Busting the BS about Baby Sleep

“Is he a good baby?”

If you are a new parent, you can bet your boots this will be the first question everyone and his grandmother will ask you. Get that puzzled look off your face and come up with an answer quick, smart. Tell them, “no he’s a little brat, he’s already robbing old lady’s handbags and betting on horses!” Maybe even, “we’re ready to list him on Ebay.”

You need to create a diversion right away or you know the next question will be ‘does he sleep all night?” Whatever the hell that means to whomever is asking – 8 hours? 12 hours? All damn day except when he’s eating? Some of them will tell you that feeds should be measured and timed too, as though your baby is a train who needs to be on a proper schedule so your whole life isn’t derailed and left in the shunting yard.

However you answer question number two means how much BS about baby sleep you will be bombarded with. And, just in case you have already stuffed up and are feeling confused about all the crap floating around about how your baby ‘should’ sleep, let’s bust some of that BS.

And remember, don’t let anybody ‘should’ on you and don’t ‘should’ on yourself. This is your baby, you know him best. Unless ‘they’ are bringing casseroles or offering to do overnighters, how your baby sleeps is none of their business. And what they think of you is none of yours!

You must start your day at 7am, whatever time your baby last fed.

If your baby woke up at say, 5 am and filled his tummy, pooped his pants and finally went back to sleep at 6 am why would you wake him at 7am? Unless you are heading to work, where are you going at that time anyway (hell most of us couldn’t find the letter box for weeks after having a baby, let alone the car keys)?

You have two choices here that make sense – you can start your own day at 7am: Get up and have a shower (you might even have time to wash your hair) and eat breakfast or even prepare tonight’s dinner or do a load of washing while your baby sleeps. Or you can snuggle down under the covers and catch some zzzs until your baby wakes. ‘Don’t poke the bear’ is a pretty good theory when you finally get that kid to sleep and a baby who was just fed an hour ago probably won’t be hungry enough to feed well anyway.

Babies ‘should’ sleep in two hour stretches during the day.

Just like all of us, babies are individuals with differing sleep requirements. Are you a snooze head who needs a ten hour night to function and a two hour afternoon nap? Sorry you have a baby if you need this much sleep – wake up! Nobody is going to call you ‘good’ because you sleep so much. Or, do you buzz about all day on five or six hours sleep? If you were a baby ‘they’ would be telling your mother to shut you in your room and ignore your protests (read, screams) until you did damn well sleep.

If you or your partner are high energy ‘go getters’ (you are the ‘good’ ones now!), chances are, you could have a baby whose sleep needs are a bit like your own. You can spend all day in a darkened room patting and shushing like a crazy person (you soon will be) or you can get your baby up and have some fun. If you do try re-settling, give yourself a time limit, say, 10 minutes. There’s no point spending half an hour getting your baby back to sleep if he only dozes off for another fifteen minutes.

 Sleeping in your arms, a sling, a pram or the car is ‘junk’ sleep and it won’t refresh your baby’s brain.

Clearly these scaremongering dicks have never been stuck at home all day so their baby can sleep while their own brains turn into scrambled eggs. Luckily you would only believe this bit of B.S. if it was your first kid and you didn’t have to also do school runs or get to soccer practice with your other kids. Sleep is sleep. A baby who can snooze on the move is a lot easier than one who will only ever sleep in a darkened room at home, in his safety standards approved cot, in his own interior designed nursery.

If your baby sleeps in a pram, a sling or your arms, the rocking motion while he is sleeping is actually great for his tiny brain: movement helps develop his vestibular apparatus, a series of canals inside the inner ear that, as fluid moves over them (with movement), send out messages to the nervous system. This helps with the development of speech and language, balance and sensory integration(making sense of all the sensations of sound, movement, taste, smell and visual stimuli). So ditch the guilt and worry, pop your baby in a carrier, get up and go!

Looking for gentle, respectful ways to help your baby (and you) sleep without compromising breastfeeding or the beautiful bond between you and your little one? See my book Sleeping Like a Baby (it’s available on Audible too, if you don’t have time to read). You can download the first chapter FREE HERE.

You should never rock your baby to sleep

Try telling this to mothers with actual babies – we do whatever we need to get babies to sleep, the cuddle police can go to hell! We have been rocking babies to sleep for generations, so there just might be something in it (or in us) that’s pretty innate, don’t you think? Hell, I’ve even been known to rock the supermarket trolley when I’ve heard somebody else’s baby crying.

