Sleep Deprived Parents? Put the Baby Myths to Bed

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People who have children know all too well about the sleep deprivation that goes hand-in-hand with having a new baby. But it's no laughing matter.

A baby who doesn't sleep well can be more prone to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation. Parents who don't get enough sleep are more prone to depression, accidents, abuse, even obesity.

There is new hope, however, according to America's most popular pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp.

Missy and Brandon Peters adore their new son, Lennox. But, the lack of sleep that came with him has them frazzled.

"It's a little challenging and a bit frustrating," Brandon admitted.

Most people think being a new parent means you're exhausted all the time.  But Dr. Karp says it doesn't have to be that way.

He's helped millions of parents, including celebrities Michelle Pfeiffer, Pierce Brosnan, Jewel, and Madonna. In his latest book, The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep, Karp clears up some myths passed down through many generations.

Myth 1: Babies Should Sleep in Silence

"Should I try to be quiet so that way he doesn't wake up?" Missy asked.

"It's actually one of the biggest misconceptions we have about babies," Karp explained.

"Everybody thinks you've got to tip-toe around the baby sleeping but actually the womb, it's a dynamic world for babies," he continued. "The sound inside is actually louder than a vacuum cleaner, 24-7. So to bring a baby into a quiet room is actually weird for them."

Karp advises exposing your baby to "white noise." The surprising part is that it should be fairly loud --  as loud as a shower. Not only do babies find the noise comforting, as a bonus, it drowns out other household noise.

Brandon noted there are lots of white noise  sound tracks on the market now.

"It's important to choose the right type of sound," Karp said.  "For example, if your baby is crying, a high-pitched sound will quiet him because it gets his attention. That would include hissy sounds, like a loud 'shhhhhhh.'

When your baby is trying to sleep, Karp notes, "You want a rumbly sound like a train or a plane, that kind of 'rrrrrrrr' that puts you to sleep."

"And you play it all night long for the entire first year of life, to help him sleep in the beginning, but also to help him sleep through teething and growth spurts later on," he explained.

Karp even made a white noise CD that's ideal for sleeping babies and is available on his website, The Happiest Baby.

Myth 2: Some Babies Sleep through the Night

Like most parents of newborns, Brandon looks forward to a full night's sleep.

"How can we lengthen the amount of time that he sleeps at night?" he asked.

"You know how people say, 'My baby sleeps all night long?'  Well, no baby sleeps all night long," Karp said. "Every baby wakes up three or four times a night. But you wouldn't know it if they're able to put themselves to sleep."

"If they can't put themselves to sleep, then they're calling for you three times," he said.

The trick then is to teach the baby how to put himself back to sleep when he wakes up at night. That leads us to our next myth.

Myth 3: Never Wake a Sleeping Baby

"I usually nurse him," Missy explained. "And sometimes, well, most of the time, he falls asleep in my arms. Should we just slip him into bed?"

"Nowadays, a lot of parents are told, 'Don't let your baby fall asleep in your arms or at the breast because if you slide him in to bed asleep he never really learns the skill of putting himself to sleep in the middle of the night.' And that's kind of true," Karp explained.

"If you always slide him into bed asleep then he may not get that skill," he continued. "But on the other hand, you can't keep a baby from falling asleep in your arms. And it's the most beautiful thing you ever do with your baby."

Karp described a very simple technique where parents can allow their baby to fall asleep in their arms and also, at the same time, teach him how to fall asleep on his own in bed. It's what he calls "wake-sleep."

"So when you slide him into bed, wake him up a little bit, which I know sounds like, 'are you crazy?'" Karp said.

"But here's the reason you do it," he continued. "You feed him, you've got the white noise playing about as loud as a shower and you've got him swaddled up. So when he wakes up he's kind of drunk from the milk anyway."

Karp said that woozy period is an ideal time to jiggle your baby awake or lightly scratch the bottom of his foot, enough to wake him just a bit.

"But I want his eyes open five or 10 seconds," Karp instructed. "Because in that 10 seconds he's going to start to learn to put himself to sleep at night."

So by putting these myths to bed, baby and parents can sleep well. That way everyone is happier and healthier.

Would you like more tips on better parenting? Dr. Karp is making a house call your town! He's hosting a live, nationwide event in theaters June 21 with actress and mom Ali Landry. For more information, go to "Parents Night Out: The Happiest Baby/Toddler with Dr. Harvey Karp."

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Lorie  Johnson

Lorie Johnson

CBN News Medical Reporter

Lorie Johnson reports on the latest information about health and wellness. Since medicine is constantly changing, she makes sure CBN News viewers are up-to-date on what they need to know in order to live a healthy life.  Follow Lorie on Twitter @LorieCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/LorieJohnsonCBN.