“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you I the most trouble;
it’s what you know that ain‘t so!” Mark Twain
Sometimes we accept crazy things as fact. In the 1960’s, doctors were thought newborns felt no pain (even during a circumcision!)…and that crying was good exercise for a baby’s lungs. We even prescribed opium drops to babies to stop colicky crying!
But, before you hurt yourself laughing too loudly, you may be surprised how many crazy ideas about infant sleep we still believe are true. Here are 6 of today’s top sleep myth-conceptions!
Myth 1: It takes months for babies to learn to sleep well at night.
No. It usually only takes a few weeks…if you use the right sleep cues. All your baby needs is swaddling and rumbly white noise.
Myth 2: Sleeping babies need complete quiet.
Huh? Did you ever see a baby fall deep asleep at a noisy party or sporting event? (Could you do that?) Remember, the womb is loud…24 hours a day. So, a quiet, still room is actually a sensory desert to your baby…sort of like putting you alone, in a dark closet!
Myth 3: Rocking or nursing your baby to sleep every night creates a dependency.
Well…yes, it will…but it’s a myth that that’s a bad thing!
Let me explain: We all have sleep associations – sleep cues – to help us relax into slumber. (Do you prefer a dark room? Special pillow? Favorite sheets? Reading? TV? White noise?)
So, long before delivery, your baby got totally used to the wonderful womb sensations – jiggly motion, rumbly sound and snug cuddling . That’s why rocking babies to sleep works so well. (It’s also why car rides help.) But, problems arise because rocking and nursing to sleep: 1) are very hard to wean (you can’t really do them a little less every day), and 2) they undermine your baby’s learning to self-soothe, the ability to fall back sleep if accidentally awakened.
The good news is that with the help of the wake-and-sleep technique, you can rock and nurse your baby to sleep and still help her learn great self–soothing skills. (More about wake-and-sleep in The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep: Birth to 5)
Myth 4: Swaddling should be stopped at 2 months.
Totally wrong!!!! In fact, two months is the worst time to stop swaddling.
Swaddling reduces crying and night waking, which both peak at two to four months. That’s exactly why 2-4 months is the peak period of marital stress, child abuse, postpartum depression, unsafe sleeping practices, breastfeeding struggles, car accidents…even mom obesity!
Wrapping also helps keep your baby from rolling to the risky stomach position, which can significantly raise SIDS risk!
(If your baby rolls while swaddled: 1) check that you’re wrapping snuggly and correctly and 2) make sure you’re playing strong, rumbly white noise – all night.)
Myth 5: Never wake a sleeping baby
Nope. You should always wake your sleeping baby…when you place him in the bassinet. The wake—and—sleep technique is the first step in helping your little one develop the ability to drift back into sleep, when a noise or hiccup accidentally rouses him in the middle of the night.
Myth 6: Letting babies cry themselves to sleep makes them better sleepers.
No. Some books – and doctors – advise leaving crying babies alone, in the dark until the morning (the so called extinction method of sleep training) or to let them cry, but return every few minutes for a couple of seconds of reassurance (the so called controlled crying method of sleep training).
But, ignoring your baby’s nighttime cries goes totally against your mam (papa) instincts. I’ll admit that I’ve rarely used controlled crying when I’ve worked with parents who desperately needed some life-saving sleep, but it’s really a last resort.
Fortunately, by using the 5 S’s, most babies can quickly learn good sleep habits without ever being abandoned to cry!