Good sleep is important for everyone, but especially for newborns. One of the most effective ways to ensure good quality sleep is a proper bedtime routine as it helps signal to the babies that it's time to sleep and promotes a sense of security and consistency. However, there are several common myths about baby sleep that have circulated over the years. With the overload of information, it's easy for parents to make mistakes about baby sleep unintentionally.
Common myths regarding baby sleep include keeping a baby awake during the day to make them sleep better at night and that babies should sleep through the night by a certain age.
Some of the most common mistakes parents make regarding baby sleep are inconsistent bedtime routine, overstimulation before sleep, and relying on sleep props too much.
A good bedtime routine for babies should include consistent bedtime and sleep environment, soothing activities such as bath time or gentle massage, and a quiet wind-down before sleep.
In this article we will separate science from fiction and explore best practices for good baby sleep.
What are the most common myths about baby sleep?
Here are some of the most common myths about baby sleep:
Myth: Babies should sleep through the night by a certain age
Fact. Every baby is different, and their sleep patterns vary widely. While some babies may start sleeping for longer stretches at night around 3–6 months, many continue to wake up for feeding or comfort during the night for the first year or more.
Myth: Keeping a baby awake during the day will make them sleep better at night
Fact. Overtired babies tend to have more difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. It's important to provide opportunities for your baby to nap during the day and not keep them awake for extended periods, as this can actually disrupt their sleep.
Myth: Babies who wake up frequently at night are spoiled
Fact. Babies have various reasons for waking up during the night, including hunger, discomfort, or the need for reassurance. Responding to your baby's needs promptly helps build a secure attachment and can actually contribute to better sleep habits in the long run.
Myth: Putting a baby to bed later will make them sleep later in the morning
Fact. Keeping a baby up later at night doesn't necessarily mean they will sleep in later in the morning. In fact, overtired babies can have more difficulty settling and may wake up even earlier. Consistency in bedtime routines and regular sleep schedules are more effective for promoting healthy sleep habits.
Remember that every baby is unique, and their sleep needs and patterns can vary. It's essential to approach baby sleep with patience, understanding, and flexibility, while also seeking guidance from healthcare professionals or pediatricians when needed.
What are the most common mistakes parents make regarding baby sleep?
In the age of information overload, it is very easy for new parents to become confused about what is best for their baby's sleep. Therefore, sometimes parents might make some mistakes regarding baby sleep unintentionally. Here are some of the most common mistakes parents make regarding baby sleep:
- Inconsistent or nonexistent bedtime routine. A consistent bedtime routine helps signal to your baby that it's time to sleep. Skipping or having an inconsistent routine can make it more difficult for your baby to settle down and fall asleep.
- Keeping a baby awake for too long. Babies need an appropriate amount of sleep based on their age and developmental stage. Keeping them awake for extended periods can result in over-tiredness, making it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Overstimulating environment before bedtime. Engaging in stimulating activities or exposing your baby to bright lights, screens, or loud noises right before bedtime can make it challenging for them to wind down and relax. Create a calm and soothing environment in the hour leading up to bedtime.
- Responding to every nighttime wake-up with feeding. While newborns may need frequent nighttime feedings, as they grow, they may wake up out of habit or for comfort rather than hunger. Responding to every wake-up with feeding can reinforce these habits and make it difficult for them to self-soothe back to sleep.
- Relying on sleep props or sleep crutches. Sleep props such as rocking, nursing, or using pacifiers can be helpful in soothing your baby to sleep. However, if your baby becomes dependent on these props, they may have difficulty falling back asleep when they naturally wake up during the night.
- Inconsistent sleep environment. Babies thrive in a consistent sleep environment. Inconsistent room temperature, lighting, or noise levels can disrupt their sleep. Ensure that the sleep environment remains consistent throughout the night and during naps.
- Introducing sleep associations that are unsustainable. If your baby relies on certain conditions to fall asleep, such as being rocked or held, they may have difficulty transitioning to independent sleep. Encouraging self-soothing techniques and gradually reducing sleep associations can help promote healthy sleep habits.
- Neglecting daytime naps. Sufficient daytime naps are crucial for a baby's overall sleep quality. Skipping or shortening naps can result in over-tiredness and disrupted nighttime sleep. Establish a regular nap schedule and create a nap-friendly environment.
- Not seeking help when needed. If you're struggling with your baby's sleep or have concerns about their sleep habits, it's important to reach out for support. Consulting with healthcare professionals, or pediatricians, or seeking guidance from sleep consultants can provide valuable insights and strategies.
Remember that parenting is a learning process, and it's natural to make mistakes along the way. Being open to adapting your approach, seeking guidance, and being responsive to your baby's individual needs can help promote healthy sleep habits over time.
What is a good bedtime routine for a newborn?
Now we have discussed the most common myths and the most common mistakes regarding baby sleep, let's explore a good bedtime routine for a newborn. Here is an example of science-based advice for ensuring good sleep for your little one.
- Set a consistent bedtime. Choose a specific time that works for your baby and try to stick to it every night. Newborns typically have early bedtimes, often between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
- Create a calm and safe environment. Dim the lights in the room and create a quiet and soothing atmosphere to help your baby relax. Consider using a white noise machine or a gentle lullaby to provide a soothing background sound.
- Bath time. Give your baby a warm bath as part of the bedtime routine. This can help relax them and signal that it's time for sleep. Use gentle baby-friendly products and ensure the water temperature is safe and comfortable.
- Gentle massage. After the bath, you can give your baby a gentle massage using baby-safe oil or lotion. This can be a soothing and bonding experience that helps your baby relax further.
- Dress in sleep-appropriate clothing. Dress your baby in comfortable, breathable sleepwear suitable for the current room temperature. Use layers or swaddling techniques if necessary to keep them cozy.
- Feeding. Newborns often feed frequently, so consider incorporating a feeding session as part of the bedtime routine. This can help satisfy their hunger and provide comfort before sleep. Burp your baby well after feeding to minimize discomfort.
- Quiet time. Spend some quiet and calm time with your baby before putting them to bed. This can include reading a book, singing a lullaby, or simply talking softly. Avoid overstimulating activities or bright lights during this time.
- Place in the crib. When your baby is calm and drowsy, but still awake, place them in their crib. Encourage them to fall asleep on their own by allowing them to self-soothe. Consider using a pacifier if your baby finds it soothing.
- Maintain a consistent sleep environment. Ensure the room temperature is comfortable, not too hot or too cold. Use a firm and safe crib mattress with a fitted sheet. Remove any objects that may pose a suffocation hazard.
Remember that newborns have varying sleep patterns and may wake frequently during the night to feed. It's normal for their sleep to be irregular in the early months. Be patient and adapt the routine as needed to suit your baby's needs.
- Sleep Foundation. Babies and sleep.
- Sleep Medicine Reviews. Do sleep interventions change sleep duration in children 0-5 years? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.