Why the baby sleep app might be doing more harm than good.

Image of mobile phone in a person's hand with a finger tapping the screen. Blog about why the baby sleep app might be doing more harm than good

In the early days of parenthood, with the relentlessness of it all, it can be hard to remember how often you fed your newborn, when they slept and when you changed them and having that information at your fingertips can feel comforting.

As a baby sleep consultant, I see many parents who are struggling with their baby’s sleep. They are often exhausted and feeling overwhelmed. One of the things I often hear from parents is that they are using a baby sleep tracking app. While these apps can be helpful for some parents, I believe that they can also be harmful to mental health, particularly if you’re using them beyond the first few weeks.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • They can create unrealistic expectations. Sleep tracking apps often show you averages for how long babies sleep at a certain age. However, all babies are different and what works for one baby may not work for another. Seeing that your baby is not sleeping as long as the ‘average’ baby can make you feel like you are doing something wrong.
  • They can make you feel like a failure. If your baby is not sleeping well, and you struggle to get them to sleep when the app says you should, you may start to feel like you are a bad parent.  It is important to remember that sleep is a developmental skill and that some babies take longer to learn how to sleep well than others.
  • They can impact your trust in your own parental instinct. The app tells you when your baby ‘should’ be tired, but the mini human in front of you might have other ideas. After all, they’re not robots and very often don’t follow consistent wake windows which these apps generally rely on. Read more about why following set wake windows isn’t always helpful here.
  • They can lead to obsessive tracking. It is easy to get caught up in tracking every detail of your baby’s sleep. You may start to feel like you need to know exactly when your baby falls asleep, wakes up, and feeds to get them on a ‘perfect’ sleep schedule. This can be very stressful and time-consuming. Many parents don’t see the irony in staying awake longer in the middle of the night to update the app….

If you are using a baby sleep-tracking app and it is making you feel stressed or anxious, I recommend that you stop using it.

Ask yourself what is the information doing for you. What purpose is it serving, what are you doing with the data?

I totally get that it can feel like you need it, and sometimes it even provides evidence and therefore validation for how hard things are but unless you feel like looking at it TRULY helps you, then please consider stopping tracking even if it’s just stopping tracking at night.

Can you focus on trusting your instincts and following your baby’s lead a bit more?

Here are a few tips for getting a good night’s sleep for you and your baby:

  • Have plenty of exposure to daylight throughout the day and in the evening dim the lights.
  • Create a relaxing and calm bedtime routine. Focus on connection.
  • Do what it takes for everyone to get the most sleep, be that rocking/feeding to sleep, safely co-sleeping or doing later bedtimes if that works. 
  • Make sure your sleep environment is dark, quiet, and cool.
  • Respond to your baby’s needs at night but try to keep things calm and quiet. Avoid turning on bright lights or making a lot of noise.
  • Be patient. It takes time for babies to learn how to sleep well, and it’s often not a linear progression.

Remember, you are not alone. Many parents struggle with their baby’s sleep. It is important to be kind to yourself and to reach out for help if you need it.

If you are concerned about your baby’s sleep, feel free to drop me a DM or book a discovery call.

If you’d like to learn about what baby sleep REALLY looks like and get some practical guidance, why not buy a copy of my book The Better Sleep Blueprint: A realistic guide to baby sleep 0-2 for parents who don’t want to sleep train.