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Baby Sleep Myths (Part 1)

This week, we’re busting SLEEP MYTHS. When you have a baby people are always telling you to do this or never EVER do that it can be hard to know who to listen to. Bob at playgroup seems like he knows what he’s talking about, but does he?

In each Sleep Mums episode we usually share five simple things that will help your baby sleep better. This week, we’re giving you five bits of sleep advice you can absolutely IGNORE!

By knowing these myths are as fictional as your babies bedtime story it will help you understand baby sleep better and, hopefully, get you and your baby more kip.

1 – Tired Baby Better Sleep? 2 – Later Bedtime = Later Waketime? 3 – Never Wake a Sleeping Baby 4 – You Don’t Need to Wind a Breastfed Baby 5 – Sleep Regressions Don’t Exist.


Ep.8 Sleep Myths (PT 1) [Transcript]


Cat: [00:00:00]Hello, you lovely people. Welcome back to The Sleep Mums, the totally non-judgemental, occasionally funny and always useful baby sleep podcast for parents and caregivers who just happen to be... absolutely exhausted! I'm Cat Cubie TV presenter and mama. I totally made my kids call me 'Mama' because 'Mum' feels like we're talking about my mum and makes me feel super old! And this is Sarah Carpenter, sleep savior and legend! I think I'm getting more dramatic with your introductions as time goes on. What do you like your kids to call you? Mum, mummy, mama, superwoman.

Sarah: [00:00:37]I'm definitely a mummy. And much to my disappointment, Harry, who's now eight and a half has started calling me mum. So I am feeling super old!

Cat: [00:00:46]Why do we resist the mum term so much? I mean, given that we are The Sleep Mums?

Sarah: [00:00:49]It makes me feel old, but it also makes me feel like he's getting old and I just want to keep him as my first born baby forever.

Cat: [00:00:58]Together we are The Sleep Mums, there's no doubt about that one! We are mums or mamas or just parents. So, we know a lot about baby sleep from our own experiences, but also because we're super passionate about baby sleep. In each Sleep Mums episode we usually share five simple things about a topic that will help your baby sleep better. This week it's a wee bit different. We are busting sleep myths - and when I say that I kind of imagine us like Batman and Robin, kapowing and baming the sleep myths away; but that's just my overactive imagination getting excited! We believe that by knowing these myths are just fiction, it will help you to understand baby sleep better and help you and your baby get more sleep.

Cat: [00:01:45]The first myth we want to bust is a biggie, possibly the biggest... "A tired baby will sleep better." Sarah, why is this a myth?

Sarah: [00:01:55]Well, in short, a tired baby is going to be overtired and an overtired baby is going to be fussy. They're going to fight sleep. They're not going to settle easily. So, in a nutshell, the more tired they are, the less likely they actually are to sleep. It's really important to get them down before they're too tired so that the sleep that they're having is the sleep that they need.

Cat: [00:02:27]Do you think it exists because we as adults kind of think that we'll tire ourselves out and then we'll get a better night's sleep? And in fact, that idea kind of exists for for kids as well. People are like, oh, give them a good run around, tired them out, then they'll sleep!

Sarah: [00:02:42]Absolutely. I would say that it starts from the sort of toddler years. And yes, you do want to tire a toddler out, but tiring a toddler out doesn't necessarily mean running them around either. It's very much the right kind of stimulation at the right point in the day, so that they are not overtired. A consistent bedtime and a consistent approach to bedtime is what's really going to work. And that applies from the very beginning. So, you know, having your consistent bedtime for the baby early enough for them not to get overtired is what's going to give them the best restorative sleep.

Cat: [00:03:20]How do you know if your baby is overtired and how do you catch it before they get to that point?

Sarah: [00:03:27]There's lots of different signs. The main ones that you're looking for are, like we've said are fighting sleep, broken sleep: so if they're going down but then they're waking up very quickly, so you know, 10, 15, 20 minutes into sleep cycle, they're awake, reducing the length of their naps, a unable to length of sleep cycles, falling asleep quickly out with their scheduled naps and schedule bedtimes and being really, really fussy. So, you know fussing at feed times, fussing during their awake time where they might previously have been quite settled and content, they'll start to get more fussy and frustrated. Sort of physical signs are pulling at ears, rubbing eyes and excessive yawning. These are all things that point towards an overtired baby.

