Today we will tell you about the 8 most common myths on how to help your baby sleep well – which usually do more harm than good…!
1. You need to tire them out, and then they will sleep well
That golden rule often heard from a mother or grandmother – if you thoroughly tire your child out, he/she will sleep better.
As a result, many parents do not allow their children to sleep after 3pm or 4pm, keeping them awake until the evening and hoping for an easier bed time with a longer and uninterrupted night’s sleep. I’ve also heard about parents waking up their child from all naps and shortening their daily sleep to a minimum to achieve a good night’s sleep – also with little success.
This may sound strange but children who rest and take naps during the day tend to sleep better at night. Tired children are sometimes easier or faster to get to sleep, but they will almost certainly wake during the night.
4 or 5 hours from nap to bedtime is not recommended for babies under 9 months and it’s best to wait until the child is at least one year old to have longer periods of ‘awake’ time.
2. The later you put your child to sleep, the longer he/she will sleep in the morning
Children can go to sleep at different times, although according to current research it is best if they fall asleep before 9pm – this way they will sleep better and longer at night. In our opinion, the best time to put the little one to sleep is between 7-8pm. The problem starts when the little ones fall asleep at that time of the evening and wake up happy at 5am ready to start the day. Therefore most parents believe that by putting them to sleep 2-3 hours later, there is a chance that their baby will wake up 1-2 hours later in the morning. As a result, the child may wake up at the same time anyway and would have slept less.
Don’t get us wrong, sometimes it’s worth delaying putting them to bed, but our experience shows that this is good advice in 1 in 10 cases. This usually works well for 2-3 year olds, whose naps are still long, and they have less sleep needs as they grow. If your child gets up very early, there are usually several other reasons that may be the cause of this and it’s possible that it is not because of their early bedtime.
3. Never wake your child up
Well – sometimes it’s worth waking children up, and it can bring more benefits and more sleep for a child than you can even imagine. Very often it is enough to, for example, just shorten the child’s afternoon nap a little, to get much more sleep at night. We mentioned above that in the afternoons children must sleep to not be overtired. Yes – but if the nap lasts from 3pm to 6:30pm, it is difficult to expect your baby to want to fall asleep at 7 or 8:00pm. If they do fall asleep, they will no doubt wake up shortly after ready to play, since they have re-charged their batteries with a long afternoon nap. It’s the same with the morning waking. Many parents complain that their children don’t fall asleep until 9 or 10pm, but are happy that they sleep in until 10am. Some parents who experience long nightly wake-ups, allow themselves and their children to sleep in in the morning. The problem is that if you allow your child to sleep off the nightly wake-ups during the day, there is no chance they’ll fall asleep at bedtime.
A reasonable time waking up a child from a nap or in the morning makes a lot of sense. You need to be careful though, because if you wake them up too early, you’ll have a grumpy and tired child at home who will not allow a pleasant afternoon!
4. My child has low sleep needs
90% of children who come to us don’t get enough sleep, either during naps or at night. Why? Many reasons; they can not fall asleep at a good time, the day’s plan is not right, because the child is hungry. Meanwhile, most parents assume that their children simply have low sleep needs and do not need more. If your little one sleeps less than “average”, but at the same time is in a good mood, has an appetite and is not weepy – maybe he actually does have low sleep needs. If on the other hand, during the entire “sleeplessness”, the child is grumpy, hyperactive, busy and tearful at certain times of the day – most probably they simply need more sleep.
5. Since I am not sleeping well, my children will be the same
Many parents see similarities of themselves in their children. And yes, certainly many children inherit things from us – but do not assume that if you slept poorly, then your children will sleep poorly too. Many of our clients are surprised at how different their children are to themselves. Just look at how different the needs of siblings can be.
From a psychological point of view, it’s often that we transfer our dreams, fears, skills and lack of them to our children. Naturally, we assume that if something was working for an older brother or sister, this time it should also work. Meanwhile, children are different from ourselves and from their siblings. The biggest gift that we can give them is a blank card and insightful observation, based on their individual needs.
6. Loud and clear
Children should sleep in silence or with white noise, in a dark room, which determines the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for good sleep. Whereas some children can sleep in a bright room or with loud sounds, believe us, it’s just one of their many talents, they can sleep anywhere, that’s impossible to teach a child. So instead of trying to teach a sleepless child to get used to unfavorable conditions, just give them better conditions to sleep and hopefully enjoy your child’s better sleep :)!
7. Introducing and increasing solid food earlier than 6 months when a child wakes up
Solid foods are important in a child’s diet. They should be gradually introduced into your little one’s diet from the age of 6 months, according to the latest guidelines. Not introducing them into the diet may result in your baby waking up more frequently at night, because they will be hungry. Changing from milk to a solid food diet throughout the day will almost certainly have the same effect.
Remember that children need milk and it should be the base of their diet for 10-12 months. It is the most calorific food for babies and if he/she is to sleep soundly at night, your baby must always be breastfed during the day or have enough space to drink at least 3 or 4 bottles of milk.
If I stop breastfeeding, my baby will start to sleep
Breastfed babies can also sleep well. Maybe statistically they eat more often and need feeding a little longer at night, but the differences are not as great as parents think! If a breast-fed baby wakes up 3-4 times over the age of 6 months, your problem is not the milk, but the cause is definitely somewhere else! A difference in the form of feeding can slightly change the length of uninterrupted nightly sleep, but it will not eliminate feeding every 2-3 hours. And believe us, preparing milk in the middle of the night is much more difficult than offering the breast.
And yes – there are children who after switching from breast milk to formula, suddenly sleep all night. However in practice, it will be 1 in 100 babies, and the remaining 99 who switched to formula will wake up just as often.
Gosia and Marta are experienced Child Sleep Consultants from SleepConcept. With holistic approach and one to one advice, they help parents solve problems with sleep that their children are struggling with, focusing on gentle approach. As mums, they know how much effort needs to be put in to help children sleep well.