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Top 3 Infant Sleep Myths

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We hear them at playgroups and baby showers, see them on message boards and read them on medicine bottles.  Parental Urban Legends add more confusion to new parents’ already overloaded brains and with no basis in fact, they persist like Mikey and Pop Rocks.  Here are 3 of the most popular- and just plain wrong- parental urban legends:

We hear them at playgroups and baby showers, see them on message boards and read them on medicine bottles.  Parental Urban Legends add more confusion to new parents’ already overloaded brains and with no basis in fact, they persist like Mikey and Pop Rocks.  Here are 3 of the most popular- and just plain wrong- parental urban legends:

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1. Putting rice cereal in baby’s bottle will help baby sleep longer

There is absolutely no evidence that shows that thickening milk or formula with cereal will make baby sleep longer at night.  In fact, the most cited study on this topic, heartily disproves this parental urban legend.

In our desperation to “tank baby up” and buy an extra hour of rest, it’s often thought that a fuller stomach = sleep.  This is true when we give baby milk before bed to ensure that s/he doesn’t wake unnecessarily from hunger but the addition of rice cereal does not help baby sleep longer.

There is also a very real, evidence based movement to completely remove rice cereal from babies’ diet but that is for another post.

Why it’s become a parental urban legend:  When parents introduce rice cereal in baby’sbottle, it is typically at the 8-12 week mark, when parents are at their wits end with getting up 3-4 times overnight.  The fact is, baby is naturally sleeping longer stretches at this time anyway.  Thickening formula receives the credit for what baby is doing naturally.

2. Mylicon will Eliminate Gas and Soothe your Baby

This myth is near and dear to my heart because like so many, I desperately believed it myself with my own 3 kids.  Study after study definitively demonstrate that Simethicone (the generic name for gas drops) is no more or less effective than a placebo.   What does this mean? Gas drops don’t work.  Period.

Why it’s become a parental urban legend: EVERYONE recommends Simethicone drops.  Everyone! They even have their own little section in the pharmacy department.  Once again well-meaning parents just want to help baby find some relief.  Please try to contain your shock when I tell you this, but marketing companies love to capitalize on “soothing baby” so they sell, sell, sell a harmless but useless product.

And once again it is parent and baby who should receive the credit for getting that uncomfortable gas out of baby’s tummy.  Slow patient feeds, lots of burping and gently switching position or massaging baby to get gas out after feeding are tried and true ways to reduce gas.

3. Putting baby to sleep later at night will make them sleep later in the morning

We’ve all done this one.  According to pediatric sleep specialist, Dr. Lisa Meltzer, “the internal clock is a powerful force that typically wakes young children up around the same time every morning, no matter what time they go to sleep at night.”  This means that putting baby to sleep later robs them of sleep they should be getting.  Even worse, poor night sleep adds to the overtired cycle the next day, making it more difficult for baby to settle and rest again.

Why it’s become a parental urban legend: Because staying up late and then sleeping late seems so logical!  And we are desperate for sleep AND logic at this point! Sure there are times babies have a big day and sleep for long stretches out of sheer exhaustion, but this gives us a false positive.  Keeping baby awake longer than their bodies need may work for one night or one nap, but fighting against baby’s natural rhythms leads to true exhaustion and meltdown.

What Parental Urban legends can you add?  Comment below!

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