Sleep expert Ericka Cooley of Cooley Sleep wants to help you sort out fact from fiction when it comes to getting great sleep for your children and yourself. Her first hand experiences and specialized training can help you and your young family members achieve regular, restorative sleep. Ericka frequently fields questions from new moms struggling with a serious lack of sleep. Here are a few of the most common baby sleep myths explained.
Myth #1 – Babies will naturally dictate their own sleep schedule
It’s a reasonable idea that infants can regulate a healthy sleep schedule, but they really need guidance and care. Sleep cycles can be surprisingly erratic and everyday life is filled with interruptions. When a baby misses a sleep cycle by as little as thirty minutes, cortisol production can increase causing a surge in energy. This does not contribute to peaceful resting. Babies also do not simply fall asleep when tired. Of course it is important to pay attention to cues from the child, but there is more you can do to facilitate sleeping.
Myth #2 – Sleeping too much during the day will keep baby up at night
Maybe this is true for an adult, but babies can be frequent nappers and still be ready for sleep at night. Newborns especially need plenty of sleep. They may be awake during the day only for an hour or so at a time. In fact, up until about 6 months, Ericka recommends that your little one be awake for no more than about two to two and a half hours at a time. Unless your little one is sleeping practically all day and up all night, you probably don’t need to concern yourself with the length of their naps.
Overtiredness is what keeps babies awake at night, more than anything else. You might think that an exhausted baby is more likely to stay asleep for a full night than one who slept all day, but it’s actually just the opposite. It is called overtired because baby has missed the “tired” phase and their bodies start to kick back into gear, which keeps them from falling and staying asleep. A baby who has gotten a decent amount of sleep during the day is far less likely to miss the sleep window. Variations of your child’s age and length of naps will be substantial but it is common for a baby up to six months to sleep five hours a day outside of nighttime sleep. If your little one is still within those guidelines, let them snooze.
Myth #3 – Babies are not designed to sleep through the night
In a similar way that children gain taste and eating habits from their parents and caregivers, the adults can also provide guidance and authority to help children develop healthy sleep habits. People are often ready to assist their children with most other aspects of their lives such as regulating screen time, but abdicate to a child’s apparent sleep desires.
Myth #4 – Sleeping is a natural development and can’t be taught
Sleeping is natural, absolutely. Everybody wakes up and falls back to sleep multiple times a night, regardless of age. That being said, you cannot teach a child to be sleepy, however you can teach him or her to fall back to sleep independently. A baby who may appear to be a difficult sleeper isn’t less in need of sleep or more prone to waking up. Baby, instead, has learned to depend on outside assistance to get back to sleep when awake. Once your little one has figured out how to get to sleep without assistance from outside sources, baby can start stringing sleep cycles together effortlessly. It is not literally sleeping through the night, but you could call it that.
Myth #5 – Sleep training is stressful for the baby and can affect the parent-child attachment
The American Academy of Pediatrics in a 2016 study conducted by eight of their top researchers found that behavioral intervention (sleep training) “provide(s) significant sleep benefits above control, yet convey(s) no adverse stress responses or long-term effects on parent-child attachment or child emotions and behavior.”
Ericka would like to get you past the stigmas of teaching sleep habits. It is not surprising that we can all use a little help.
Sleep is critical for the whole family. Our bodies and brains function best when everyone is getting adequate amounts. You can take a sleep assessment with Cooley Sleep and schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation. Ericka is excited to talk with you about all aspects of sleeping or lack there of and find a program to fit your needs.
Ericka is giving holding two speaking events to answer your questions about infant sleep. Attend her presentation on Friday, August 23 at 5pm at the Lacey Timberland Library or on Saturday, August 31 a 3pm at the Olympia Timberland Library.