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Sleep Rules: Does Mother Really Know Best?

My mother has always given the best advice. Even as a teenager, that season of life when one is downright expected to disregard anything her mother says, I found pearls of wisdom in our conversations. I appreciate that advice now more than ever, but after completing extensive training to become a Certified Child Sleep Consultant, I am aware of one area where “daughter might know best”. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I might compare a few of my mother’s sleep rules to the ones we experts follow when it comes to a child’s sleep.

1. Mom’s advice: Always place baby on tummy to sleep. What do the experts say? Back to Sleep. Most parents from my mother’s generation will tell you that the only way to ensure a baby sleeps well is by placing him on his tummy. However, this piece of advice is outdated and can unintentionally be quite dangerous. Since the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign began in 1994, the rate of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) has decreased by as much as 50%. Therefore, parents should always place baby to sleep on his back.

2. Mom’s advice: Always feed or rock a baby to sleep. What do the experts say? Drowsy but awake. This one seems quite logical. In our parent’s day, feeding or rocking a baby to sleep and successfully transferring her to the crib was recognized as a special talent. If baby woke again in the night, they repeated the process as many times as it took. However, setting a baby up for sleep success requires them to be placed in their crib drowsy but awake. Why? Parents can become a “crutch” for their child. Without that crutch, a baby completes a sleep cycle and then requires it again to fall back asleep. Once baby is about 4 months old, it is crucial to teach her the skill of self-soothing. Unless a feeding or two is still required in the night, it’s time to remove those crutches and let baby “walk on her own”.

3. Mom’s advice: Never wake a sleeping baby. What do the experts say? Sometimes you need to wake them. This is a tough one and not so easy to do. Afteall, when a baby is sleeping, parents get that much needed break. However, if your baby is sleeping too much during the day, she will not have enough sleep pressure to sleep well at night. In order for babies and young children to sleep well, we want to align their circadian rhythm with sleep pressure. Science tells us that there are key times when a baby should sleep during the day and at night. Honoring those sleep needs is crucial for establishing healthy sleep. So, there may come a point in time where you might need to rouse your tyke awake in order to preserve bedtime or your next nap time.

Yes, it’s true what they say. Mom (usually) does know best, but in the sleep department, it might just be time to change some of those good ‘ole sleep rules from the past so that the whole family can get some much deserved quality sleep.

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