Top 8 Baby Sleep Myths – Busted!

Beautiful baby with long eyelashes sleeping

It seems everywhere you look you are inundated with information about how to achieve that elusive sleep nirvana for your baby.

There seem to be countless things that you need to do to get your children to sleep, and in equal measure, countless things you shouldn’t.

What’s more – what do you do when so called sleep “experts” outright contradict each other?!

If you are a parent who has found this overwhelming, you are not alone!

So I thought I would go through the top baby sleep myths and break them down for you.

MYTH 1: If you keep your baby awake longer during the day they will sleep longer at night

FACT: This is a common belief, but a wrong one. This baby sleep myth suggests that keeping an infant awake during the day must surely lead to longer stretches of sleep during the night. It is often referred to as the “wear them out so they sleep better” theory. This is patently untrue.

Day sleep and night sleep do not operate in a vacuum. They are intrinsically linked. 

Keeping a baby awake during the day will simply make them more tired and harder to settle and stay asleep.

To promote long stretches of sleep overnight, make sure your baby is having regular napping opportunities during the day.

Baby stretching after waking up from sleep

MYTH 2: You can’t train a baby to sleep

FACT: Sleep training is simply a parent initiated change (usually designed to help your baby to fall asleep independently and/or consolidate into longer stretches of sleep).

This is a highly personal choice and varies from family to family.

For some parents this will be a more structured method and for others this will be incorporating small, gradual changes into their daily routine over time.

MYTH 3: Some babies just don’t like being swaddled

FACT: Numerous studies have proven that swaddling babies will likely assist in settling them.

Some babies seem to struggle or cry when being swaddled so some parents assume this means their baby “hates” being swaddled.

It’s much more likely that the baby is already overtired, the swaddle is not tight enough (or too tight) or the swaddle is too hot.

Personally, as a mother of two, I can’t recommend swaddling strongly enough – babies who are swaddled almost always sleep better!

Baby swaddled ready for sleep

MYTH 4: Babies will simply just fall asleep when they are tired

FACT: While some babies will fall blissfully asleep when they are tired the vast majority will simply stay awake until they’re exhausted and overtired, making it damn near impossible for them to settle themselves or sleep well.

It’s important to keep an eye on the time so that after your baby has been awake for the appropriate amount of time for their age (for example, 45 mins in a newborn) you are looking for another sleep opportunity – whether he is displaying tired signs or not.

MYTH 5: Teething will cause your baby to sleep terribly

FACT: Teething gets a bad rap! It gets blamed for all types of behaviour changes and, in particular, for sleep disruption.

In reality, children will teeth on and off for about two years.

Pain may be associated with teething and is a true sleep disruptor, but typically it would be just as the tooth actually breaks the gum – so we are talking days, not weeks on end.

Baby boy with teether in his mouth

MYTH 6: You should never wake a sleeping baby

FACT: It’s important to take into account the total amount of sleep your baby is getting over a 24 hour period.

Some babies could quite happily sleep all day. Sounds perfect, hey? It gives you time to run around and get all those chores done that have stacked up. However, the reality is that little bub will likely then stay awake all night to compensate. Trust me, you don’t want it that way around!

Waking your baby from their naps means you are able to control how much day sleep your baby is getting. This is monitoring and rationing is vital to enable them to sleep well at night.

MYTH 7: You should teach your newborn how to self-settle

FACT: Babies under about 12 weeks of age usually aren’t physiologically capable of self-settling.

It’s also not crucial that your baby develops this skill until they’re around the 3 months old mark, when they start waking between each sleep cycle.

But it is good practice to have begun the routine of putting little bub to bed when they’re drowsy but awake so they get used to initiating the final bit of falling asleep by themselves.

Baby's bottle with milk on blue towel

MYTH 8: Formula fed babies sleep better

FACT: It is true that in those early months, formula-fed babies do generally nap more, wake less often and sleep for longer at night.

Why? Put simply, they have a fuller tummy for longer because formula takes more time to digest.

While breast milk is naturally produced with components allowing it to be very easily absorbed into a newborn’s system, formula is artificially manufactured and therefore takes longer to break down in your baby’s digestive system.

However, while it may be very tempting to use formula given the above promise of more sleep, keep in mind this is short term.

Not only do breastfed and formula-fed babies end up with the same (good, and bad) sleeping patterns by about nine months, they actually tend to have the same amount of sleep in a 24-hour period from the beginning.

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