Also see ‘junk sleep’ above. As your baby grows, if rocking becomes unsustainable (or your baby gets too heavy), you can ‘wean’ her from being rocked to sleep by offering more movement when she is awake and introduce gentle music as a relaxation cue, then gradually rock less. Later, you can simply reduce the volume of the music if it’s driving you balmy.

You must never breastfeed your baby to sleep

Imagine, being all snuggled up to your partner then, just as you are dozing off, being poked and told, “move over to your own side of the bed, we are creating ‘bad habits’ ? It’s completely natural for your baby to snuggle up and snooze on the boob – there are some amazing chemicals in that mama milk that will knock your baby out quicker than a dose of brandy on the dummy (don’t ever listen to anyone who suggests this). So why would you wake a sleepy baby and risk tears (yours and your baby’s) just because somebody without boobs has told you this BS?

Although if you do want to gently wean your baby from feeding to sleep, here are some tips.

And, just in case you are worried about ‘bad habits’, take heart:  your baby may love to snuggle up to a warm breast when he’s eighteen – but it won’t be yours!


Pinky McKay is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and best-selling author of  ‘Sleeping Like a Baby’ – See Pinky’s books HERE (they are available as audio books too)  and baby sleep webinars

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  • Mike Woolridge

    Truly excellent and spot on.

  • Catherine Anderson

    I’m totally agreed with you on this, especially the breastfeeding. There is a quote for this: “You are not a pacifier, you are a mom” – Paula Yount.

  • pinky

    Catherine I love that quote : “you are not a pacifier, you are a mom.”

  • Sherry-An

    thank you. I am encouraged!

  • Edwina Robinson

    For weeks now I have been so worried about how my baby is not self settling and I am spoiling her too much… However leaving my baby screaming is just not my style!!! So happy my girlfriend suggested to start following you Pinky!!!! I have a new confidence after reading the above that what I am doing is right for my little one, after all I am her Mum 🙂
    Thank you x

  • Jo Oldland

    How do I submit a “mum question” to you like you post in Facebook Pinky?

    I breastfeed and/or rock my 8 month old to sleep still (also have music playing all night). I don’t mind but without fail he wakes after the first sleep cycle (50 mins) each night and has to be completely resettled. How can I help him to overcome this? He sometimes manages 1.5-2 hr naps during the day.

    He also still wakes regularly (approx every 2.75 hrs) during the night for a feed, which I’m ok with as he’s in with me after midnight. Thanks!!

    • Shannon

      OMG my baby is exactly the same and I thought it was just us. This makes me feel better. But I feel your pain it sucks.

    • Elisa

      My 11 month old is the same, however recently it has started to become a nightmare trying to resettle him after that initial first slept cycle…

      • kathy

        My baby is exactly the same! Once that hurdle is over she usually settles into a deeper sleep. I wonder if we do this as adults too to some extent?

  • Marissa

    While I appreciate what you are saying and believe much of it to be true it concerns me that some wisdom that could be passed on by grandmothers is undermined with an attitude of ‘what would we know’. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. We do have something to offer.

  • Cathie

    I am absolutely from this school of thinking but unfortunately my 7 month old now cannot go to sleep without my nipple in his mouth & wakes every 2 hours. After 4 montgs of this i am beside myself with exhaustion. I’m under huge pressure from my partner to sleep train. He is convinced i’ve “created an healthy dependency” in my baby on …. ehm…. his mother.

    • J

      Cathie my daughter went through this phase at 6-7 months. Just ride it out it will get better!! The thing that helped me was when I felt she was ready around 9 months I started bf but not all the way to sleep and then laying down next to her til she fell asleep. The first night it did take her an hour but down to 20 mins now.She stopped waking up a million times And just wakes 12 and 4 for boob now which I’m ok with xx

  • Jo

    I think this is all great advice and a great reminder to help you chill out a bit! After reading these blog posts and having a coffee the other day whilst my bub slept on my chest in the comfy chair at the cafe I realised all the people coming in and out that were smiling at me. I realised there is a reason they do this…its because babies always look absolutely adorable cuddled up to their mummas! Another reason cuddles are awesome X

  • Kelsey

    First time mum here, this absolutely boosts my confidence. I feel so encouraged!

  • Alexiac

    Omg pinkie everything you have written is what I’m battling currently. With 4 month old.
    thank you for making me feel normal!

  • Olivia

    So glad I found your blog!!! What a breath of fresh air!
    Thank you 🙂

  • Connie Schwieder

    Wow!! Extremely well written and SPOT ON!!!! Excellent!