There is no reason to feel guilty for wanting a good night’s sleep for both yourself and your baby. Sure, you might be okay with good enough sleep. And if you’re happy with the way things are, go with it.
But without sleep training some parents are exhausted.
Some parents are trying to figure out how many cups of coffee they need to be fully functional adults and so far, it’s not twelve.
Sure, there are some very vocal moms online who make it sound like only cold-hearted and evil parents even consider sleep training. They say sleep training causes emotional scarring and damages the bond you have with your baby. They usually follow up their ranty posts with a dash of “You knew when you had a baby it was going to mean sleepless nights, right?”
Truth be told, though, the latest studies are supportive of sleep training, with evidence of less postpartum depression, lower parental stress and anxiety, and even a decreased risk of childhood obesity. A five-year follow-up of harms and benefits of behavioral infant sleep intervention concluded that parents and health professionals can confidently use sleep training to reduce the burden of infant sleep problems and maternal depression.
So, if the science says it’s a go, why do moms still feel like failures for even considering sleep training their babies?
What is Sleep Training?
Sleep training refers to various methods of building healthy sleep habits. Sleep training and Cry-It-Out (CIO) are not always the same thing. CIO is a type of sleep training. As a Sleep Consultant, I think of sleep training as creating an ideal sleep environment, establishing strong bedtime routines, and eliminating sleep props, like that must have bedtime bottle. The goal is to build positive sleep associations and for baby to learn to self-sooth—and significantly reduce the hold Starbucks has on your wallet.
Independent Sleep is a Skill
Just like learning to walk or crawl, independent sleep is a skill your baby needs to learn. Your baby may experience frustration and even some bumps and boo-boos on the way to developing mobility, and while it breaks our hearts, we know that it’s a vital part of being human. Sleep is no different. To be healthy, your child needs to learn to fall asleep on their own, without bottles and rocking or car rides around the block. They will probably cry a little bit for a few nights, but they will soon be sleeping soundly!
Sleep Training is Not for Everyone
Some parents are happy to wake with their child several times a night, and you know what? That's okay. You get to do what works for you! I support parents in making the right choices for their family. At the same time, that doesn't make it okay to clutch your pearls every time someone talks about sleep training. Let’s cut the sanctimommy crap and accept that what’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for the family next door.
Science Says It’s Safe to Sleep Train
Despite impassioned posts to online parenting forums and not so silent gasps around the nursery rhyme circle at playgroup, studies have actually shown reduced levels of cortisol in babies who are encouraged to build healthy sleep habits using some methods of sleep training. They also looked at these same families a year later and found no difference in parent-child bond when compared to the control group.
At the end of the day, the only thing you have to lose by sleep training your baby, is a few smug, know-it-all, self-righteous friends at your local mom group, and those bags under your eyes! Wanting to build healthy sleep habits and positive sleep associations for your family makes you a great parent. Don’t let anyone tell you different.