5 Baby Sleep Myths Busted!

What really works to get baby to nod off to sleep.

Diet and Routine

Everyone has advice for the sleep-deprived mom: Slip some cereal into baby's bottle, cut short his naps, never let him nod off in your arms. "I call these myth-conceptions," says Santa Monica, California, pediatrician Harvey Karp, MD, author of the book and DVD The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Baby Sleep Longer (Bantam, 2003). "They're perpetuated by well-meaning people, but it doesn't make them true." Here, we shoot down the top five sleep myths and offer better bets for getting your baby to sleep, well, like a baby.

MYTH No. 1: Feeding your baby more milk at night or putting cereal in her bottle will help her sleep longer.

TRUTH: In studies, babies fed rice cereal in their bottle slept no better or longer than those who didn't, reports pediatrician William Sears, MD, author of The Baby Sleep Book: The Complete Guide to a Good Night's Rest for the Whole Family (Little Brown, 2005). In fact, a common cause of night waking is indigestion. "If you put babies to bed with a too-full tummy, they're going to feel bloated and gassy and sleep poorly," Dr. Sears says.

BETTER BET: Try adding extra feedings during the late afternoon and early evening. Your goal is still to feed "on cue," but more nourishment during the day can gently encourage better sleep at night.

MYTH No. 2: If you keep baby up late, he'll nod off faster and sleep better.

TRUTH: When babies stay up late, their stress hormones kick in and they enter a hyperalert state. "They can't easily wind down, which makes it harder to fall asleep and can lead to frequent night waking," says Dr. Sears.

BETTER BET: Get your baby on a predictable nap and bedtime schedule and try to stick to it. To find baby's optimal bedtime, look for signs such as yawning, rubbing eyes, and getting cranky, which mean baby is overdue for sleep. Keep a chart for a week of when these "tired signs" appear, and then start his bedtime routine a half hour in advance.

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