Cat: [00:04:21]And really, I guess if you're seeing those signs, it either shows you you need to switch up your schedule or your routine a bit to to ensure that baby's not getting to that point or perhaps that they're moving up from a milestone, going from three naps to two naps. But also it's you don't want them to get to that point basically, you don't want to be seeing those overtired signs. And the best way to do that is by having a routine.

Sarah: [00:04:52]Definitely, if you're meeting the baby's needs, you're not going to get those overtired signs and we're saying that as if that's guaranteed, occasionally something's going to happen with your schedule or something's going to happen in your day, that you will miss the boat with an nap. And that's absolutely fine. You can get back on track. But it's important that that's a one off rather than a consistent attempt at putting an overtired baby to bed.

Cat: [00:05:22]So many ways, if you have a good routine, a good schedule, and you are pretty consistent about bedtimes as much as you can be anyway, baby shouldn't get overtired. Which brings us very cleverly to our next big sleep myth 'Keeping baby up later (i.e. later at night) will mean that they will sleep longer or later in the morning." And this one is particularly true for parents that that have or feel that they have early riser babies, which I definitely have one that my son is a 'It's morning!' kid, full of the joys of spring, early doors. And I can tell you, it never, ever works, no matter what Bob in playgroup said. In fact, often the opposite is true. A tired baby who goes to bed later is more likely to wake up earlier. So, Sarah, tell me about this myth.

Sarah: [00:06:17]Yeah, I totally agree. You know, a tired baby is going to wake up earlier and have broken sleep again. You know, the correct approach would be to have that consistent time for bedtime so that they're not going to bed later and later on getting less and less sleep, you know, an early riser; the reason behind early rising as generally either that they have gone to bed too late or they've had their final nap of the day too late, and that will contribute to that. But certainly keeping them up late at night is not going to help with the deep sleep that they need and it's not going to help them have a good, solid amount of sleep. You're all that you're going to do is actually shorten the opportunity that they have to sleep.

Cat: [00:07:05]I think you hear this one a lot, generally, but also, you know, if there's some sort of an event or something going on, like, I don't know, maybe you've got a party or a wedding or something to go to, you go with your baby and they're like, oh, at least they'll sleep in in the morning. And you're like, really? That is totally not will ever happen. And I think that's also what parents often end up feeling, is that perhaps this is just their kid just needs less sleep. So they can't get them to bed until later, and then they wake up early and then that or they just don't need the sleep.

Sarah: [00:07:39]We do hear that a lot. We also generally from those parents, we hear that their children right before bed are going a little bit loppy and having a moment of madness and so they're interpreting that as they are full of beans and full of energy, when actually it's just that they've got really overtired. So they are having a little bit of a mad moment, not because they're full of beans, just because it overtired. So reining it all in. And keepingit calmer and having that earlier bedtime really helps.

Cat: [00:08:10]Well, it sort of gives you a false sense, I guess, because you think, oh, they're so wide awake. They've they've got loads of energy. They don't need to go to bed until later. But actually it's because they are overtired. And I notice a difference with my son, who I do think he is a wee bit of an early bird. But also because of the way our family life is, it would be very difficult for me to get him to sleep earlier than we do, although actually he would probably be quite delighted to go to bed about half six. Usually it's closer to seven. And then he wakes earlier but the nights I get into bed early - between six and half six - he actually sleeps later. He's more likely to sleep until seven, which is weird. But it is obviously because at that point of the day he is a bit overtired, you know, and that's where this flexibility has to come in, that it just doesn't work with our family life for him to be going to bed earlier than that. And it's not it's not like he's getting up at five.

Sarah: [00:09:09]And that's the thing that you have to remember, you know, especially once you have other those children. It is difficult to keep things as consistent for number two, three or four and much easier when you do just have one. But babies have to fit in with you as much as having a routine. You know, you have to be able to have that flexibility and adapt things to fit in with the family lifestyle.

Cat: [00:09:34]So our next myth, Sarah, this is a bit of a bugbear of yours, I think. Tell me, what is it? What's our third myth.

Sarah: [00:09:44]Out third myth is... 'Never wake a sleeping baby.'

Cat: [00:09:48]And why is that a myth?

