5 Top Baby Sleep Myths Every Parent Should Know (Part One)

5 Top Baby Sleep Myths Every Parent Should Know (Part One)

 

With so much information out there on babies and sleep, as a parent, it can be hard to work out what to do. Do you wake for a dream feed or let them sleep? Is it better to wean earlier to help them sleep? Will my baby sleep better on formula milk? So many questions! That’s why I’ve written this post ‘top baby sleep myths every parent should know (part one)’.
Before we get started, it’s really important to say this. Above all the advice and support I (or anyone else) may offer you, remember to ultimately be guided by you and your baby. If something feels right and it’s working for you all as a family, then please don’t get stressed with a feeling you need to change how you do something. As I often say to the families I work with, there is not always an exact ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ with babies and sleep (and often parenting in general) but different paths to take. I use all my years of experience, science, up to date research and my training to guide me with all the families I work with and all the work I do within The Little Sleep Coach. My approach is all about being gentle, peaceful and holistic with each and every family.
Ok, let’s explore some baby sleep myths…

Top Baby Sleep Myths Every Parent Should Know (part one) Sleep when your baby sleeps, you must dream feed, Formula-fed babies will sleep for longer stretches at night than breastfed babies, Weaning early helps babies sleep better, Babies will sleep better once they hit certain milestones like crawling or walking. All these baby sleep myths explained! Written by a gentle holistic infant sleep coach. Together, let's get sleep sorted!

Myth 1 “Sleep when your baby sleeps”

You might think this advice can potentially work well yet often it doesn’t and here’s why. Your baby, especially when very young, will tend to sleep little and often which is perfectly normal and natural. Yet, a nap for an adult, especially a postpartum exhausted mum, ideally would be at least a 90-minute sleep to be beneficial. Yet by the time you’ve settled your baby then get yourself off to sleep, your baby likely wakes up, especially in the early weeks. Super frustrating!
My suggestion here is to do whatever you like in your baby nap times. It could be a nap for you but just use your baby nap times for whatever you like. You could embrace some self-care by:
• Enjoying a podcast that will make you smile
• Simply rest and relax and put your feet up.
• Call a friend
• Listen to music
• Express some milk
• Doing some gentle yoga stretches
• Meditate
• Catch up on admin or tidying up (can feel therapeutic for some people!)
• Have a nice hot drink
What’s more important is to try to get to bed earlier in the evening. Sometimes I suggest going to bed at 7 pm when your baby does. I know you might miss out on some brilliant tv show or catching up on chores but sleep is so very important and even if you do this for some nights of the week, you may feel just that bit more human! This can be especially helpful if, on the same early night you’re planning, you arrange for your partner or a close family member or friend to do the first night feed (in the early months this will be before between 10 pm-midnight). This way you can aim to get a solid block of sleep in between 7 pm and the early hours!
Don’t forget to ask for the support you need. Ask your partner to take care of the baby to allow you a nap. Or invite friends and family over to allow you a nap while they take care of the baby for an hour or two.
Lastly, I do strongly advise to have skin on skin naps in the early weeks and months as this can encourage you to have a nap too. It’s wonderful to help to bond and also to stimulate your milk production.

 

Myth 2 “You must dream feed”

A dream feed is offering your baby a feed somewhere around 10-11pm to help your baby go back to sleep with a full tummy and allow you some sleep too.
The reality is that if your baby:
• Has had full, well-spaced feeds during the day
• Has no health-related issues such as allergies, reflux or tongue tie
• Is really well winded during and after each feed
Then between the hours of 7 pm to 7 am, count this as night time for your baby and allow them to wake up naturally for a feed.
If your baby has gone down around 7 pm then it is probable they will wake around dream feed time naturally anyway. I strongly suggest leaving your baby to sleep during those nighttime hours and feeding when they naturally wake. This can minimise creating any habitual waking as well as encouraging your baby to sleep more naturally rather than being woken and then needing to settle back to sleep again. As your baby grows, they will be able to sleep for longer stretches at night. You wouldn’t want to wake them at any other time of the night so be guided by when they need to wake themselves for a feed.

 

 

Myth 3 “Formula-fed babies will sleep for longer stretches at night than breastfed babies”

Formula milk can take longer to digest than breastmilk. Therefore the assumption is that by giving formula to your baby for night time will mean they sleep for longer stretches. I think it is important to understand the biology behind breastfeeding at night before deciding to offer formula if you are breastfeeding.
Your body produces more prolactin (the hormone that promotes milk production) when you breastfeed at night. The composition of your breast milk changes through the day and night to support your baby’s needs and this includes reducing the risk of SIDS (please let me make it clear – bottle feeding DOES NOT increase the risk of SIDS, simply breastfeeding reduces it), infections and building up antibodies and your baby’s immune system. Nature has been designed in a way which encourages your baby to wake frequently for night feeds to help support all the good stuff breastmilk does behind the scenes as I’ve mentioned.
Therefore, if you are breastfeeding well during the day, I advise to simply continue through the night. Offering a formula bottle may potentially allow your baby to sleep a little longer before needing another feed but stopping breastfeeding in the night isn’t good for your baby or your milk supply! Whether breast or bottle feeding, ensure they are well fed and winded during the day with some play and stimulation between feeds and sleeps to help support their nighttime sleep.

