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Truths and Myths About Baby's Sleep

When you’re a parent trying to navigate the rough waters of children and sleep, advice seems to pour in from every direction. It doesn’t help that the countless sleepless nights make it harder to figure out what the real deal is. Here, we put to rest (no pun intended!) some of the common baby sleep myths and uncover the truth about the best ways to help your little one sleep soundly.

Myth #1: I can control how much my baby sleeps.

Fact: Unfortunately, you can’t externally induce a baby to sleep; she is on her own internal schedule that is dictated by hunger, a wet diaper, or sensory stimulation from noise or motion. Over the coming months, as your baby grows, and as feedings become less frequent and more predictable, you’ll gain increasing control over her nap and bedtimes. So, be patient and just sleep when your baby sleeps.

Myth #2: I need to be extra quiet (including the surroundings) when my baby is sleeping.

Fact: Of course, you may need complete silence to fall (and stay) asleep, but most newborns do love background noise, especially those with a shushing sound like a fan. Many of those sounds can be just as soothing to him now since your baby experienced all sorts of noises while in the womb. In fact, white noise or soft music may help lull your little one to sleep. And in case you’re wondering, no, tiptoeing while he slumbers is not necessary.

Did you know? The more a baby gets used to the typical house noises, the better he will likely be at sleeping through them.

Myth #3: Giving rice cereal will make my baby sleep longer.

Rice cereal given to your baby before they are four months old does not help them sleep any longer. Rice cereal digests very quickly and doesn’t sit in the stomach for very long. Introduce solid foods (including rice cereal) only when your child is nearer to six months. Consult your child’s paediatrician before you plan on adding solid foods.

Did you know? Despite the perception that carbo-loading your baby means a fuller tummy, research shows that protein aids sleep. So be sure to feed your little one enough protein at every meal!

Myth #4: I must never breastfeed my baby to sleep.

It’s completely normal for a relaxed baby to fall asleep on our breast. In fact, according to Pinky McKay, author of Sleeping Like A Baby, there are amazing relaxation chemicals in breastmilk, with different hormones and proteins in your night time milk (melatonin and nucleotides) that have stronger sleep-inducing effects. Therefore, this explains why your baby will probably go straight back to sleep after a night feed.

Myth #5: My baby should be sleeping through the night by six months.

Fact: Research shows that 58% of nine-month-old babies still wake up regularly at night. A more realistic age to expect your child to sleep through the night is somewhere around two. Just imagine, even as adults, we often wake up in the night, so why would babies be any different?

Myth #6: I should not rock my baby to sleep

Fact: This method of calming and settling babies has been around for centuries. Hence, it’d seem like there’s nothing wrong with it, yes? Movement is helpful to your baby’s development. Rocking your baby to sleep has also been found to be an efficient movement for weaning a baby off breastfeeding. Most children also found comfort when their mothers rock them to sleep.

Myth #7: I should not hold my baby too much or pick her up as soon as she cries. Otherwise, I will spoil her, and she will become dependent on me.

Fact: By responding to your child’s cries, you are teaching her that you are there for her when she needs you. You are nurturing the bond you have created with her, and you are building her confidence in how she handles the world, which will encourage her independence down the road.

Did you know? Babywearing can help keep your little one close while still having free hands to attend to older children or accomplish small tasks throughout the day.

Whether you’re becoming a parent for the first time or the fourth, there will always be a lot of old wives’ tales regarding your baby. Nonetheless, we hope this list of sleeping myths has been an eye opener for you!

This article is an extension of an article found in the print edition of Singapore’s Child July Issue 177 with the headline ‘Sleep Bébé Love’. 

Do you have some baby sleep stories to share with other parents? Share them with us in the comments section below!