5 Myths About Infant Sleep Debunked
Even before you have a baby, you're likely to be bombarded with information and advice about infant sleep. Some myths are true. For example, babies do need a lot of sleep and they do tend to get a better quality of sleep than adults. Sleep is important for development and it's important that all children get enough shut-eye. But many myths are better ignored.
Jack Maypole, M.D., a well-respected pediatrician, associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, director of the Comprehensive Care Program at Boston Medical Center and member of The Goddard School’s Educational Advisory Board shares his perspective.
Myth: All babies should be on a schedule.
Reality: It may be difficult, if not impossible, to get newborns and infants on a schedule. There is probably no harm in trying but, for infants under six months, it's better to expect the unexpected.
Myth: Babies need 3 naps a day.
Reality: If babies are getting the recommended number of hours a sleep per day, it doesn't matter very much when they get those hours. Some babies prefer longer naps and sleep longer at night, while others sleep for shorter sprints of time and may need more naps.
Myth: Babies sleep half the day.
Reality: While all infants need a lot of sleep, newborns sleep a lot more than a ten-month-old. While a newborn may sleep 20 hours a day, it's not unusual for a 10-month-old to need half as much sleep. Expect changes quickly and often when it comes to sleep the first year.
Myth: It's important for babies to sleep through the night.
Reality: Some babies sleep through the night early on and are very likely getting good quality sleep. But, it's not bad or unusual for babies to wake up throughout the night for a variety of reasons. Check with your child's care provider if you have concerns, but waking by itself isn't necessarily a problem.
Myth: There is a right approach to getting babies to sleep.
Reality: There is no shortage of books purporting to have the right answer to infant sleep but the truth is no one approach will work for every child. Even siblings may require different approaches to sleep. What is a good idea for nearly every baby is looking for signs of sleepiness about 20-30 minutes before you expect your baby to fall asleep and start encouraging sleep during that window. Some things to try are massage, saying “night-night” to body parts starting at their feet, a warm bath, reading stories, playing relaxing music or white noise, and whatever else works for your child. Some children like a pillow with lavender to help them relax (although this should not be loose in the crib). Some babies find a Lulla Doll, which plays a mother's heartbeat at rest, attached to the crib can be comforting before and during sleep.
According to Dr. Maypole, the most important takeaway is that age and stage matter. Don't expect a one-month-old to sleep the same as an eleven-month-old. Sleep also varies from one kid to another. Just because your oldest slept through the night at four months or your best friend's baby falls asleep within minutes after a quick lullaby doesn't mean you should expect your baby to do the same.
If you have any concerns about infant sleep, ask your pediatrician for advice.