 

Myth 4 “Weaning early helps babies sleep better”

It is advised in the UK that weaning ‘should start when your baby is around 6 months old’ (NHS guidelines). There’s a lot of advice to also say that earlier is ok and especially a huge myth that weaning your baby onto solids will help them sleep better. Your GP may recommend earlier weaning for your baby (ie, if they have reflux). I suggest doing what feels right but hold the six-month mark in mind. Be guided by your baby but please don’t start weaning early to help with sleep. In fact, it could make your baby more hungry and impact on their nutritional intake and affect their growth and development. Many babies I’ve cared for have been at or nearly at the six-month mark. Bear in mind, before six months, your baby can be more prone to allergies as their gut and immune system are too immature to process some solids.
Before weaning starts, your baby needs to:
• be able to sit up unsupported
• be able to hold their head up
• have lost the ‘tongue thrust’ reflex
These things will usually have happened by 6 months. They are all connected with your baby being able to chew and swallow solids foods safely. Signs a baby could be ready might be chewing their fist, not seeming content after a feed and excessive dribbling.
In connection to sleep, it seems the myth believes that ‘solid’ food will be more sustaining for your baby, therefore, enabling them to sleep longer. This is simply not true!
There’s absolutely no doubt milk, be it breast or bottle, is the most nutrient-rich substance your baby will have in their first year. Any solids (whether offering purees or baby led weaning) you should think of as a supplement to support your baby in getting used to flavours and textures rather than actually being all the nutrients they need. This way of thinking will help you to take a more relaxed and stressfree approach to early weaning. Then you can prioritise milk feeds and ensure your baby gets all they need. Think ‘food for fun before one’!
Imagine if you pureed a carrot, a few spoonfuls of plain carrot puree is simply not as calorific as milk and fulfilling your baby’s dietary needs. I suggest being guided by when your baby is ready but remember to begin slowly and focus on milk feeds.
So if your little one isn’t sleeping well at night and they are younger than 6 months, look to other areas. How is their day time feeding? Is something in their sleeping environment hindering their sleep? What about the timings and length of their day time naps?

 

Myth 5 “Babies will sleep better once they hit certain milestones like crawling or walking”

It’s certainly true that your baby will have lots of milestones along their baby, toddler and childhood journey. Often parents believe once their baby starts being more mobile, either with crawling or walking, they will sleep better as they are more active. Similar to the point above, perhaps you have been told ‘once they are weaned they will sleep better’, but you reach that point, and sleeping is still the same. The truth is, a lot of families do wait for these milestones and become disappointed and frustrated when nothing changes or sleep gets worse. All babies are unique and some are more affected by these developmental milestones than others.
My advice here is simple. Don’t overthink or think ahead with what might change with your baby’s sleep. Take a day at a time and continue to establish healthy sleep habits and routines to encourage their ability to become a super sleeper. Check out some of my other blog posts for support with helping your little one sleep better:

5 Easy Steps to Teach your Baby Sleep Skills



Baby Sleep Trick



The Baby Sleep Advice Every Mama Should Read



Top Baby Sleep Tips



How To Help Your Newborn Sleep



How to have the best baby bedtime routine for a calm nights sleep

Conclusion

So there are 5 Top Baby Sleep Myths Every Parent Should Know (Part One) explained in a way I hope makes sense. I hope it helps to give you a clearer idea about how to move forward with your little one’s sleep. Remember that my goal for you is to feel empowered as a parent. To know that, as a parent, you have choices. My hope is that by providing lots of useful, important up to date information you can make an informed choice about what works for you as a family. So if you choose to dream feed, dream feed away! If you choose to let your baby wake up naturally for night feeds, super! I offer the choices and support whatever you choose. If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, you might find others I’ve written helpful too. And keep an eye out for Peaceful Parenting Solutions coming your way soon – online courses to support you even more through the early years.
P.S. Just so you know, I always add in a couple of affiliate links with each post. This always includes a great offer that I think might be of interest to you as a parent. Clicking one of my links and making a purchase on that really cool new item (for you or your baby!) is at NO EXTRA COST to you. I receive a small commission from the retailer.  That helps me with the running costs of my website, business and blog. Thanks for all your AMAZING support! xx

