Kim West, known as The Sleep Lady®, reveals the truth behind common sleep myths and offers tips for parents on how they can help their babies and children get asleep and stay asleep.
1. If I skip my child's nap, he will sleep longer at night. Also, the later I put my child to bed, the later he'll sleep in the morning.
Sleep Lady: The more overtired you allow your child to get, the more wired he'll get-making it harder for him to get asleep and stay asleep.
2. Children not sleeping through the night for the first year or two is a fact of life.
Sleep Lady: Healthy babies 6 months or older who are growing well can often sleep 11 hours at night. Although teething, illness, and developmental milestones can disturb sleep at various times, they're only temporary interruptions.
3. Newborns sleep all the time and know what they need. You don't need to schedule their sleep times.
Sleep Lady: Even very young babies benefit from scheduling and consistency at nighttime and naptime. It cuts down on their crankiness and crying and lays the groundwork for learning how to sleep through the night once they're a little older.
4. Children know when they're sleepy and when they should go to bed.
Sleep Lady: Not once they learn to fight sleep for your company! Children need our direction and guidance with a soothing bedtime routine to help them slow down and transition to sleep. Once you get your child on a consistent schedule, you can plan your own day better and can count on having a happy awake child.
5. Some children, including babies, don't need as much sleep as others.
Sleep Lady: Very few children need less than the average amount of sleep for their age. They need enough good quality sleep to grow and learn at the incredible rate they do! They need us to protect their need for sleep.
6. If I let my child "cry it out" at bedtime, I can do whatever it takes (rock, walk, nurse, bottle feed, etc.) to get him back to sleep in the middle of the night.
Sleep Lady: Once your baby is over 6 months of age, you must be consistent at bedtime AND all night wakings. If he becomes accustomed to being fed, rocked, walked, etc. during the night, that is what he will need and expect each time he wakes up in order to go back to sleep. He won't understand why you are doing it sometimes and not other times.
7. I will have to give up all forms of cosleeping if I want a baby with good sleep habits.
Sleep Lady: Not true. Consider an alternative middle ground called "room sharing" where you keep your baby in your room in a crib or cosleeper for months or even a year. You can easily feed your baby, it gives you the peace of mind of having her close by, and you don't have to worry about the safety challenges of bed sharing. Most importantly, you can begin to put your baby down "drowsy but awake" at naptime so she can learn to put herself to sleep independently and you are still near by. This will make the transition to her own crib and room one day much easier!
8. If I feed my baby late at night, he will sleep longer.
Sleep Lady: A baby will sleep for a longer stretch when he no longer needs to eat at night AND if he knows how to put himself back to sleep without being fed.
9. Feeding my child formula rather than relying on breast feeding in the evening will help her sleep longer.
Sleep Lady: It may help her sleep longer since formula takes longer to digest, but it won't make a difference if she doesn't know how to put herself back to sleep without nursing or bottle feeding.
Copyright ©2009 Kim West, LCSW-C, author of The Sleep Lady®'s Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy with Joanne Kenen (January 12, 2010; $15.95/trade paperback; Vanguard Press).
Kim West, LCSW-C, known as The Sleep Lady®, has helped thousands of parents teach their babies and children how to go to sleep and stay asleep. She has appeared on Dr. Phil, The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, TLC's Bringing Home Baby, and has been written about in many publications. West is the mother of two daughters and a licensed child and family therapist. She is also the author of 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies and the upcoming, Good Night, Sleep Tight Workbook. For more information, visit www.sleeplady.com.