Sleep training is so often vilified as this horrible insensitive way for parents to neglect their children and selfishly obtain more sleep for themselves. I’ve made helping families get more sleep my passion and life’s work, so when people in person or online start talking about sleep and spreading damaging misconceptions, I tend to get a little sensitive.
It’s not that I take it personally. I just find it disheartening that so many people are struggling because of these myths about sleep training.
I’m going to start by saying this: Parenthood does not have to mean you have to suffer through sleepless nights for the next 18 years. We all know babies wake at night and small children have bad dreams. We even know that teens can keep their parents up all night for entirely different reasons.
Sure, sometimes parenthood is going to be hard on your sleep schedule no matter how healthy your family’s habits are. BUT, you don’t need to be awake every hour for months at a time. You don't need to go to bed when your toddler does, every night, or have tiny toes digging into your ribs. You can be a good parent and love your children and get a decent night of sleep. In fact, reducing your sleep deprivation will probably make you a better parent who is equipped to handle the day-to-day challenges or caring for children.
There are so many misconceptions or myths about sleep training that circulate social circles and social media. I just wanted to clear up a few of them so you can sleep a little better at night.
Sleep Training Myth #1: Sleep training is traumatic for babies and toddlers.
There is no scientific evidence that sleep training is damaging to babies or children. What we do know is that insufficient sleep is damaging and restricts growth and development.
Most of my clients report only a few nights where their little one cries for 10-40 minutes. Beyond that, their learns to self soothe and sleeps well. They are no longer bothered by their shorter sleep cycles (an infant’s sleep cycle is much shorter than an adults sleep cycle) and are able to put themselves back to sleep throughout the night.
Prefer to rock or nurse them to sleep every night? And every time they wake in the night? For years to come? You’ll both be sleep deprived. We know that not getting enough sleep causes long term health problems for both adults and children.
What sounds more traumatic to you? A few nights with a little of crying, or years of sleep deprivation for your whole family?
Sleep Training Myth #2: Sleep training your baby means leaving them to cry it out (CIO).
Sure, there are sleep training programs out there that would be considered “cry it out” methods. The program I use, The Sleep Sense Program, is not about crying it out.
In some programs, babies essentially cry themselves to sleep. The reality is, the crying has nothing to do with getting your baby to sleep better. Crying is sometimes a part of what happens when you change your baby’s sleep habits. When you are sleep training your baby, they may cry because they are frustrated or confused about how bedtime has changed. They will, of course, protest the change you are making.
Keep in mind that the frustration and confusion usually only lasts a few days. Babies and small children quickly learn how to adapt and calmly get themselves to sleep. You’re doing what is best for your baby’s health, and yours.
Sleep Training Myth #3: Sleep training will destroy the bond you have with your child.
The bond you have with your child runs so much deeper than the way you are putting them to sleep. You bathe them, feed them, dress them, play with and sing to them. You know each other’s scent and voices. You could pick their cry out in a room full of children and they could find your voice just the same. You can teach your baby to go to sleep and sleep on their own and still have a strong and loving bond.
You build trust with your child every day through meeting their needs, kissing their boo-boos, holding their hand. All the laughter and stories and special moments you have shared will not be destroyed by a few nights of protest from them and determination from you to ensure they get enough sleep.
The Sleep Sense Program can set you and your baby up for success with customized plans and support to ensure your child is waking up happy and healthy. If any of these sleep training myths has been keeping you from establishing healthy sleep routines for your family, I’d love to talk more about your fears.