When my son was about three months-old — just coming out of the drowsy haze of life as a newborn and sleeping longer and longer stretches — I was sure I was home free. At least that’s what all the books said.
But it was the opposite in our house. My son went from taking long naps and logging seven hours of nighttime slumber, to catnapping and waking up every three hours again, just like a newborn.
Since then I’ve learned a lot more about sleep development, baby brains, and circadian rhythms, and it makes perfect sense that my good newborn sleeper turned on me. I just wish I’d been expecting it.
So this week in my Science of Kids column, I’m talking about the most common myths about baby sleep, starting with “Sleep gets better at three months.” Here they are:
1. Sleep gets better at three months: The idea that sleep development is linear is a misconception. Many babies go through a period of more frequent waking at three to four months, often due to a surge in cognitive development.
2. Good sleepers don’t wake up at night: Nope, good sleepers and difficult sleepers wake up just as frequently. The good sleepers just know how to re-settle themselves and get back into another deep phase of sleep.
3. Use sleepiness cues for nap time: Especially in the newborn months, the clock is a better reference point for when your baby is ready to nap. Newborns are ready to sleep after being awake 90 minutes. That means even after a short cat nap in the car, 90 minutes later your baby is most ready for sleep.
4. Catnaps are not real naps: We all love the 2 hour nap, but many babies sleeping on their backs (newborn style) will wake up after about 20-40 minutes. That’s frustrating for mom and dad, but it’s developmentally appropriate. Don’t sweat the short naps, they will grow.
5. Baby squawks mean “I need you”: We hear so much about attachment and responding to our babies that sometimes we actually end up missing our babies’ signals. Just because an infant is spurting and kicking her legs at night doesn’t mean she’s saying “come here immediately!” (you know those cries when you hear them). Babies make all kinds of noises at night, just like they do during the day. As long as your not worried about your baby’s weight or your milk supply, rushing in at every peep means your baby has no chance to get comfy and learn how to put herself back to sleep.
See more discussion and all 7 myths of baby sleep here on Science of Kids.
Do you have any to add?