When it comes to putting baby to sleep, everyone from your mum to the sweet old lady at the supermarket has a well-meaning advice or two. You’ve probably heard it all, “Don’t carry your baby for too long or you’ll spoil her”, “Use a pacifier”, “Feed her with formula milk so she will sleep longer”, and the list goes on. You probably hear these all the time, but it doesn’t mean these are true. Read on to find out more about it:
Myth 1: Just let baby cry it out
Fact: As parents, we feel obliged to respond to our baby’s cries. Which is why sleep-training methods where baby is left alone to cry may seem cruel. But can you teach your baby to sleep through the night without any crying at all? Probably not. The good news is that whatever sleep-training method feels most comfortable for you is fine to try. A study published in 2012 shows that sleep training has no long-lasting negative effects. In fact five years after the study, it found that babies who were put through the test had no significant differences regarding their behaviour or their emotional health. For the first three months, it’s all right to hold and cuddle your baby to sleep. But once she’s a bit older, it is essential to learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on her own.
Myth #2: Never wake a sleeping baby
You’ve probably heard this one a thousand times already, but don’t believe it! In the first few weeks, your baby needs to eat every two to three hours. So there may be times when you will have to gently nude your hub awake for a feeding, says Tanya Remer Altmann, MD author of Mommy Calls (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2008). This is also important so she can put on a healthy amount of weight. But once a newborn has regained her birth weight, Tanya says, it’s fine to let her sleep as long as she wants. Just make sure she’s feeding often in the day.
Myth #3: Babies who don’t nap in the day will sleep better at night.
Fact: Sleep does beget sleep. An overtired infant will not go to sleep easily at bedtime, and generally, will not sleep well after that. Babies need between two to six hours of daytime sleep each day, and it is equally as important as their night time sleep. However if a toddler who is having a difficult time falling asleep at night, or naps for a long period in the day, and then is awake even before the birds the next morning, that might be a child who is ready to go without a nap. Overall, do note that naps are essential to an infant’s growth and development.
Myth #4: If my baby sleeps later than usual, he will wake up even later.
Fact: Infants and toddlers are generally “designed” to go to bed early. From the time their bodies begin producing melatonin at four months of age, an early bedtime is optimal. Having said that, some infants do just fine with a later bedtime, and do sleep in later the next day! But this might be an exception. It could be that their melatonin peaks later than the average child or that they have adapted to their parent’s sleep schedule. In fact studies have shown that families who choose an earlier bedtime are pleasantly surprised when their infant sleeps until the same time the next morning.
Myth #5: There’s nothing to worry about if baby snores.
Fact: It may seem cute to hear your baby snore (studies show that 15 to 25 per cent of all infants do). But noisy breathing could signal a potentially serious medical condition, such as obstructive sleep apnea, which is when baby has brief pauses in breathing that may cause her to snore or make unusual noises. This disrupted breathing can cause her to lose out on sleep, and lead to developmental problems later on.
A study conducted by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City found that babies who had untreated sleep disorders such as snoring, sleep apnea, and mouth breathing at six months were significantly more likely to develop behaviours such as hyperactivity, depression, aggression and ADHD by age seven. While some noisy breathing sounds during sleep are perfectly normal, if it haps all the time or seems to be unusually loud, videotape your baby while she’s sleeping and share the recording with your paediatrician.
This article was written by Raja Jumira and published in the August issue of the Singapore’s Child.