If you’re a new mom, all we can say is hats off to you. New moms are arguably the sleepiest people on the planet, yet somehow the most wired and anxious at the same time. Is the baby asleep? What if I fall asleep and something happens? What if I never sleep again? What if I get hurt because I’m so sleep-deprived? While there are hundreds of holistic self-care techniques you can use to ease your mind and slow the spiral of catastrophizing thoughts - essential oils, sensory deprivation tanks, a glass or two of rosé - sometimes the only things that can help you sleep at night are the cold, hard facts. We found three of the most common new-mom sleep myths and debunked them using real science, so you can rest easy at night knowing that the truth is safer than fiction.
After staying up all night with the baby, don’t reach for the coffee.
Sometimes you swear that baby senses when you’re about to fall asleep, because he seems to plan the most inopportune times to start wailing. Whether you’ve been up for eight hours playing “will he actually cry himself to sleep this time?” or you’re just endlessly wired with new-mom anxiety, you’re definitely familiar with the feeling of turning over to see the sun just breaking the dawn through your window. You’ve got to be at work in two hours, and you’re all out of sheep to count.
Once the little one is off at daycare and you’re on your way to the office, your first instinct may be to stop for your usual cup of joe at the local cafe. Maybe this time you’ll get a double-shot of espresso, and take an extra cup to save for the inevitable 2:00 PM slump. But believe it or not, the best way to tackle the day after an all-nighter is to skip the extra caffeine. A standard “tall” drink at Starbucks has enough caffeine to stay in your system for up to eight hours. Each additional drink will only elevate your heart rate, leading to all sorts of unpleasant sensations, including heart palpitations, sweating, upset stomach, and increased anxiety. As if you need any more of that!
When it’s month two of endless insomnia and constant crying, it may feel like you’ll never sleep again. You may even start to wonder if there’s something wrong with you - or worse, something wrong with your baby. But worry not, because...
There’s nothing wrong with your baby if she’s not sleeping through the night by 12 weeks.
For every mommy blog, there’s a mommy who swears that the restless nights end on a specific day or week. They reassure brand-new moms not to worry, because all this fuss will be over on this exact date - that is, unless you’re a bad mother or your baby is sick. It can make you feel insecure about your own child and your own mental health. The bad news is that no two moms or babies are the same, so it’s unlikely that anyone else’s timeline is going to match yours. The good news is that, well, no one else’s timeline is going to match yours.
There’s nothing wrong with you or your baby if the sleepless nights are continuing past 12 weeks, or if they stopped at 8 or 9 weeks. The scientifically agreed-upon timeline suggests that sleep starts to become more regular around the 4-month mark, but that it’s not until months later that your baby is likely to sleep soundly through the night. There’s not one, definitive, proven sleep-training method for all babies, and there’s no set deadline you should worry about reaching.
And in those beautiful-but-brief moments of reprieve when your baby is asleep, you can rest easy knowing that...
No, your baby isn’t going to swallow spiders in her sleep.
This myth is one of the most common to circulate on school playgrounds and email chains. The original claim was that each night, spiders crawled out of the deep, dark corners of your bedroom and sought refuge down your gullet. Since babies sleep on their backs, you might be worried that your little one is prone to an arachnid-based diet. Fortunately, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to back this up.
First and foremost, spiders are ambivalent towards humans (unless they pose a threat, in which case they’re terrified of us). They’ll go out of their way to avoid these big, lumbering bipeds - so why would they be interested in one who is making fussy, high-pitched noises each night? Spiders are also naturally drawn towards dry environments with lots of available prey. You know what’s neither dry nor overflowing with insects? Your baby’s mouth.
So where did this hair-raising statistic come from? According to the Scientific American, in 1993, a woman named Lisa Holst wrote an article proving that people will believe just about anything that comes from a scientific-sounding email chain, so she made up a bunch of ridiculous claims to see who would take the bait. Looks like she was right, because the spider myth has been modified and repeated for years. There are even some people who claim the statistic is actually a pound of spiders each year. Luckily, you can rest easy knowing that as long as you’re not leaving a literal breadcrumb trail up to your little one’s neck, this claim is always going to be absolutely false.
The new-mom life can be absolutely head-spinning at best. For every new mom, there are ten people with ten opinions about what’s healthy and safe. Fortunately, when it comes to science, there’s only one real truth. While you’re ruminating over these debunked myths, why not set the little one down for their nap, curl up in some French linen, and buy yourself something nice? Trust us - you deserve it.