Sarah: [00:09:49]So, the main thing is, you know, again, coming back to the schedules and routines that we talk about, there's a time and a place for a sleeping baby. And you want your longest sleep or your baby's long asleep to be at night. So in order to get that long sleep at night, you need to make sure that babies had enough food and sleep during the day. The only way that you can make sure that they've had enough food during the day is if sometimes you wake that baby to feed. So if you can keep your feed times correct during the day, so that they've had enough, then they're going to be able to store enough so they can sleep for a longer stretch at night. But it is also important that they;re still getting enough sleep during the day, so that you're not going to bed over tired at night. So it's having the balance between feeds, nap times, awake time and then bedtime.

Cat: [00:10:40]It basically relates to all the other myths, too, because you're aiming for a baby to not get over tired. And so they they need to have these naps and sleep separated during the day. And not being overtired usually means they go down better and sleep better, both at naps and at night. So it's just kind of filling their cup of sleep regularly - that sounds a bit religious - But it did take me quite a long time to get my head around it. I remember you saying it with Indy, because I'd been so desperate for her to nap, like at all, that once I did finally get her napping, it really went against every single bone of my exhausted body to wake her up from those naps. It seemed insane to me. However, I did start to see a difference as I began to do it by keeping her routine more regular, not letting her sleep too little, too much during the day. She did actually start to become pretty much like clockwork. Just like her mama, she loves a routine, I guess!

Cat: [00:11:45]There's that feeling between on demand as well, on demand sleeps and food and a routine, which we spoke about obviously in our routines episode, it'd be lovely if we could just be totally driven by when baby needed sleep and just sleep with them. But it's not really how most of us live our lives and you can debate whether that's right or wrong. But that is the circumstances, we all need sleep at night because that's that's how society exists for most people. And so you want that long sleep to be at night. You don't want it to be during the day unless you, maybe, like being up all night... bUt most people don't!

Sarah: [00:12:24]And even if they think they do initially, they generally change their mind at some point.

Cat: [00:12:33]So our next myth is one that seems to have been around forever. It's a bit of an old wives tale, we mentioned it in our episode about milk feeds and sleep, but we really wanted to bust it again because I think it's a biggie. Basically, this myth is that breast-fed babies do not need winded. I think this myth exists because, in general, breast-fed babies drink milk more slowly than a bottle-fed baby, so the wind doesn't come out as quickly. And, therefore, over time, people have maybe not attributed the wind or the wake ups to the feed. But that totally fails to take into account that babies have really young digestive systems and whatever their glugging, whether that's boob or bottle, they are going to get some wind. It might come out after the feed or it might go the other way but that wind is going to need to come out and if it gets stuck, it's going to cause some discomfort. And the thing that Sarah and I really care about, of course, is that it's going to affect their sleep. So why is this a myth?

Sarah: [00:13:40]So people have been encouraged over time to just breastfeed their babies let them fall asleep on the boob and then pop them down. So there's no room there for winding or for taking that nice full feed, because quite often after babies done a burp, they are going to latch on again and have another drink. So, if they've missed that opportunity, they're not going to be full. So there's two reasons right there why they're going to wake up and be unsettled; one because they've got wind and that's uncomfortable and two because they haven't had enough food. So, winding any baby is super important. But, you know, to take that time when a baby comes off the boob, to take that time to wind and then offer them the boob again and then wind again at the end of feed and just make sure that, you know, you've checked right up and down their back, right around their side, just cleared all that wind out before you're putting them down. They are then going to be able to get into much more settled, deep sleep without any discomfort.

Cat: [00:14:41]I know we said this before, but there are large bits of parenting that are a belts and braces approach, you want to do everything you can to look out for your kids. Whether that is putting a rain jacket and wellies on when the weather is not that bad or any of these things... Making sure they're wearing an extra sweater. I'm always like, yes, you've got to get your vest on. I know it's 20 degrees outside... Winding is a wee bit like that. They might not have a burp every single time, but what if you don't do it that time when they do and that is when they become unsettled. And it's a nice, it's mostly a nice thing to do. It's kind of like a firm cuddle. So why not do it every time and just ensure that that's not going to be an issue that helps baby and it helps you.

Sarah: [00:15:25]Definitely. I mean, you're absolutely right. It can be a nice cuddle. But equally, if you haven't winded and then baby starts to get trapped wind, it can be pretty horrific because that's when they are really, really sore. And you're then going to have to put into practice every single possible winding technique. So regular winding and gentle but firm winding, you're going to see results without it turning into that really evil trapped sore wind.

