Looking back, I now feel like some of the “sleep tricks” I tried with my first child, now 5, were part of a mad parenting science experiment. Poor little thing… Before I took the reins on his sleep and got educated on how to do things the “right” way (by the way, there is no ONE right way to do things as far as sleep goes because every child is different and every situation is different, but there are techniques that work!), I am the first to tell you that I actually enacted some of the “myths” below with best intentions of course! Now that I know better, I thought I’d share the most common myths and facts about your child’s sleep. By the way, my oldest is now the best sleeper in the house!
Myth#1: Every time my baby wakes overnight, she must be hungry.
Fact: During the first couple months, babies are more likely to wake from hunger. But older babies who wake frequently (every 1-2 hours), may be waking for other reasons. The best thing you can do for your baby is to put them drowsy, but awake, so she can learn those critical self soothing skills to put them back to sleep in the middle of the night.
Myth#2: The solution to early waking is later bedtimes.
Fact: Later bedtimes often CAUSE early wakings. If you have an early riser, try putting him to bed earlier.
Myth#3: Keeping your child up all day is the secret sauce that will help them sleep longer at night.
Fact: Burning the candle at both ends backfires in kids! Missed naps only lead to accumulation of sleep debt. When your child is overtired, they have a harder time falling and staying asleep at night and generally don’t get enough sleep! If this is the case, ensure your child is getting enough shut eye during the day during naps.
Myth#4: TV/Ipad use before bed will induce sleep.
Fact: The artificial light from screen time actually inhibits our natural sleep inducing hormone, melatonin. Replace screen time with more books and cuddle time!
Myth#5: My toddler just won’t nap – she must not need one.
Fact: Naps are critical for learning, development, memory, energy, good moods and behavior among many other things! Just because your toddler may miss or skip a few naps a week, does not mean he doesn’t need one. In fact, most toddlers nap until age 3.5-4 and many have rest time until 5-6. Be consistent about bedtime routines, nap times (make sure it’s the right time when they hit their sleep wave!), and sleep environment (dark room and stationary sleep is best).
Myth#6: My child is gifted and therefore doesn’t need as much sleep as others.
Fact: Although gifted children may have a harder time settling for sleep, many studies show that children who get more sleep during their toddler years (and beyond) have greater academic achievement, better math and language skills, better retention of information, and more flexible and creative problem solving.
Myth#7: My toddler doesn’t seem tired, so she must be well-rested.
Fact: Kids often act like they drank a six pack of red bull when they are overtired. So although they don’t “act” like they are tired, their body is actually in overdrive. When they get their “second wind”, it is really difficult to fall asleep. Avoid this by well timed bedtimes and sufficient naps.
Myth#8: Sleep training means I have to let my baby cry for hours on end.
Fact: “Sleep training” really is a misnomer – I like to call is “sleep coaching”. Just as we need to teach our kids how to ride a bike, so too do we need to help them learn the skills to fall and stay asleep. Teaching them those skills when they are infants may mean very little crying around sleep time. Even older babies and toddlers can learn healthy sleep habits in more gentle ways. The key to success with whatever method you choose, is consistency and commitment!
Feel free to ask me any questions about different methods available for sleep coaching your child. I know and use them all successfully. My philosophy is sleep coaching is never one size fits all!
Dr. Rebecca Kempton, M.D. is a certified infant and toddler sleep consultant, physician, and mother of 3 under the age of 8, based in Chicago. Using a variety of behavioral techniques, she customizes sleep solutions based on individual family goals and children’s temperaments and coaches families all over the world to a better night’s sleep. She is a staff blogger for the Huffington post on topics related to infant and toddler sleep. Dr. Kempton works with clients both nationally and globally by phone, Skype, and email and with home visits. Follow me on facebook and twitter for free sleep tips and please contact me for a free initial consult.
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