Never Wake A Sleeping Baby (and Other Sleep Myths)

Most of us (if not all) have been the victim ahem, beneficiary, of well-meaning parenting advice. Whether it is your great aunt at the family reunion, that mom in your play group or the man in the check out line at the grocery store, people tend to be very eager to give moms sleep advice (actually, any advice!) regarding their children. While sometimes the advice can be a little nugget of wisdom or motivation, sometimes they are myths that- while well-meaning- only end up causing more trouble if followed! Below I address the top myths I hear regarding sleep, and why you should politely smile, nod and ignore when the sweet lady at the gym gives you one of these lines 😉

“Never wake a sleeping baby.”

If you want to preserve your correct wake times and bed time, then there is definitely a time and a place to wake your baby. For example, let’s say you have a 6 month old who is taking 3 naps per day. At her age, you should offer her sleep every 2.5 hours of wake time or so. If her first nap is at 9:30am and usually lasts an hour, her next nap should be at about 1pm. However, if she somehow sleeps for three hours during her first nap, her schedule is now awkwardly situated where she will either need to go to bed very early or very late, or skip her third nap and go to bed overtired. Babies are creatures of habit. They love their routines, so the best way we can help them is to keep them on a loose schedule, which includes waking them every once in a while if they are sleeping for a long time!

“They’ll grow out of it.”

Not according to several scientific studies. Most babies with sleep issues will continue to have sleep issues (to the detriment of both the child and their tired parents!) until about 5 years old. So sure, they will grow out of it, but will they grow out of it before you have another child? Will they grow out of it before you go crazy from sleep deprivation?

“Switching from breastfeeding to formula will cause them to sleep.”

There are some small studies to support that formula may stretch their sleep times. However, this is largely a myth, and never guaranteed that switching from one feeding method to another will help. Using formula can help a sleep deprived mom get through those early months by allowing her partner to take a feeding. However, so can pumping!

“Cut out naps and they’ll sleep through the night.”

Oof. One of the most detrimental myths, in my opinion. Sure, you cannot let your baby sleep all day and expect her to sleep all night as well. However, a baby who does not get at least a quick nap every few hours is an overtired baby. And overtired babies are notoriously bad sleepers. You should follow proper, age appropriate wake times, use sleepy cues and offer sleep throughout the day. In this way, your baby will be tired (but not overtired) when bedtime comes around!

“My two options are waking and feeding all night or cry it out.”

This is a myth many parents tell themselves. I myself believed this when my son was younger, and it was a painful lesson. I did not know there was such a thing as gentle sleep training. This issue is very polarizing for parents, and often you hear each side bashing the other side as either indulgent or cruel. This leaves parents in the middle (or even parents on a certain “side” that aren’t feeling so confident) feeling helpless and hopeless about their sleep situations. It is possible to gently nudge your child towards better, independent sleep without sacrificing your beliefs or parenting style.

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I’m Katelyn,
Award-winning pediatric sleep consultant, child development expert, and most importantly, wife and mom.
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