The Sleep Lies Moms Tell Themselves
Read on to find even more sleep lies that may be preventing your baby from sleeping their best!
Can we be real for a second? I have mom anxiety. I stress over everything. I over prepare and worry like a maniac. It’s real. While there are times it doesn’t seem to bother me one bit, there are also times when I feel paralyzed to do anything. In ever preparing to avoid this freezing anxiety, I often find myself thinking that one little thing is going to magically be able to fix whatever I am worried about. One time, in preparation for a road trip, I packed the BEST activities for my children. I spent time researching what activities to plan and take on a road trip. I went out and bought the needed items and spent time organizing the different activities for our 7-hour road trip. I was sure these activities would keep my children entertained and happy. They would be smiling, giggling, and laughing the whole trip. I know you know how this ends, but I have to say it anyway. They barely played with anything I brought. They mostly cried and ate some snacks. But then something magical did happen. They figured out how to be happy in their car seats without my help. The times they were laughing and giggling were not when they were quietly playing with my carefully packed activities but when they had nothing but each other to giggle with. Those moments were pure joy. And the moments of endless crying were pure hell.
My point? How often do we, as moms, believe the lie and wind up hurting ourselves or our children while we figure out the truth? Sometimes these lies come from the media, sometimes from misinformation, and sometimes we just make them up in our own mind. At some point we tend to figure out the truth, but that usually takes some trial and error and lesson learning on our part--which is not always fun. Oh how I wish I could go back and save my precious time and money and just pack up the kids in the car with a few books, balls, and cars, and lots of snacks. You better believe the next trip I went on I did just that. It was longer, 8 hours I believe, and my kids did great. Yes there was still crying… because as much as I try to think I can control how much they cry it isn’t true. Crying, hurt, and pain are all part of this experience we call life. Packing the right toy will not make my children stop crying!
1. Lie: My 3-month-old should be able to sleep through the night. Truth: Biologically, babies need to eat at night until 9 months of age. Some babies do begin sleeping through the night much earlier than that, but our goal age for sleeping through the night should be 9 months. If our baby does it earlier, we can consider ourselves lucky!
2. Lie: It’s normal for my 12 month, 18 month, 2 year old, or 3 year old to not be sleeping through the night yet. It will happen when he is ready.
Truth: Babies can begin sleeping through the night at 9 months when they are sleep trained. A sleep trained baby and child (and adult) will wake at night but be able to roll over and fall back asleep. When a child is not sleep trained, he will not understand how to fall back asleep, and this can disrupt his quality of sleep. When a child continues to wake at night there may be other issues at play with their health. Perhaps they are overtired, or tongue-tied, or even have a sleep disorder. When a child is sleep trained and sleeping through the night regularly, it is much easier to makes certain he is getting the sleep he needs and that nothing else is wrong.
3. Lie: A late bedtime isn’t harmful if my baby is still getting enough sleep at night.
Truth: Babies get the most restful sleep at the beginning of the night. Your baby may be sleeping sufficient hours at night, but still be overtired because he is not going to bed early enough and getting the best quality sleep. Babies and toddlers should be going to bed between 6-8pm.
4. Lie: “It’s just a phase.” Your baby will outgrow any sleep regression on his own.
Truth: While some babies do seem to outgrow a sleep regression, most babies need to be sleep trained and have a consistent routine and sleep schedule to improve sleep from a sleep regression. If your child has not improved his sleep from a sleep regression in two weeks on his own, then it may be time to make some interventions to help him overcome it.
5. Lie: My baby is a bad sleeper because he is constantly teething!
Truth: Teething only affects sleep 1-2 days, literally when the tooth is breaking through. I know I will have every mom telling me otherwise, but again and again the research is telling us the opposite. Check out this article or perhaps this one. Convinced yet?
6. Lie: My baby isn’t sleeping well because he is so small, and the chubbier the baby the better he sleeps.
Truth: Small babies and big babies can all sleep well. It is important to discuss nighttime feedings with your pediatrician to make sure your baby is getting enough to eat, but once a child is sleep trained he has the greatest chance of sleeping his best
7. Lie: Cry It Out is unsafe for my baby. A good mother wouldn’t let her baby just cry.
Truth: CIO will not physically harm your baby, and it is possible to use sleep training as a chance to strengthen your attachment with your child. Unfortunately, part of being a good mom is giving your baby what he needs over what he wants. CIO is the most effective way to help your child learn how to sleep, and sleep well. It’s not for everyone, but there doesn’t need to be mom guilt around choosing Cry It Out for you and your family. Want to read more about the research on CIO? Check out this article and this one.
8. Lie: If you put your baby to bed later he will sleep in later.
Truth: Babies often have an internal alarm clock and will wake at the same time every day regardless of when the baby went to bed. If you want your baby to sleep in longer you may want to try putting him to bed earlier. Sleep begets sleep.
