¨Now you’re a mum you’d better get used to not sleeping.¨
I’ve heard this comment so many times since becoming a mum but not sleeping doesn’t have to become your new life. Sure, the first few months of having a new baby are rough and hardly anyone in the household sleeps, but it doesn’t have to continue. There are ways of teaching our babies healthy sleep habits to learn how to go to sleep happily and sleep peacefully all night. And frankly, the earlier the better! For everyone.
Here are the top three myths about teaching your baby to sleep well:
Myth #1. Your baby will not love you in the morning.
Really? Do you think that after just one night of changing your baby’s sleep habits she won’t love you any more? Is that all it would take? Would all the cuddles you give her, all the food you provide, all the diapers and clean clothes she wears, all the playtimes and bath times, all the kisses and laughter be for nothing because of a few nights of protest?
The truth is that making changes to anyone’s sleep habits will always be met with some resistance. So yes, it is safe to assume that your baby is not going to happily accept the fact that you are no longer going to rock her on the exercise ball for an hour each and every night, but as long as you are a loving and attentive parent in the first place, the love will endure.
In fact, most people find that once their baby is sleeping well, she’s even happier and healthier than before!
Myth #2. Sleep training means leaving your baby to “cry it out.”
The “cry-it-out” method works like this:
Step 1: Put child to bed.
Step 2: Walk away.
Step 3: Let child scream, cry, howl etc. until child is asleep.
Now, while the CIO method does work, most parents simply aren’t comfortable with it. I don’t think a parent’s brain is “wired” to listen to the hysterical crying of their child without doing something to comfort them!
The bottom line is that it’s not the crying that gets a baby sleeping well. The crying is simply your baby’s reaction to the change in his or her sleep habits, nothing more.
In other words, your baby isn’t crying because she’s “mad” at you… or because you’re being cruel. The only reason she’s crying is because she’s temporarily confused! I mean, you USED TO rock or nurse her to sleep every night… and now (for her own health) you’re not doing that any more.
And the great news is that your child’s confusion usually only lasts a few days. Children adapt SO quickly that she’ll soon figure out how to calmly get herself to sleep… and then everyone’s happier!
Myth #3. Sleep training is too stressful for babies
First off, there is no evidence that sleep training has any short term or long term psychological effects on children. So you can cross that off your list of things to worry about.
As for those who say that a few nights of crying are “too stressful?” Well, I say you’ve really got two choices:
- Make some changes. This usually involves a few nights of your child crying for 10 – 40 minutes at bedtime. After a few nights, most children start to learn how to fall asleep independently and the crying stops completely shortly thereafter. In this scenario, the total amount of “stress” felt by your child amounts to a few minutes of crying for a few nights.
- Do nothing. In this scenario, the parent continues to nurse / rock / bounce their child to sleep every night. The child wakes up 1 – 10 times per night, and needs to be nursed / rocked / bounced back to sleep each time. In this scenario, both parent and child are subjected to months (or even years) of systematic sleep deprivation where neither ever gets enough consolidated sleep to wake up and feel rested or refreshed. If these poor sleep habits continue into the school years, there is evidence that it correlates with things like obesity and trouble focusing in class – both of which sound pretty stressful to me!
So what sounds more harmful: A few nights of crying… or months/years of depriving your child of a good nights’ sleep?
Would you stop taking your child to daycare because he/she cries every time you leave? Would you stop working to stop him/her crying? Would you stop your child from playing with other children or learning at daycare because they cry? How many children cry for weeks every morning when they are left at daycare? Don´t worry. Teaching a child to sleep well only takes a coupld of days and sometimes they don´t even cry!
If one or more of these three myths have been holding you back from taking the simple steps needed to create long term, positive change for your child’s sleep, I really hope I’ve been able to change your mind.
And – as always – I’m here for you when you’re ready to get started.