Cat: [00:15:55]I think it's hard as well because this myth is really pervasive.

Sarah: [00:16:00]Yep, it's a huge thing. I mean, we go to clients all the time who aren't winding their babies or are being so gentle and protective over their babies that actually they're not getting the results that they need to. So, you know, really, practising those widning techniques and being a little bit more firm than you would expect to be is going to make all the difference.

Cat: [00:16:22]Just whilst we're here, because I think it's always important... as I just said, I like the belt and breeches approach. Sarah, how do you recommend winding? I know it's hard to do in a podcast, but let's go for it!

Sarah: [00:16:35]OK, so there are lots of different techniques. Obviously, you've got your first more traditional technique where you're going to pop your baby up on your shoulder, support their neck and head, and then give them a really good firm pat and back rub until you feel some movement. And you do want to get baby sort of higher on your shoulder than if you were giving them a cuddle because in your shoulder is sort of helping with the winding process by digging into their tummy a little bit, then you've got the spider crawl, which is when you, again, you can have baby on your shoulder or sitting on your knee and you just want to use your whole hand to run up and down baby sides. And when you're doing that, if you sort of prod a little bit where the baby flinches, that's where the wind is and that's where you want to then focus your rubbing and the other ones are when you're sitting baby on your knees. So you've got baby a 90 degree angle and then you're just gently folding baby forwards and backwards, you sort of nose to toes and then you're going round in little clock circles. And just really making that tummy move right round so that you're squidging all the wind up and out. Then you can also hold them lying flat on your arm, so you've got your arm right underneath them and you can then rub up and down their back.

Cat: [00:17:49]But I found that my husband really liked that one. He found it a bit easier to do. Maybe it's got a longer forearm than me, but he really liked doing that one, whereas I preferred some of the other ones.

Sarah: [00:18:01]Yeah, I think that's probably true. I think men do have, in general, a longer and larger forearm, so they've got a little bit more for the baby to balance on.

Cat: [00:18:11]I don't know why I'm giggling at that. Sorry, terrible, naughty mind! [laughter]

Sarah: [00:18:12]Maybe cut that part...?

Cat: [00:18:21]Sorry. I promise I won't be so unprofessional!

Sarah: [00:18:25]Yes, I do think that men probably find that one slightly easier because they do in generasly have a longer and larger forearm for baby to balance on and women might sometimes find that a little bit more difficult or just not feel as confident.

Cat: [00:18:42]And if you want to see that, rather than hear about it, Sarah has done a lovely winding video, which is on our social channels @thesleepmums on Instagram and also on Facebook. And you can check that out. She shows you with a lovely, beautiful baby doll.

Sarah: [00:19:02]Not quite the real squirmy thing.

[00:19:04] Oh yes, and a lovely dress. I'm very into that dress and the orange belt. [laughter] You'll need to go and see what I'm talking about.

Cat: [00:19:18]This final myth bothers me quite a lot because I feel it's used to suggest that parents have come up with this idea to excuse poor sleep habits. And obviously, as you will know by now, Sarah and I are all about being supportive of parents and also not making them feel shit about themselves, basically, which a lot of sleep help (we feel) has a bit of a tendency to do so. Our final myth to bust is that sleep regressions don't exist. Anecdotally, there's around five regressions that parents often feel happen. There's the four month sleep regression, that's often the big one, there's the eight to 10 months regression, the year regression and then a couple once we get to toddlerhood. But first, perhaps I should really ask Sarah, what is a sleep regression?

Sarah: [00:20:08]So a sleep regression that parents talk about is when a baby has previously been sleeping well suddenly becomes disrupted, naps go out the window overnight, sleep goes out the window and going to bed becomes difficult. So that is what people are referring to when they talk about sleep regression.

Cat: [00:20:29]So, it's this idea that it's like a switch has been flipped and suddenly sleep stops working. It feels like it's this recent addition to the parenting sleep landscape that parents are kind of getting lambasted for and the sense of don't be so stupid, they didn't exist when we were young and we put babies in the bottom drawer and they were fine, kind of an idea. But the question, I guess, is are sleep regressions real or are they not?

