Baby sleep: 9 things parents do wrong

Parents are faced with an overwhelming muddle of information about baby sleep – and a lot of it is conflicting and plain wrong, says this expert.

Between advice from well-meaning family members and friends, the internet, books, magazines, forums, chat groups and mother’s groups, it’s no wonder mums and dads are confused about baby routines.

And it is little wonder that they are not making the right decisions when it comes to infants and sleep, says maternity and child sleep consultant Steph Gouin.

“Baby sleep has now become complicated and complex, and there’s this notion that getting a baby to sleep and sleep well is almost impossible – but it’s not,” says Steph, founder of Dream Start Baby.

Here are the top sleep issues parents are getting wrong:

Not letting their babies get enough sleep

Babies need a lot of sleep.

“Many parents worry that their baby isn’t awake and learning if they are sleeping all the time but here’s the thing – babies have the rest of their lives to learn,” Steph says.

“Really, all they need, particularly in the early days, is to eat and sleep.”

Not knowing their baby’s tired signs

“Babies will always show tired signs, and this is your cue to get them in bed,” Steph says.

”If you put your baby down when they are overtired (or under tired), they will have a lot more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep as opposed to when you respond to the signs they’re showing you and you put them down when they are nicely tired.”

baby sleep problems

Keeping baby up all day so they’ll sleep all night

“Doing this will lead to you having one very over-tired and cranky baby,” Steph says.

“Sleep promotes sleep and day sleep is equally as important as night sleep.”

Not giving baby a chance to self-settle

When your baby cries, you rush in and pick them up.

“All babies can and will self-settle but only if their sleep conditions are set up correctly and they are given time and space to explore their own ways of doing so,” Steph says.

“If you’re always doing the selling for them, they never get the chance.”

Thinking that all crying is ‘bad’

Crying is baby “talk”, but it doesn’t always need immediate intervention.

“Crying is how babies communicate and while sometimes your baby will cry because they need your help, there will be many times when your baby cries simply because they are exhausted and need sleep,” Steph says.

Using too many soothing tactics

It is better to choose one settling method and make sure both parents, as well as other carers, are consistent with it.

“While there may be times when your baby won’t settle and you do need to soothe them in several different ways, if you change up their routine your baby will feel confused and unsure and they will struggle to happily fall off to sleep,” says Steph.

baby sleep problems

Over-thinking and over-complicating things

“In a healthy baby, there will be a basic reason why they are unhappy,” Steph says.

“If you overlook the basics and try to address issues that aren’t issues, the chances are you will still have an unsettled baby who won’t sleep.”

Not giving your baby enough time to adjust to new routines

If you want to change sleep habits and behaviours, you need to give your baby time to get used to new routines.

“Breaking habits takes time, especially when they have been going on for weeks and even months,” Steph says.

“Your baby needs clear, consistent messages. If you chop and change all the time, your baby will feel confused, overwhelmed and unsettled.”

Expecting a miracle cure

Magical sleep products won’t solve your baby’s sleep problems, says Steph.

“If the underlying reason/s why your baby is having trouble sleeping are not identified and addressed, no matter how much money you spend on the latest and greatest baby sleep product, it will make no difference.”

New to parenting? Find out how to cope in your first few years of parenthood, how dads can share the care, and what to do to get through the first twelve months.

Written by Laeta Crawford.