Guest blog by sleep expert Lise Dullaerts from @debabyslaapcoach

When it comes to sleep, there are always plenty of myths and fables in circulation. Several sleep myths revolving around baby sleep have survived through time. In this blog, we are going to review these myths and debunk them to the best of our ability. Here are some common baby sleep myths.

Myth: "Your baby will sleep better after starting solid foods!"


There is no clear evidence that solid foods will aid in sleeping for longer stretches. We do, however, see that many children start sleeping for longer periods around 6-8 months. This is mainly biologically determined and not due to nutrition.

Myth: "You should stop breastfeeding, formula will help your baby sleep through the night!" 


More than 80% of babies between 6 and 18 months wake up 1-3 times each night for nighttime feedings.

In the past, people thought that formula had more nutritional value. However, this is not true. Formula is modified cow's milk, processed to contain the same amount of fat, protein, carbohydrates and vitamins as breast milk. One of the things that formula cannot imitate is the additional components in breast milk.

Some also claim that formula is heavier. Formula is supposedly harder to digest. The reason that this belief lingers is that formula used to contain more of the dairy protein casein than today, which is indeed harder to digest. This, however, is no longer the case.

Research shows that babies who are given formula do not sleep longer or sleep with fewer interruptions than children who are breastfed. No difference was found in nighttime wake-ups or the need for night feedings.

See also: 7 newborn sleep secrets

Myth: "Thicken the milk or give an extra feed after breastfeeding and they'll sleep through the night!" 


Research shows that thickening milk does not affect a young child's ability to sleep through the night. Introducing solid foods, thickening of the milk or an extra bottle when breastfeeding are by no means sleep aids.

Myth: "If you keep a baby awake during the day, they will sleep better at night." 


This is the most well-known persistent myth. Keeping a baby awake during the day for extended periods of time will not have the desired effect you may have in mind. In fact, keeping a young child awake too long during the day can lead to exhaustion, making it harder for your little one to fall asleep and stay asleep. Babies need enough sleep during the day to promote a healthy night's sleep- sleep begets sleep, after all.

Myth: "Let your baby cry it out, it will teach them to self-soothe and sleep better." 


The "cry it out" method is a controversial approach that is not backed by any scientific evidence. Nor is it a one-size-fits-all solution. It is important to respond to your baby's needs, provide comfort and reassurance. Sleeping methods in which parental presence and support can be reduced step by step often have a better and long-lasting effect. Various studies have already proven that babies are not able to regulate themselves, that this only becomes possible around 6-8 months of age at the earliest, and that crying alone without the presence of a parent is highly stressful for babies and young children. High stress has a negative impact on a child's sleep, overall development and brain development. If a baby is left alone to cry themselves to sleep, over time, the baby will indeed stop crying and fall asleep out of sheer exhaustion. We see that the cortisol levels in the baby's body remain consistently elevated in these babies and young children.

High cortisol levels reduce ease of falling asleep and cause earlier waking, more crying and more restless behaviour.

See also: Crybaby? This can help.

Myth: ”Have your baby sleep in daylight or you won't be able to take them anywhere with you." 


It is advised to supervise a baby during sleep for a minimum of up to 6 months, which is not to say in daylight. The sleep hormone, melatonin, is only released in the dark. Consequently, it is certainly not abnormal for a baby to find it more difficult to sleep in a bright room. This is an entirely biological process, so you cannot "teach" a child to sleep in a light room. There is also no need to worry about disturbing a natural day-night rhythm, this too develops organically, and sleeping in the dark for daytime naps does not affect this in any way.

Some babies and certainly young toddlers, however, are more comfortable with a dim nightlight or soft ambient light in their sleep environment. It can help alleviate anxiety or distress and make it easier for them to fall asleep or be able to resettle to sleep at night. It is important, however, to ensure that the lighting is not too bright or stimulating; red light is least disruptive in this regard.

See also: 5 tips: Sleeping on the move

Myth: “Babies sleep through the night from a specific age." 


Every baby is different and sleep patterns vary widely. While some babies start sleeping longer at night around a certain age, others may take longer to establish consistent sleep patterns. It is important to have realistic expectations and patience while babies develop their own sleep routines. Whether a baby or young child sleeps through the night depends on numerous factors, such as the ability to regulate, the need for parental bonding and presence, illness, developmental leaps, teething, hunger, too much or too little sleep during the day, sleep environment, sleep associations, etc.

See also: Why does my baby have a hard time sleeping through?

Myth: "If your baby wakes up at night, it means they’re hungry." 


While hunger may be one of the reasons babies wake up at night, it is not always the case. In fact, it is the least common reason babies and young children wake up at night. Little ones can wake for a variety of reasons, including discomfort, need for regulation, a need for skin-to-skin contact, need for reassurance, developmental milestones, etc.

Myth: "Sleep training always involves babies crying for extended periods of time." 


Sleep training, as it was formerly known, did indeed include methods in which leaving babies to cry alone or controlled crying was recommended. Over the years, research has shown that sleep is only possible from a place of safety, connection and regulation. These basic needs are only possible through co-regulation of the parent with the child. Fortunately, there are now several sleep coaches and sleep guidance methods that focus on addressing the needs underlying the crying behaviour so that rest, safety and regulation can occur. As a result, there are gentle approaches that focus on parental presence and responsive reassurance, which can be phased out when the little one is ready. It is important to find an approach that fits your parenting style and your baby's needs.

See also: Circadian rhythm and your baby’s sleep