 

Top Baby Sleep Tips

Top Baby Sleep Tips


It can be hard to know what to do or not do when you have a new baby, so here’s some top baby sleep tips to help guide you in those early weeks and months.  The truth is, it’s tough for little ones and they have so much to learn. For a moment, think about your baby in terms of their feeding and sleep needs in the early weeks and months; their digestive system is not mature like ours and they cannot wind themselves up until about 12 weeks. Ensuring they are well fed and well winded is so important. This can really help their sleep. Secondly, offering them a little stimulating playtime after a feed is really important. Then read through all the tips below see what might work for you and your baby and you’ll be on your way to better sleep!
If you’re finding things hard, I want to tell you that it’s ok to not feel ok too. Please don’t suffer alone. Reach out for support to help you and your baby. Whether that’s talking to your partner, family, friends, GP, midwife, health visitor, calling a helpline such as Pandas Foundation. And remember, I offer a complimentary 10 minute chat to talk through sleep struggles too so please do reach out for a discovery call if you think it’d be helpful. Whatever you’re going through, you are not alone. Here’s my top baby sleep tips for you. And remember, there are a lot of tips here, some will work for you and your baby, some may not. So be kind, gentle and patient on yourself and to your baby as you both figure out what works to help their sleep.

My top baby sleep tips including winding your sleepy baby, playtime, swaddle, sleep cues, start a bedtime routine, dream feed, white noise. By a gentle infant sleep coach. Together, let's get sleep sorted Mama!

 

Create a nest

Do not their cover head to avoid overheating. You can buy a nest or make one with rolled up towels. Always be sure you put the towels under a sheet in their cot, away from their head and begin the nest at the bottom of the cot, so their feet are at the bottom too. Imagine a rolled up sausage shape that curls around your baby but stops before their head.

Swaddle

This can be a helpful way to minimise the Moro reflex (the startle reflex that can cause your baby arms to jerk up and often disturb them and scratch themselves). If you decide to swaddle, ensure it’s a light stretchy material and not too tight to minimise overheating risk.

Sheepskin

Research has shown that sheepskin can help regulate body temperature so keeping baby warm in winter and cool in summer. Strange but true! Here’s gorgeous one for the car seat or buggy.

White noise

Good for up to six months. This can help minimise background noises that might disturb your baby. Don’t forget just how loud it was in your womb! Here’s a good option for a white noise machine. Remember that’s it’s most helpful to have it consistently on all night but do be guided by what seems to be working for your baby!

Multi-Sensory

Stroking down baby’s nose, patting, rocking, shushing can all help settle your baby, just remember to mix them up. By offering these multi-sensory reassurances, your baby is much less likely to become dependent on one.

Dress baby in cotton clothing

Always think layers rather than one or two thick layers.

Socks

Putting socks on your baby is a great way to regulate their body temperature.

 

Temperature

Ensure their room is not too warm. Ideally about 18 degrees. We all sleep better in a cooler environment and babies are no different! Try this great thermometer to ensure your baby’s room is at its optimal temperature.

Scent

Leave the essence of mum – I sometimes suggest mum wears her babies night-time clothes under her own clothes for a while to get her smell onto them for her baby.  It can be really reassuring for your baby. I don’t advise offering a comforter before the age of six months and even then make sure it’s something soft and breathable like a muslin cloth.

Warm their cot

Laying your baby into a lightly warmed cot can help them settle better in their own cot. If you have the struggle of getting them to settle in their cot or waking once you settle them there (both SO common!) trying to mimic all the things they need can help them settle better.

Have skin on skin naps

I recommend having a cuddly cosy skin on skin nap once a day for the first 8 weeks. This is great for bonding but also helps stimulate your milk supply. This can alsp help mum get a nap in too!

Elevate head end of the cot

This can especially help with digestion issues. Popping a towel for example, under the mattress can be all it needs.

Safe sleeping space

Always settle your baby where they are going to sleep. It’s really important to create a calm sleeping space for your baby and help them feel safe within it. It’s also really important to have an understanding of The Lullaby Trust’s Safe Sleep Guidelines too.

Don’t be silent

Don’t minimise household noise. Have a little radio, chatter, washing machine on. It’s ok!

Ensure baby’s feeds are effective

This means draining each breast if possible. This will help your baby feel full, sleep better and encourage more milk production for you. If possible, try to express after a feed if the breast isn’t fully emptied. This can be helpful in the night when your supply will be at its lowest. Also, if breastfeeding, look out for a wide open mouth and visible swallowing in your baby. It’s really useful to learn when they are simply sucking for comfort or not feeding well.