9. Lie: TV or screen time helps calm my child to sleep.
Truth The light from screens tells our bodies it is not time to sleep. Even watching screens during the day can affect your toddler’s sleep at night! For every hour toddlers watch TV during the day, they will get 15 minutes less of sleep. Fifteen minutes can make a big difference on a young child.
10. Lie: If my baby cries at night, it means he needs me immediately; he is hungry or in pain.
Truth: Babies cry for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes they cry out for no good reason at all, and the last thing they need is their parent. At the very least give them the chance to gain their confidence and work it out on their own for a few minutes.
11. Lie: Co-sleeping creates a strong attachment.
Truth: Attachment is a complex issue that is not made or broken over one specific behavior or habit. There is a misconception that attachment is formed by always meeting our child’s needs and never letting them cry. And this is true for the first 4 months of their life. But eventually, and you can decide when as a parent, attachment is strengthened by allowing our children to struggle and grow alone and then coming back together to rejoice or sorrow over our experiences. Even repairing times where the parent wasn’t there are essential in forming a secure attachment.
12. Lie: I should just know how to help my baby sleep, and if I don’t, then I am a bad mom.
Truth: Every baby is different, and will vary in sleep needs, best sleep practices, and how to help him sleep his best. No one book will work for every baby! No one needs any more mom guilt; you are doing the best you can, and you will figure this out too. But if you need a little extra help because you aren’t a baby sleep expert, come to me! That’s what I am here for.
13. Lie: Sleep training didn’t work for my baby.
Truth: Sleep training always works when done correctly with a healthy baby. Oftentimes when parents are unsuccessful sleep training they may have made a little mistake. Sometimes one little thing can be the difference between success and failure.
14. Lie: I can’t sleep train my baby because of ________ (illness, vacations, room sharing, etc).
Truth: Almost all of these exceptions can be worked around while sleep training. Many times parents believe these exceptions are causing bad sleep, but a sleep trained child will actually be able to sleep better in any situation.
15. Lie: My baby sleeps great in the swing or car seat; there is no reason to have him sleep in his crib.
Truth: It’s true that motion sleeping can be great for newborns, but as your baby gets older and older, motion sleep becomes less restorative. So your child may be missing out on the sleep he needs to grow and develop to become the best he possibly can. You may notice sleep regressions elsewhere or just a plain old grumpy and difficult child.
16. Lie: I don’t need my child on a schedule. I just put her down when she is tired, and she does great.
Truth: Initially this is how all babies start out. As they grow, and around 5-6 months, you want your baby on a nap schedule by the clock instead of just when she seems tired. I suggest this for multiple reasons. Having your baby on an age appropriate schedule means that she will be getting sufficient sleep. Often when we ‘wing’ sleep needs, we end up on the short side. Naps by the clock help your baby’s body regulate melatonin. Their bodies will produce melatonin at the same times each day and night, helping them sleep better and deeper.
17. Lie: It’s better to sleep train at night and then work on naps later.
Truth: It’s better to sleep train nights and naps at the same time. Consistency is key, and the more consistent you are, the easier it will be for your child to understand what is happening. Not to mention babies who get help falling asleep for naps will ‘catch up’ on their sleep during the day and resist sleep training at night.
18. Lie: I have to wean my baby at night to sleep train.
Truth: Sleep training is all about helping babies learn to fall asleep at the beginning of the night and for naps completely unassisted. You can, and should, still feed your baby at night according to what your pediatrician recommends.
19. Lie: It will be easier to sleep train a toddler than a baby. I will co-sleep now.
Truth: Co-sleeping is a great option for some families. If you are co-sleeping now because you are afraid of sleep training, I promise you it will be harder to kick a 3 year old out of your bed. Everything is harder with a toddler. So, if you plan to co-sleep past 1.5 years, I recommending finding a parent who can inform you what it is like to get a 3 year old sleeping in his own bed, and decide if that is something you are comfortable doing. Also talk to a parent who has sleep trained their baby, and decide if that may actually be worth it for you.
20. Lie: My baby will sleep better and longer if I have him sleep with me.
Truth: This can definitely be true for some infants, but not all. Some infants really don’t sleep longer and better with their parents. Even babies who do sleep great next to you will at some point begin to need you in order to sleep. This creates a big problem because babies and toddlers need so much more sleep than you, and will often end up not getting enough sleep.
21. Nursing my newborn to sleep will create a bad sleep habit.
Truth: Whether it is nursing, rocking, using the binky, or anything else used to help your newborn fall asleep, your newborn can't and won't create a bad habit from it. Newborns do not have the ability to self-soothe and they need your help to fall asleep. Once a baby is 4 months old he can begin to learn how to self-soothe and fall asleep unassisted. Around 4 months you will begin to help your baby fall asleep without as much assistance. This can be a slow process or a quick process. The most important sleep piece for a newborn is to help them stay well-rested!
If any of these sound familiar to you, don’t waste another minute letting a lie destroy you! Contact me today to help you establish sleep truths in your life so that you and your baby can start sleeping and feeling better!