I am not getting enough sleep lately. Sound familiar? Sound like all of life since having kids? Yep. But the thing that REALLY bugs me is that there are so many myths about sleep out there that somehow make the lack of sleep worse. I mean, yes– people will say that when you have a baby, you’ll be losing sleep. But then in the next breath, they’ll ask if your baby is sleeping through the night.
That’s whack. (And yes, I realize there are more relevant and new words, but “whack” really just seems to nail it.)
So I wanted to write a post about the 5 Myths of Sleep and Your Children that I hear again and again. Not always outright, but sometimes just implied. And sometimes, definitely, totally outright. Why debunk these myths?
BECAUSE THEY MAKE US DEPRESSED. When we think everyone’s kids are sleeping and ours aren’t, it stinks. When we think our kids SHOULD be sleeping for 8 or 12 hours, we get frustrated. We’ll still be tired when we debunk these myths. BUT WE WON’T BE AS FRUSTRATED. We’ll have more realistic expectations!
We are commonly led to believe certain facts about sleep that simply do not hold up. ASK ANY PARENT. And when we are not getting a lot of sleep and then people hold these myths (or if we are tired and grumpy, we can call them lies), it makes us feel bitter about the lack of sleep. It makes us even more discontent in our tired, yawn-y, coffee-needing circumstances.
So in the interest of speaking truth (and maybe blowing off my cranky-tired steam), let’s break these down.
5 MYTHS ABOUT SLEEP AND YOUR CHILDREN
#1 – Babies sleep through the night.
Yes, people often warn new moms that this isn’t true. They warn that you won’t get a lot of sleep when you have a newborn. And yet…when you have a baby, one of the most commonly asked questions people will ask is always: “Is your baby sleeping through the night?”
The ask itself sets the expectation. So many people are asking me if my baby sleeps through the night…my baby SHOULD be sleeping through the night. I should be sleeping through the night? What’s wrong with my baby? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!?!!?!
NOTHING. Doctors commonly define “sleeping through the night” as a stretch of six hours without waking. For me, that IS my full night since I sleep so little. And when you’re moving out of feeding a baby every two hours, it definitely seems luxurious.
Some babies do sleep for longer stretches earlier. Even though Lincoln (my second) slept for 10-12 hours stretches by the time he was two months old, it didn’t last. Because of Myth #2.
(PS- He was the ONLY one out of four to sleep that much so quickly. It happens. But it’s rare.)
#2 Once babies sleep through the night, they ALWAYS sleep through the night.
Babies DO typically fall into a pattern of sleeping longer stretches. Until they hit any of the 10 million milestones that may happen in the first year. Like:
- learning to roll over, but not how to roll back
- getting teeth
- getting MORE teeth
- having a growth spurt
- learning to sit up
- figuring out how to pull up and stand in the crib
- having another growth spurt
- getting more teeth
You get the idea. Basically, parents are led to believe babies will sleep through the night. It’s like this goal we are all trying to reach. And then, when you finally do reach it, someone yells, “JUST KIDDING!” and you find yourself back at the beginning.
Except more bitter because you had a brief grasp on a longer stretch of sleep. And now it’s gone.
#3 Toddlers sleep through the night.
Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.
This is the myth we have been living lately. Quin (who is 2) woke up for like two months recently between 1 and 3 times a night. She’s two. And had been sleeping like 12 hours straight before that.
Oh, and she suddenly liked to get up at 5am, ready to start the day. This wouldn’t be SUCH a big deal except for the whole thing where she could climb out of her crib. She woke up everyone else and then we were putting four kids back to bed, not just one. Because we are JUST NO on 5am wakeups.
I literally woke up at 5:35 one morning to find both girls (who are 2 & 3) scaling the kitchen counter because they were hungry.
NOPE. NOPE. NOPE.
Which brings me to number 4.
#4 There is always a reason your child isn’t sleeping.
I began asking (on Facebook, of course) for suggestions with our latest struggle. You might think after four kids, I would have figured this out. (Another myth– you just find new and special problems with each kid.)
I got a lot of suggestions, most of which we have tried or wouldn’t work, and also some guesses as to why she’s not sleeping.
- Maybe she isn’t getting enough sleep (because she has been giving up naps) and so she is overtired.
- Maybe she is getting her 2-year molars.
- Maybe she’s going through a growth spurt.
- Maybe she is sick.
- Maybe she is hungry.
- Maybe something is waking her up.
If I could answer this question you guys, believe me that I would bottle that answer up and sell it tomorrow on the internet for a million dollars. (Or I would GIVE IT AWAY because I’m nice and I feel your pain.)
So far as we can tell, there is no reason that her once-great sleep turned AWFUL. We can’t figure it out. And oh, we’ve tried.
The thing you do with babies and toddlers is that you treat them like a science experiment. You hypothesize. And then you test that hypothesis in the petry dish that is your life.
Sometimes, you get an answer.
But many times, you come up empty. Because SO MUCH OF THE TIME YOU JUST NEVER FIGURE OUT WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON OR WHY.
It just happens. Until it doesn’t anymore. No science to see here. Just a bunch of mysteries, all lined up in a row. Quin finally started sleeping all night again. And we have no idea why on that either.
#5 When your kids grow up, THEN you’ll sleep.
I’ve been talking to a lot of moms with grown or older kids who are ALSO keeping them from sleep. Kids who I, as a parent to 8 year olds and under, assume WILL NOT INTERFERE with your sleep.
But instead of the child literally waking you, these moms tell me how their worry and care and heartsickness keeps them up.
They wake in the night, aching for their kids and over their struggles. They pray in the middle of the night. They think of ways to help. They get emotionally distraught.
They remember back to the stage where I’m living now, when a bandaid and a kiss from mommy could fix most of the big issues.
I’ve also been told that there are other things like insomnia, restless leg syndrome, menopause, and other really fun aging things that prevent or interrupt sleep.
So if it’s not kids, it’s your OWN BODY not letting you sleep. Perfect.
When you become a parent, sleep becomes elusive. FOREVER. The end.
Sure, there may be some months or years where I get a little (or a lot) more than I do now. We are about to head into new-baby-land, where I will have no sleep and remember the first few months in a fog of exhaustion. It is an ebb and flow.
Whatever routine and pattern you fall into with your family (and I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you, though I suspect you already know), your sleep WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AFTER YOU HAVE KIDS.
Maybe if we recognized the myths, we would still be tired, but maybe a little less bitter?
Or maybe not. Because I’m very aware of the myths, yet still pretty bitter at 3:55am when several children are crying at once.
Were you familiar with these 5 myths about sleep? Did I miss any? Have you found any solutions or tricks that worked regardless of kid or situation? Share in the comments!