Bedtime Can Be Hard To Navigate for Latinx Parents

First and second generation Americans may feel the pressure to follow in family traditions, but when it comes to sleep it’s important to advocate for your baby’s sleep health. Argentinian sleep specialist Lola Sanchez tells us which sleep myths to break and how.

sleeping baby
sleeping .

The arrival of a new baby is such a happy, beautiful event for a family. Especially when it's the first baby AND the first grandchild. But along with the excitement also comes the advice of well-meaning abuelos, tias, cousins, and friends on how to raise our children. It seems that when it comes to baby's sleep everyone has an opinion.

As a first or second generation Latinx parent you may feel the pressure of following the advice you're given and maybe even question your own knowledge and instinct. But while it does take a village to raise a baby, the truth is that the tension between trying to do what YOU think is best for your child and the expectation to do "what is right" according to the family tradition is very real and anxiety-producing, especially during the early newborn days. It's OK to acknowledge that times have changed, and as the founder of rockin'Blinks, a sleep coaching service, I can confirm that safe healthy sleep looks drastically different than it did when your parents were raising you, so it's important to be clear about your intentions with creating a sleep routine. The trick is to have clear communication about these differences. Especially since family so often plays a hand in Latinx households. Here we'll dig into the baby sleep myths you'll want to break and some tips on the best ways to protect your baby's sleep habits.

5 Baby Sleep Myths To Break

Myth 1: "Baby will sleep later if you keep them up"

Babies are natural early risers, but we still want them to at least sleep past 6 a.m., right? So while abuela's intuition might suggest later bedtimes as a simple solution to getting your baby to sleep past the crack of dawn, what we know about sleep these days tells us something different. Sleep is actually counterintuitive; overtiredness will cause restless sleep and early morning starts. Babies need a lot more sleep than adults do and will be ready for bed early in the evening.

A sign your baby is going to bed too late? They get super cranky and have a hard time relaxing and falling asleep. Putting them to bed earlier will most probably solve those fussy hours.

Myth 2: "They'll sleep better on their belly"

This is a hard no. Your mom might tell you that babies like that position and that it prevents possible choking with regurgitation but that guidance has changed. Since the Back to Sleep campaign started in 1994, the rates for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) have been reduced by more than 50% and the evidence supporting stomach sleeping as a risk factor for SIDS is strong all over the world.

Even when you feel that is the only way your baby can sleep, the risk of stomach sleeping is not worth it. Your baby will be rolling soon and finding their most comfortable position, but every time they go in the crib, they should be placed on their back.

Myth 3: "Let them fall asleep in the stroller"

OK, this advice is not completely wrong when it comes to naps, but it does not work for every baby. If your baby falls asleep in the stroller during walks in those early days, no problem. And even better, it gives the grandparents a nice way to bond with their grandbaby. But some babies just refuse. And as they get older and become more alert you will want to have a regular routine that allows them to have restorative naps in the crib.

As far as night sleep goes, it is always best if your baby falls asleep in the same environment where you expect them to sleep the rest of the night. So if they fall asleep in the stroller and you transfer them to the crib when they're already asleep, this will create confusion and maybe anxiety as they will find themself in a different place when they wake up.

Myth 4: "They'll fall asleep easier at night if you skip their nap"

Your abuela's suggestion does have some truth in it. While babies need more sleep the younger they are, nap needs change as they grow, so following an age-appropriate schedule and respecting the amount of daytime sleep your baby or toddler needs (neither too little nor too much) is important for a peaceful bedtime.

But naps are essential in babies and toddlers' lives. They need a lot more sleep than adults do, and they also build sleep pressure faster (meaning that they can not stay awake for too long at a time). Naps are also important for memory consolidation, processing emotions, and physical restoration. Skipping naps will actually make your baby super tired, affecting the quality of their nighttime sleep.

So if your baby is fighting sleep or waking too often during the night, skipping naps will not solve the issue—but adjusting their schedule to offer napping at the right time will.

Myth 5: "The baby needs more layers"

The constant worry of a baby being too hot or too cold is a real worry for many Latinx caretakers. But over the years science has shown us that a cool but comfortable environment—between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit is typically recommended—is not only better for good sleep, it is also important in reducing the risk of SIDS in babies since overheating is a risk factor for SIDS. Dressing your baby for sleep according to the room temperature vs assumption is best.

5 Things To Remember When Protecting Your Baby's Healthy Sleep Habits

1. Inform yourself

For better or worse we have an abundance of information available to us. Try to find good, quality, trusted sources in books, websites, and professional advice to decide what is best for your baby. Even when other relatives might disagree with your decisions, finding the confidence in what you are learning will help you make stronger decisions as a parent.

There have been many advances in sleep knowledge in the last decades, so it's normal that what our parents thought was right when we were children does not apply anymore.

2. Accept that you cannot control your family's feelings

Sometimes relatives disagree with us in a way that makes them feel personally attacked or offended. But know that just because you don't do what they say, you are not attacking them. Let them have their feelings and know that it's not your job to make them feel better by changing what you are doing with and for your baby.

3. It's OK to disagree

Let's agree we disagree. Previous generations have different beliefs and knowledge. Gender differences were stronger when our parents were young, and discipline was conceived in a much stricter way. You might find yourself struggling to accept that your parents will have a different opinion on what is right, but you do not have to convince anyone of your own beliefs and learnings. It's OK if someone in your family has a different point of view.

4. Challenge the definition of a good parent

What makes a parent good for a society has changed through the years. For those of us who grew up in more traditional households, our mothers would be more preoccupied with how clean the house was and if dinner was made for the husband. We as a generation might be more worried about the interaction with our children and establishing healthy relationships with our partners. Generational differences have always existed but it's our job to do what we think is best for our families.

5. Embrace the things from your own culture that are loving and positive

Having a grandparent around who is willing to hold your baby and rock them to sleep, help with household tasks, or even just chatting with you during those lonely newborn days is truly a gift. You might not agree with the family member on everything, but chances are they really are trying their best to help you.

My own father would always judge me for allowing my babies to cry when they were falling asleep (amongst other things), but every time he came to visit me when my babies were newborns, he would stock up the refrigerator with food. It was his way of telling me, "Maybe I can't do other things, but I can do this". And I just love him for that.

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