting advice!
Have you experienced this yet? The well-wishing family member, friend, co-worker, or even stranger offering up all sorts of advice about raising your child that you never asked for?
This is especially true for parents experiencing sleep struggles with their little one. You know, the one who tells you the reason your baby doesn’t sleep well is because you haven’t gotten them accustomed to taking naps with a marching band parading through his bedroom? Or that all you have to do is give them a bottle of “pablum” at bedtime, and your night-wake issue will be solved?
After a while, the pressure builds to the point where you feel like you just might lose it on the next person that offers up some unsolicited sleep advice for your child.
We know the feeling…
While usually very well-meaning, the advice of others on how to manage your baby’s sleep can be frustrating and (ironically!) exhausting for parents. Making matters worse, much of this advice stems from old myths that have been dispelled with modern science.
To give you some clarity and peace of mind next time someone offers up some outdated sleep advice, we wanted to bust a few of the most common sleep myths wide open:
“Your baby will sleep when they are tired.”
When a baby is tired (i.e. well-rested but ready for sleep) and has healthy, independent sleep habits, then yes, they will sleep. When a baby is OVER-tired and reliant on sleep “props” (think soothers, rocking to sleep, and midnight car rides), then this tired baby is likely to have a very difficult time falling asleep. It sounds counterintuitive, we know, but it is actually much harder for babies to fall asleep if they are exhausted and overstimulated, meaning that the “they’ll sleep when they’re tired” advice is just plain wrong.
“Babies can’t develop sleep habits.”
The truth? It’s less about “habits” and more about learned behaviour. For example, if from birth the only way to get your baby to sleep is by rocking, it is unrealistic to assume that at four months she will simply and suddenly know how to put herself to sleep without the rocking. She learned to associate rocking with sleeping, and now requires it to fall asleep. These are the types of learned behaviours WeeSleep works to correct.
“You should leave the curtains open and run the vacuum under your baby’s crib while he’s napping to ensure he becomes a great sleeper.”
The next time someone seriously suggests this piece of advice, we advise you to wait until that helpful individual is going to bed that evening, and then open the blinds, turn the lights on, and clang some pots and pans around. See how easily they are able to fall asleep in this type of environment. As they’ll quickly learn, this myth is bunk!
Now that’s not to say babies can’t handle a little bit of noise. The womb after all is a pretty noisy place. But that doesn’t mean trying to “train” your child with excessive noise is the proper method to take…no one can sleep with the vacuum running!
“It takes months for babies to learn to sleep at night.”
While many parents are under the impression that it will take them months and months to get their baby to sleep well at night, there isn’t any real science behind this myth. Many babies can learn to sleep in just a few weeks, not months (In fact, our sleep training programs here at WeeSleep are based on results in as few as 10 days, with most babies sleeping through the night within days!).
Babies adapt very quickly to their environment and circumstances. It’s just up to the parents to create a healthy world of consistency and routine for them in which they learn to sleep soundly in no time at all.
“Babies are born knowing how to sleep.”
While yes, all humans are born with the ability to sleep, there is a big difference between being able to physically sleep, and having the skills to fall asleep unassisted. Like anything else, falling asleep unaided is a skill that needs to be developed and learned over time, and the only way to do that is to instill proper sleep habits in your child as early as possible. By teaching your children that they are able to self-soothe and fall asleep without the help of mom or dad, they’ll be much better equipped to develop lifelong healthy sleeping habits.
“Some babies just don’t need that much sleep”
This myth is not only wrong…it’s dangerous too! While some frustrated parents (and nosy strangers) might think that some babies struggling with sleep just aren’t that tired, and might not require the recommended amount of sleep, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sleep is absolutely essential in the health and cognitive development of your child, and babies and toddlers need a whole lot of it in order to properly grow. Rare medical exceptions aside, there is no such thing as a baby that just doesn’t require a whole lot of sleep. They just need to learn how to sleep consistently and healthily.
Raising a child is never easy. And it doesn’t help that many people seem to feel like they are experts on the subject, and that they are doing the world a favour by offering you unsolicited parenting advice.
Don’t get discouraged! This is (unfortunately) just part of the parenthood journey. However now that you know the true science behind the world’s most common sleep tips, you and baby can rest easing knowing that the next time a stranger offers up a common myth via unsolicited sleep advice, you can just let it float in one ear and out the other.
And of course, if you ever have any additional questions or myths you’d like busted, know that WeeSleep is here for you! We’ve helped thousands of babies and toddlers find restful, healthy sleep – and would love to do the same for you. Book your free 15 minute consultation call today!