Everyone wants to help when you’re a new mom. A lot of it is (hopefully) well-intentioned, but may also be misguided. One of the top problems friends and family want to help with is sleep. Is your baby sleeping through the night? If not, they want to solve your problem.
Well, I’m here to warn you. When you’re sleep deprived and desperate for anything that will help, please don’t fall for this newborn myths.
1. Just let the baby cry – it’s natural.
Sure, it’s natural … after four months of age.
There are a few issues at play here. First, newborn babies need to eat every 2–3 hours. Their tummies are so small, they couldn’t possibly ingest enough to hold them over for a full 6–8 hours. Waking up is nature of the beast.
Second, babies are born without the ability to self-soothe. Letting a newborn baby cry it out is just short of torture for all parties involved, but especially for that baby. He or she is truly in need of something and it’s your job to provide it.
2. Give formula at night.
Yes, it’s true that formula is more difficult to digest than breast milk. This can be seen as a blessing or a curse, depending on your view of breast feeding.
If you are a breastfeeding mother, though, this advice can throw a huge problem into your plans. Supplementing with anything will reduce your breastmilk supply because it is a supply-and-demand system. This is also counter-productive to maintaining a good supply because your Prolactin levels (the hormone that makes milk) are highest at night.
3. Put rice cereal into the bottle.
There are a number of problems with this. First off, if you are using breast milk, the enzymes within it break down rice cereal completely, so the entire practice is pointless.
Second, there is no evidence to suggest this practice actually works, and I can state from experience that it had zero impact on my non-sleeping babies. I, of course, was trying it on four-month kids instead of newborns, but I digress.
Third, this increases your child’s risk for allergies. My vote is not to do it.
4. Late to bed, late to rise.
All you have to do is put your baby to bed later and she will magically sleep later … right?
Sleep-deprived infants actually sleep less than children who are put to bed earlier. The best thing to do is put your child to sleep when he shows the first signs of being tired, which is commonly around six or seven in the evening.
5. Fewer naps equate to longer nighttime sleep.
Piggybacking on this is the idea that fewer naps during the day would help a baby need more sleep at night.
To quote the Baby Sleep Site: “No. No, no, no. New parents, if you hear this one from a friend or a family member, politely nod your head, say ‘thanks!’, and then go home and do just the opposite.”
Again, once babies are overtired, they often become so distraught that they struggle to relax and go to sleep. Have you ever held a writhing, hating-the-world, overtired baby? Yeah, it’s not fun. I’m going to suggest avoiding that at all costs.
The bottom line is that babies need to wake up periodically throughout the night until they are at least four months of age, but even that isn’t a magic number. Each child is different.
So practice your smiling and nodding to well-meaning friends, family, and strangers alike … then go home and do what’s best for your baby.