By Robin Stevenson
Myth 1: Big babies sleep better
“There is no scientific study comparing the sleep duration of bigger babies to smaller babies,” says Dr. Shelly K. Weiss, a pediatric neurologist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and author of Better Sleep for Your Baby & Child (Robert Rose). “However, larger babies have larger stomachs and are able to take in more milk when feeding. This may help them to sleep longer periods of time without waking due to hunger.” Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night (McGraw-Hill), says this myth was busted early on with her kids. “My worst sleeper (up every hour) weighed 8.5 pounds at birth and my champion sleeper (10 hours straight by six weeks old) weighed six pounds, so I can confirm from personal experience that this isn’t true.”
Myth 2: All babies sleep through the night by three months
Not so, says Dr. Weiss. “It’s important to know that no one (babies or adults) sleeps through the night. We all have brief arousals at night and go back to sleep, not remembering them,” she says. While some babies are better at self-soothing than others and can go back to sleep on their own, most cannot sustain a sleep period for six to eight hours until they are six months old, adds Dr. Wendy Hall, a professor at the University of British Columbia School of Nursing.
Myth 3: Some babies are just poor sleepers
“There are some babies who are very light sleepers and are awoken very easily by environmental noise, and some that have difficulty shutting down when exposed to stimulation,” says Dr. Hall. “The fact is,” says Pantley, “most babies are perfectly fine with their own sleep. It’s the disruption to the parents’ sleep that creates most of the problems.” Hence baby gets labelled as a poor sleeper.
Myth 4: Formula helps babies sleep better
No matter what your mother-in-law insists, the experts say there is no evidence that proves formula helps babies sleep better. This includes babies who are breastfed that get a supplement of formula. “This is an important myth to dispel as there are so many health benefits to both baby and mother for breastfeeding,” says Dr. Weiss. Plus, if this were true, says Pantley, “all formula-fed infants would sleep though the night within a few weeks of life — and we know that’s not the case.”
Myth 5: Early bedtime means early to rise and late bedtime means late to rise
“The literature suggests that infants who are late to bed and are consequently overtired sleep more poorly than infants who are not overtired,” says Dr. Hall. Most babies do sleep longer with an earlier bedtime, suggests Pantley. “Many parents are afraid to put their child to bed so early, thinking that they will then face a 5 a.m. wake-up call. But keeping your little one up too late backfires, and more often, a late night is the one followed by that early morning awakening.”
By the numbers
We polled our readers on canadianfamily.ca and asked when their baby started sleeping through the night (six straight hours without waking or feeding). Here’s how you responded.
Under two months 54 percent
3-6 months 24 percent
6-12 months 14 percent
Still waiting (sigh) 8 percent
How much sleep does my child need?*
*According to the Canadian Paediatric Society
|Age||Sleep (including naps)|
|0-6 months||16 hours a day (three to four hours at a time)|
|6-12 months||14 hours|
|1-3 years||10-13 hours|
|3-6 years||10-12 hours (by age five, most children have outgrown napping)|
“We’ve played a CD called Celtic Serenity for our daughter, Rowan, as part of her bedtime routine since she was born. And my husband sometimes sings her his own made-up lullaby. It’s very sweet.”
Roxane Murray, mom of Rowan, 1, Orangeville, Ont.
Convinced that your preschooler will never learn to snooze in his own bed or that your teen will constantly be up until midnight at the computer? Keep reading for more ways to help your family get the rest they need: