A sleep scientist busts the myths you've heard about baby sleep
When I had my first child I began to read up on articles for new parents about baby sleep. I’m not sure what was more shocking to me, how much information there was or how little of it was backed up by science. Instead, my work in a Nobel-Prize winning sleep research lab became my guide for managing my children’s sleep schedule.
This week I’m sharing with you three big myths I hear often about baby sleep and why they don’t add up for this sleep scientist.
Myth 1: You should never wake a sleeping baby.
It's commonly believed that you shouldn't wake sleeping babies, however, the truth is your baby is reliant on the schedule you give him to develop his circadian rhythm. He’s relying on your guidance for waking, sleeping, eating and even playtime. When you establish a clear and consistent schedule for all these parts of his day it helps entrain his internal clock and additionally, it also helps you plan your life.
When it's the end of his nap time and he's not yet awake it's absolutely okay to gently wake him to maintain the schedule. This way he’ll be ready for bed at his next naptime and more likely to sleep for the correct amount of time for his age.
Myth 2: Sleep begets sleep.
This piece of advice has been handed down for generations, people used to believe that the more your baby slept through the day, the better she'd sleep at night. Now, sleep science tells us that’s not true.
Your baby needs a set quantity of sleep depending on her age (check last week’s blog for how long that is). If she sleeps for too long during the day, she'll have a hard time falling asleep at night.
As she gets older you can lessen the length of her daytime naps until finally, she manages to sleep through the night.
Myth 3: Keeping baby awake is unhealthy.
Here’s another bit of advice handed out to new parents, again, science tells us the opposite. Sometimes you'll need to keep baby awake a little bit longer when you're dropping or shortening naps. As you drop naps you’ll have to keep your baby awake during a time they’re used to being asleep but in the long run, this will be better for their new schedule.
So long as you make these transitions in small increments over a longer period of time it is absolutely okay to play with baby or occupy her and keep her awake a bit longer than usual.
All the things you've heard about baby sleep that just aren't true are explained in my book "How Babies Sleep". Additionally, I explain simple sleep science to help you understand how to get the best night’s sleep for you and your baby. Click this link to pre-order on Kindle or Audiobook (no going outside necessary!) or paperback (which you can get delivered). Keep safe everyone!