10 Baby Sleep Mistakes to Avoid

Parents are often warned about the mistakes to avoid when it comes to their babies’ sleep. We’re sure that by now you’ve heard all the warnings and shoulds: “don’t nurse your baby to sleep”, “put your baby down drowsy but awake”, “how you put them to sleep at the beginning of the night is how they’ll expect to go to sleep all night long”, “you need to teach them to self soothe”, etc. We could probably list these off for a while, but you get the point and you know what we’re talking about. 

Today, we want to take a little bit of a different perspective to baby sleep mistakes to avoid in the first year. These are things that we have learned throughout the 5 past years as parents and sleep coaches and we know that knowing these will help you all feel more confident and empowered as you approach your baby’s sleep. 

Mistake #1: Expecting sleep to be linear. We’re sure many of you have fallen for this one because we DEFINITELY did. When our first babies were babies and they gave us their first 4 hour stretch, we expected that to be the new norm until they got to 5 hours and then 6 hour stretches. If you have a baby at home, you know that this is seldom the case and in fact, babies tend to do better as newborns than they do in that 4-10 month range. This is normal and the more we normalize it and talk about it, the less defeated we’ll all feel when our babies “regress”. 

Mistake #2: Fearing bad habits. With all the warnings out there about what to avoid doing, it’s not a surprise that we hear this one a lot. Families are so worried about creating bad habits for their babies from as early as birth. We want you to know that there is actually no such thing as a bad habit when it comes to baby sleep. There are just things that are working or are no longer working for your family. You can always choose to do what works really well now and make a change at a future point in time, when it’s no longer working for you and your baby. So never fear bad habits if you’re doing something you love with your baby. 

Mistake #3: Feeling guilty for snuggling your baby to sleep. We can’t tell you how many calls we’ve been on with families who say, “I know I shouldn’t be doing x” when talking about how they support their babies to sleep. We live in a culture where these normal and instinctual ways of parenting are being pathologized to the point that people don’t want to tell others that this is how they support their babies to sleep. We never want you to feel guilty for following your heart and holding your baby as much as they and you want to! 

Mistake #4: Ignoring red flags. This one is common because there just isn’t enough information around these. Families are just told to sleep train if their baby is waking often throughout the night and few are pointed in the right direction of how to resolve these underlying issues. If your baby is waking hourly, breathing through their mouth or snoring, is really gassy, or takes a really long time to fall asleep at bedtime, these are often signs that something more than sleep is going on that needs to be addressed. We have a free guide to walk you through exactly what might be going on and who to reach out to here.

Mistake #5: Having unrealistic expectations. Did you expect your baby to be able to sleep peacefully in their crib for 15+ hours a day? If you did, you’re not alone. Our expectations of baby sleep are very misconstrued because as a society, we don’t spend much time around babies. The media tells us that babies should be happily sleeping alone, and sleep training culture reinforces this narrative. We think that having realistic expectations of your baby’s sleep is one of the most powerful things you can have, so check out our blog on normal infant sleep here!

Mistake #6: Making sleep a battle. Baby sleep can be so complicated but it does not have to be a battle. As soon as we go into fight mode, we lose our calm and if we’re not calm, neither are our babies. Babies need to be in a state of calm before they can fall asleep so if you’re feeling frustrated trying to put your baby to sleep, the best thing you can do is take a break and try again 20-30 minutes later. This preserves sleep as a safe place to go to and remain and it keeps all of us from dreading nap and bedtime! Read all about how to take the battle out of bedtime here. 

Mistake #7: Letting someone else tell you what works for your family. We see this all the time and we don’t care what anyone’s credentials are, no one should tell you what works for your family. Whether it’s your doctor, mom, neighbour, or expert on social media. They do not know your baby like you do, they do not know your family and what your family needs. You are the expert on your baby and family and you are always their best bet. Keep showing up and doing exactly what you know everyone needs and drown out the noise. 

Mistake #8: Losing your instincts. Our instincts are the best parenting tool we have. When we follow them, we can show up for our children with confidence and be the leader that they need us to be. What happens so often is that we get information paralysis and start losing those instincts because of the conflicting information we’re reading online. This can take a little bit of practice, especially if you feel like you’ve lost your instincts, but remember that not everything is for you and your family. Trust yourself to read about the options and ideas available to you and then make the decision that feels best for your family. You’re always getting it right when you’re following your instincts. 

Mistake #9: Trying to get the quick fix. Can we be honest? As a society, we’re a little obsessed with quick fixes. We live in a world where we can access information, services, and entertainment on demand from our smartphones and we definitely see this spilling over into parenting. We’re looking for the fastest way to the result we need without seeing the full picture and long term effects/effectiveness of the solution. We also see families trying to fix things that have only been a problem for a day or two. Our best advice? Don’t try to fix a challenge you’ve been struggling with for less than 2 weeks and seek a solution that you’re comfortable and confident with for the long-term. Parenting is a lifelong journey after all. 

Mistake #10: Reading the books, not your baby. Parenting and sleep books can provide families with a wealth of knowledge, information, and insight as to what may be going on with their child. They can help us to better understand why our children act in certain ways and can encourage us to become better parents for our children. There is so much good that can come from learning and growing as a parent, but we just want to caution you on one thing, be sure to reflect on how this all applies to your unique child. If a book says to do a bath as part of your bedtime routine but your child HATES bath time, you’re probably better suited to do bath earlier in the day. If a book tells you that an 8 month old should be taking 3 naps but your baby does great on two then you should be doing two. If a book says your baby should be getting 15 hours of sleep every 24 hours and your baby needs 13, you should listen to what your baby is telling you over the book. Remember that there is a lot of information out there but you know your baby best and will always know what they need!

So there you have it, 10 mistakes that we see when it comes to baby sleep that we want you to have a different perspective on! We want you to know that you’re not alone if you’ve made any or all of these and we just want to encourage you to follow your hearts and show up for your baby as you feel you need to. You’re all doing an amazing job! 

Categories: : Sleep Without Sleep Training, Naps, Routine, Normal Infant & Toddler Sleep, Sleep Associations, Red Flags, Regressions, Night Wakes