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UNPOPULAR OPINION: Most “common knowledge” sleep advice IS f*cking bullshit

Want to know what my unpopular opinion is? I’m calling bullshit! Yes, bullshit on most of the common knowledge sleep advice. Honestly, I can’t believe how we got this far where many professionals and parents believe these. You have definitely heard at least one of these. I also like to call this bullshit you’ve been told to get you to sleep train your baby.

Here are my top six favorite bullshit pieces of advice. Let’s dive in!

Unpopular opinion: Most common knowledge sleep advice is bullshit - Boy looking shocked

Bullshit Sleep Advice # 1

In order for your baby to connect sleep cycles, you have to make sure how they start the night is how they are going to continue the night.

This basically says ‘Teach them to self-soothe and make sure they’re falling asleep independently.’ Forget science, our understanding of babies brains, normal sleep, and biology. Let’s approach this logically. As an adult, does the way you fall asleep determine your ability to stay asleep throughout the night? For example, if you cuddled with your partner before you fell asleep, would you need to cuddle them again if you woke up in the middle of the night in order to fall back asleep? It makes no sense. If you want to find out the real reason your baby is not linking sleep cycles or cries before entering the next sleep cycle, check out my FREE 15 minute webinar on why self-soothing is bullshit.

Bullshit Sleep Advice # 2

Your baby has to learn to self-soothe and they can do so by being left alone to cry.

This is the biggest myth that drives me crazy! The problem here is in the context of sleep training, people refer to self-soothing as the ability to regulate one’s own emotions. This means being able to calm yourself down from a distressed state to a calm state in order to fall asleep. So based on this sleep training BS, if you leave your baby to cry they eventually learn to self-soothe and this results in them falling asleep. 

It is a fact that babies do not have the brain capacity and nervous system development to calm themselves down from a distressed state. How babies actually learn to self soothe is… by being soothed repeatedly by a calm adult who is connected to them emotionally. This is not a debate. It’s science. And shockingly – it isn’t even new anymore.

Bullshit Sleep Advice # 3

Co-sleeping and bed-sharing is unsafe for everyone. 

It is basically saying it is dangerous to co-sleep or bed share and all babies should be sleeping alone in cribs. This is far from the truth because just like you can make crib sleep safe, you can also make co-sleeping and bed-sharing safe. How? By following safety guidelines for that particular sleeping arrangement. Babies should sleep on their back, they should be healthy and full term, the mattress should be firm and free of toxins and babies should be next to their breast-feeding parent. You can find additional rules by La Leche League here called Safe Sleep Seven. Keep in mind that all the things that make crib sleep unsafe, also make co-sleeping or bed sharing unsafe.

Bullshit Sleep Advice # 4

Safe baby sleep can only happen in a crib.  

This breaks my heart because what we end up with is parents who are terrified of co-sleeping and bed sharing. I see it with some of my clients in my practice. With more information and support present in recent times, more parents are breastfeeding. It safe to assume they will end up co-sleeping or bed-sharing because facts show that 60% to 75% of breastfeeding parents will end up bed-sharing or co-sleeping at some point.

Due to the fear, some parents will fall asleep on recliners or couches while holding their baby and this is very unsafe. What is safer is to educate families on how to properly set up safe co-sleeping and bed sharing arrangements. Sometimes, having your baby in your bed might not be the safest thing to do for your individual baby and family. Specifically, if they aren’t breastfed, or if the parent is taking any medication or has a medical condition that may impair judgment. Remember that you should always pick the sleeping arrangement that makes the most sense for your individual family.

Bullshit Sleep Advice # 5

Sleep training is evidence based.

While it appears that there is a lot of research that shows sleep training isn’t harmful and is effective, in reality, there are only about 12 to 15 high quality studies on sleep training. In addition to being relatively few studies, we have an even bigger problem and that is that these studies are actually based on parental reports. This means that their findings are based on parents reporting on their own child’s sleep. Parental reports are notoriously known to be unreliable as it is a completely subjective measure. The parents are sharing their own evaluation of how their baby sleeps, NOT how they actually sleep. It truly boggles my mind that that these studies are used to so confidently claim that sleep training is great for everyone and is seen as “evidence based”. When these 12 to 15 studies are compared to thousands of textbooks on baby brain development, attachment research, and more, we learn that sleep training isn’t as evidence based as it’s presented to be, after all.  

Bullshit Sleep Advice # 6

Babies should sleep 12 hours overnight, have two hour naps, and have a 7pm bedtime in order to get good, healthy sleep.

This particular one has caused myself and many parents I talk to so much unnecessary grief. Once again, it just doesn’t make sense. Some people can survive on 4 hours of sleep and some, like me, need at least 8 hours of sleep. It is the same for babies. The amount of sleep and naps, including number and length, will vary widely among babies. If you want to know what the normal range is for your baby’s age, make sure to grab the FREE normal baby sleep guide. It has a total amount of sleep range because I do not believe in ‘one number fits all’. When you use the guide, you will find nap ranges and more and hopefully see that your baby is within the range. 

The amount of sleep overnight is dependent on the total nap time and total sleep need. For example, you might have a baby who needs 15 or 16 hours of sleep, but this 12 hour sleep overnight and two hour nap means they’re only getting 14 hours, especially if you’re following sleep training advice and limiting the daytime sleep and waking them up from their naps. With this, you might have an overtired baby. For some babies, they might need less daytime sleep and more overnight sleep. Here’s my advice, evaluate sleep based on how well your baby functions and on quality of the sleep. Always consider your individual baby. 

Did you relate to any of these? Leave a comment below. 

Are you struggling with your toddler’s sleep and want to learn why they wake, why bedtimes are long and how to have smooth independent sleep transitions without crying it out? If yes, then check out the FREE Realistic Toddler Sleep webinar . 

Let’s keep the conversation going.

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