Top 10 Baby Sleep Myths

by Cathryn Tobin, MD

Do you recognize yourself in any of these statements? Here's the truth about the most common misconceptions.

Myth #1: My baby wakes up because of gas.
The most common reason older babies wake up and stay up is that they lack the self-calming tools necessary to manage night awakenings.

Myth #2: My baby wakes up because he's hungry.
Like adults, babies eat for reasons other than hunger. A baby will nurse because it's the only way he knows how to get back to sleep.

Myth #3:My baby is a poor sleeper.
We inadvertently train our babies to be poor sleepers by not equipping them with the skills they need to fall asleep.

Myth #4: Rice cereal before bedtime will help my baby sleep longer.
Hunger is typically not the cause of sleep problems after 3 to 4 months of age.

Myth #5: Crying damages a baby's psyche.
I've known babies who were raised on attachment parenting principles and those allowed to cry it out. Can I tell them apart by their intellectual, psychological, or emotional states? Absolutely not!

Myth #6: It's easier to sleep-train an older baby.
The longer a habit is reinforced, the harder it is to break.

Myth #7: Teething disrupts sleep.
This may be true at times, but teething is blamed for way too many sleep problems.

Myth #8: Poor sleep habits improve eventually.
Without their parents' help, the vast majority of babies will sleep worse, not better, over time. Sleep problems don't magically disappear. Consider the 2004 Sleep in America Poll, which found that two-thirds of children from infancy to age 10 experience frequent sleep problems.

Myth #9: Babies will get the sleep they need.
If only! Babies resist sleep like similarly charged magnets resist each other. Parents need to insure a baby gets enough sleep.

Myth #10: There's no harm in getting up with my baby as long as I'm willing to do it.
If you enable unhealthy sleep habits, you run the risk of your child developing long-standing sleep problems that will persist into the preschool years.

Excerpted from The Lull-a-Baby Sleep Plan: The Soothing, Superfast Way to Help Your New Baby Sleep Through the Night . . . And Prevent Sleep Problems Before They Develop.

Cathryn Tobin, MD, is a pediatrician, a trained midwife, and a member of the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. She has been speaking on parenting issues for more than twenty years. Visit her on the Web at

Copyright © Cathryn Tobin, MD. Permission to reprint granted to, LLC by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098.