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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