STOP telling new parents to "sleep when the baby sleeps" [VIDEO + BLOG]
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"SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS" IS TERRIBLE ADVICE
One of the most common pieces advice that our clients get as new and expecting parents is to “sleep when the baby sleeps”.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, if you’ve had a baby. You may have given the advice whether you’ve had a baby or not, because it’s one of those things that’s now just seen as “common knowledge”....which is unfortunately because it’s actually terrible advice.
I know people are saying this to be helpful, but today I want to talk about why this is such bad advice and what we should be telling new parents instead.
WHY "SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS" DOESN'T ACTUALLY HELP
First of all, Newborn sleep is unpredictable, and most adults have a hard time going down for a nap at the drop of the hat, even if (and sometimes especially if) you’re exhausted and over tired.
Second of all, the sleep cycle of a baby is naturally shorter--about half as long-- as the sleep cycle of an adult. Sleeping in the short bursts when you can will still leave you feeling absolutely exhausted, because your adult body needs and craves 8 solid hours of sleep a night.
Physiologically, your body reacts to daytime naps differently than night time sleep. So even if by some miracle you were able to accumulate 8 hours of sleep throughout the day, you aren’t going to feel as rested as you did sleeping that long at night before baby.
Finally, it’s an unfortunate reality that these days, most moms have too much to do to just drop everything and sleep. They may have other kids to take of, a home to take care of, work to do, or all of the above. So sleeping when the baby sleeps completely ignores that these parents often need to eat when the baby sleeps, clean when the baby sleeps, fold clothes when the baby sleeps, wash dishes when the baby sleeps, get some work done when the baby sleeps, get some one on one time with their toddler or preschooler or partner while the baby sleeps, etc, etc.
what to say (and do) instead
So, I never want to be the person that gives criticism without giving a solution, so here are a few things that can be really helpful to new parents.
First, encourage then to not be afraid to ask for help. And better yet, offer help before you’re asked!
Offer to come over to help out with the baby while they nap, so they can sleep whether or not the baby is sleeping. Or to take care of things around the house so that that’s off their plate when they get the opportunity to nap.
If you can’t physically be there to help, let them know that hiring professional help in the form of a Newborn Care Specialist of Postpartum Doula could give them some relief. One of the most common things that our team does is Overnight Care, where we take of the baby at night so that, again, the parents can sleep whether or not the baby is sleeping through the night yet.
And finally, help the new parents in your life shed this pervasive notion that there’s something selfish or cruel about sleep training their baby when they’re ready. Whether they do it on their own or hire a Certified Sleep Coach, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with helping their baby learn the skill of independent sleep so that the whole family gets the sleep that they need.
If you’re a parent that’s been told to “sleep when the baby sleeps” and you’d like some better solutions, WE WANT TO HELP.