Let them sleep at night

I don’t suggest waking your baby for night feeds. Of course, feed them when they wake but allow them to sleep as they wish in the night. This is 7.00pm to 7.00am for babies.

Put them down once asleep

If rocked or fed to sleep (it’s ok sometimes!) put your baby down when asleep. Often this can feel like holding loaded dynamite that will go off the moment you lay them down! They may wake and cry. Just be aware of your responses and potential anxiety if this happens. Usually, if your baby does this once, you are less inclined to try it again then it becomes something you don’t try and you end up holding your baby for the whole nap. It’s ok for sometimes and when they are small but not something you might want to establish as a habit! Often they will wake as you move them as they are still in a light sleep. Either wait a bit longer (approx 20 minutes after faling asleep) until they are floppy, usually a good sign they have moved into a deeper sleep. Or, better still, encourage settling in their safe sleeping space using all of some of the tips in this post!

Sleep cue words

Creating some keywords that you say for all periods of sleep to help your baby learn it’s sleep time. Something like ‘sleepytime, time to sleep’. I used to sing it to all the babies I‘ve looked after and it always helps!

Sleep Cues

Put baby down at first sign of tiredness. This could be looking away, yawning, grizzling. Don’t wait!

Overlay sleep associations when trying to wean off one

To try to avoid your baby becoming attached to one way of falling asleep, add in other ways to help them and mix them up so it minimises their dependence on always being fed or rocked or cuddled to sleep.

Wean them off you

Place objects between yourself and your baby to wean them off you. Also, press under baby’s chin when removing breast/bottle/dummy. And putting gentle pressure on their tummy to wean off tummy sleeping or falling asleep on you can be helpful.

 

Start a bedtime routine

This can be simply a feed, bath, massage, nappy, dressed, top-up feed if needed, story, cuddle, bed. The same rituals in the same order is an important part.

Night and day

Day clothes in the day and pyjamas at night. They might not know but it helps establish the difference between day and night.

Allow them space

Do not rush in at the first sound baby makes. Allowing your baby a few minutes to gurgle and make noises can really help them learn to settle themselves. It might be that going in too soon actually rouses them from their sleep.

Frequent day feeding

Wake baby for frequent daytime feeds.

Don’t snooze feeding

Try not to let your baby fall asleep feeding – try a burp or a change.

The difference between day and night

Help your baby to learn day is bright and noisy, the night is dark & quiet.

Preparation is the key

For night time, get all the things you’ll need for feeding and changing close by. Nappies, muslins, bottles, etc. Going into a brightly lit room with your baby to prepare a night bottle can have a huge impact on them being able to get back to sleep.

Get outdoors

Expose to broad-spectrum daylight, get out and about for fresh air & walks. I know it can be a huge challenge in those early weeks to even leave the house so I’m not talking about a stressful social event where you have to be somewhere at a certain time, more a walk to the park, shops, friends for a cuppa. Good for you. Good for your baby.

Creating a routine

Think timings over technique as you establish a routine for them. If they have a snooze in the buggy, sling or car, that’s fine of course; it’s more about getting them to settle at the same times each day. This helps develop their circadian rhythm and become sleepy and ready for naps. Also, start and end their day at the same time every day.

Winding your baby

Ensure your baby is winded really well during a feed. Before 12 weeks old, ensure you burp your baby every 10 minutes of being on the breast or every half oz of formula. Good digestion really aids good sleep.

Winding your sleepy baby

If your baby is getting sleepy and falling asleep with feeding, it’s important to still wind them as it can affect their sleep. Sit them on your lap, support their chest and head as you cup and gently pat or rub their back with your other hand, avoiding their spine. This position tends to keep them awake more than over the shoulder which can send them to sleep!

Playtime

Encourage a little playtime after a feed and before sleep. This not only helps gives them a structure to their day and create the beginnings of a routine, but it also minimises the feed to sleep association which, for a super sleeper, we don’t want to create! Offering some tummy time, laying under their playmat, or sitting with them and enjoying a few toys for a little while can be all is needed.

Conclusion

So there you have it, 34 top baby sleep tips for you to consider. Remember that your baby is constantly developing and growing (usually, the first major growth is around 4 weeks) so just go with the flow in those early weeks. It’s never too early to use some of these tips I’ve outlined and see what works for you both. Good luck mamas and believe me when I say, you’re doing great!
Together, let’s get sleep sorted
Caroline x
P.S. In case you’re a newbie to my blog (in that case a very warm welcome!), I always add in a couple of affiliate links with a great offer to each post that I think might be of interest to you as a parent. If you choose to click a link and make a purchase on that really cool new item (for you or your baby!) then it’s at NO EXTRA COST to you. I receive a small commission from the retailer and that helps me with the running costs of my website, business and blog. Thanks for all your AMAZING support! xx