Sarah: [00:21:03]The term sleep regression doesn't sum up what's happening. So, yes, babies become unsettled around these ages. That can happen, but it is happening because you've reached a point where you're not meeting the baby's needs again. So there's developmental changes and four months is a huge developmental change. So four months and six months would be the two biggest developmental changes in terms of what they're doing during the day, their needs and how much sleep they actually require. So if you are a step ahead with your schedules and if you know what babies needs are going to be around these times, then you're already going to be meeting their needs before they become unsettled, so you always need to be working ahead. That's the key thing. If you have already reached the next stage and you're preparing baby for that, then nothing is going to change. They're not going to become unsettled, they're not going to overnight sleep and they're going to be on it during the day.

Cat: [00:22:10]I guess that's why there's perhaps a wee bit of confusion about whether they exist or not, because it doesn't happen to all babies. So perhaps the parents of those it's not happening to like that is rubbish, they're just not doing X, Y and Z. And actually, the terminology of regression is incorrect because it's a milestone, it's a progression rather than a regression. But the reason it's called the regression is because it's like it feels like they go back to the newborn days where you're like, what the hell am I going to do? But if perhaps I don't know if it's useful but it certainly was for me that feeling that, oh, actually baby's is going through a period of developmental change, therefore it is a good thing and I can help them through that by looking at their routine and, you know, how their naps and feeds are; then actually empowers parents rather than takes away from them and goes, oh, it's just something that's happening. There's nothing you can do about it.

Sarah: [00:23:10]Yeah. So, if like I was saying earlier, if you're ahead of the game and you are already researching the developmental changes, then you are going to be able to meet the needs and not have the negative changes and like you say for a parent to actually feel like there's something that they can do about in advance, then you are going to feel much more confident going through the changes. And if you did then get a night or two where things have gone a little bit awry because you're already researching it you're going to know what to do to get things back on track pretty quickly.

Cat: [00:23:44]So they're definitely real, but maybe the term is a myth, I guess. So it's a bit of a split one that one. But as we're in the help giving business as well as myth busting, what can you do to cope with them while they're going on, apart from... Obviously buying our book, when it comes out!

Sarah: [00:24:03]So, yeah, you need to be aware of your baby's developmental needs changing and for around about the, certainly for the four month one, you're looking at a huge change in their daytime sleep in what they require. And then between four and six months, your biggest change is that you're going to start them on solids. And so if you think previously that baby has been completely satisfied with milk and regular milk feeds to then introduce one, two, three meals a day, you can imagine how much they are changing developmentally at that time to require so much more. So, if you're aware of that and ready for that, then you are going to see that they just transition straight through this period of development without being unsettled.

Cat: [00:24:53]So I think it always helps to put into context in our own lives. And we know that as adults that when there's big changes in our lives, we tend not to sleep as well. Obviously, it's because we're overthinking it. Babies probably aren't overthinking it too much about whether they're going to start solids or not. But as adults, we know that there are sort of self care things that we can do that will then help us sleep better at night, whether that's having a bath or, I don't know, lighting a scented candles or whatever your jam is... and it's the same for babies. The things that we are doing by looking at their schedule are, basically, self care for babies, although that also sounds a little bit wanky... [laughter] I couldn't quite find the words there. Not wanky, wishy washy, you know what I mean. But, essentially, that is what it is.

Sarah: [00:25:46]Yeah, it definitely is. You know, all babies are relying on us as their parents to look after them and meet their needs, so it is self care.

Cat: [00:26:00]So that's five myths busted - kapow - I'm really holding on to this Batman analogy! We usually share five tips to help your baby sleep better but in this episode we've shown you five pieces of baby sleep advice we reckon you can definitely ignore.

Cat: [00:26:20]We know it's hard when you have a baby and people are always telling you to do this or never do that and it can be really hard to know who to listen to. I mean, I know I mentioned them already, but (sorry I'm holding on to this too!) Bob at playgroup may seem like he really knows what he's talking about but if he is telling you any of the myths that we busted here today, he probably shouldn't become your baby guru. That's what we are here for, because we talk about things like baby self care [laughter]. We hope you enjoyed this episode, if so give us a shout on your social channels, write us a review. And, more than anything, it would mean the world to us if you would subscribe to our podcast, it means we can carry on doing what we do best, helping parents everywhere to get a good night's sleep. Thanks for listening. Look after yourselves and sleep soon.

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