Sleep myths debunked!

As any good mathematician knows, it takes a solid proof to prove that something is true, but only one counter-example to prove it is false. Allow my baby, who STILL wakes five times night at 8 1/2 months, to be the counter-example to these amazingly prevalent sleep myths.

1) “You should introduce solids, that will help her sleep through the night!”

Scientific studies have proved this one false, but if that’s not enough for you (as it doesn’t seem to be for the large majority of people), it sure as heck did nothing for my baby. Not a darn, blessed change. And I log sleep every night then graph trends, so I can say that authoritatively there was no difference when Baby Love started solids, nor when she started eating a respectable amount of them.

To be fair, this could be because I didn’t start Baby Love on the hard-to-digest sludge known as rice cereal (the hard-to-digest piece is actually why some argue it helps sleep since it sits in the belly) and instead gave her whole fruits and veggies. However, I have a friend who did start with rice cereal and she also saw no difference in her non-sleeping child.

2) “You need to teach her to fall asleep on her own, then she’ll sleep through the night better.”

aka “You need to do CIO,” aka “You should always put her down sleepy but awake,” aka “You need to stop nursing her to sleep.”

This one comes in many forms, all of which are a dirty, disappointing lie. I put so much stock in this one. After all, it makes sense: if Baby Love can’t put herself to sleep how can she put herself back to sleep during her light awakenings? But my sweet daughter has taught me that falling asleep and falling BACK asleep are two very, very different skills. She has been putting herself to sleep in her crib for weeks now consistently, and her sleep is, quite possibly, the worst it’s ever been. I doubt the going to sleep on her own CAUSED the worse sleep, but it certainly didn’t do anything to help it.

3) “CIO’s only drawback is that it’s hard for the mom. If you can be strong enough to do what’s best for your child it will work.”

Actually, no. Studies have shown CIO can cause what extremists call brain damage, and while I certainly wouldn’t look down on anyone who tried it it is not without risk. It also certainly doesn’t always work.

Allow me to give an example. Say you are afraid of spiders. Now say someone locked you in a closet full of spiders for an arbitrary period of time and did not relent no matter what you did; you would stay in the closet until the time was up. This was repeated several times a day for weeks. Eventually you may stop screaming and pounding on the door, you may find your happy place, or you may even decide spiders aren’t so scary after awhile. Alternately, you may reinforce your belief that spiders are the most terrifying thing in the world and start to dread all closets, feeling your stress and anxiety rise any time you approach the area where the closet of your experience is.

Out of desperation I tried CIO one night. After over an hour and a half of desperate, panicked screaming Baby Love finally collapsed into sleep. When she woke it had been awhile so I fed her, and then she started panicking when I approached the crib. I said screw it and we’d call it a night. The next day she got tense if we went upstairs, the tension increasing as we approached and enter her room. She’d cry if we went near her crib. If I kept it up might her anxiety have peaked and broken? Possibly. But it’s also very possible she would have strengthened her negative association with her crib, which we then would have had to work through. As it was we had to build her trust in her crib back up, and months later it’s still not fully back. The problem wasn’t I couldn’t listen to her cry, it was that it made things worse for her.

So there you have it: proof by counter-example!

Now does anyone have some advice that actually works? Because I’ve tried it all.

I’m off to bed. May your night be more restful than mine will be!

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