Sleep training is the focus of many parenting debates. In this article, I hope to debunk the connotation that all sleep training is the same and give you some hope for your future nights of rest.
As a certified baby and toddler sleep consultant I can tell you something: people are seriously convinced teaching babies to sleep well is damaging.
The idea that having a super whiny baby who is sleep deprived and fussy and inconsolable, getting 2/3 or less of the sleep they need for months is somehow BETTER than spending a week or two teaching baby to sleep well is…
There, I said it.
I believe a lot of this started with one study that was carried out in a way that doesn’t hold up. As you’ll see if you scroll down. It has been used by a a popular parenting pediatrician to tell mothers to live with sleep deprivation for years.
I go into it in detail in my video below.
The topic that is very near and dear to my heart- sleep training.
First of all, let’s debunk an overly used study that was conducted by some of the anti-sleep training proponents.
This study lead many to believe that all sleep training causes damaging anxiety, creates stress, or causes disconnection in babies.
This study was conducted by one of the main proponents of “anti sleep training.” I would like to point out some of the flaws of this study. With this day and age, anyone can go online and find a study to support anything they would like to believe. And what they find “scientifically” supports their opinions.
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Flaws of the Study
First of all, the sleep study mentioned was done in a hospital with the nurse doing the sleep training.
It went something like this: they took 20 babies in a clinical hospital setting and had a nurse, do sleep training on their babies. And then they said that the babies were stressed…
Well yes, I would think that they would be. First of all, there’s a stranger putting them to sleep. Secondly, they are in a strange setting. This is a recipe for stress.
Consider this: when you teach your baby to sleep, you’ll be training them at your home. And, it will be YOU (not a stranger) who will be training them.
Secondly, there was no control group. They did not have a group of babies to compare their research against. They also did not do a baseline test of cortisol. So… they basically brought the babies in and monitored their stress after the sleep training was done (by a stranger.)
I don’t even know what to say about this.
This published research, being the one sleep study that some famous people have used to say that sleep training is dangerous, does not stand up scientifically.
In my opinion, if this is the only leg that you have to stand on for living in misery for five years, then you don’t have to do it.
It’s a Connotation Situation
Basically a connotation situation is when you associate a certain principle or value with something automatically. I believe that sleep training is this way for many.
Some people automatically think that “all” sleep training consists of is shoving your baby in a cold dark room to cry until they go to sleep.
This just simply just not true… That is not what sleep training is.
Sleep training is essentially creating boundaries around your little one’s sleep so that they learn to go to sleep on their own in the safe, comforting, nurturing environment that is your home.
Sleep training is teaching them a life skill. You will hopefully train them on many life skills throughout their childhood.
It is impossible to live without sleeping. Just like it’s impossible to live without food.
Training and teaching…
A little one who can’t sleep is missing out on some of the most important things they need in order to grow and develop.
This matters to me because I feel as though parenting has gotten so complicated these days.
So now you have a little one who is waking up multiple times a night. Therefore, the mother is waking up in flight or flight mode (because mom is in a deep sleep).
So now you’re having stress hormones coursing through your body all day and night. This is because your little one isn’t sleeping, so you aren’t either.
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Teaching them to sleep doesn’t mean they’re always waking up saying “mommy not here” and being alone and upset.
Teaching then to sleep means…. they don’t wake up.
They sleep through the night. *Obviously this isn’t new borns.
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Lose the Tricks
So, the point here is to teach them to sleep without tricks.
Sometimes we believe that we’re doing our little one’s a favor by tricking them to fall asleep. But in reality, they wake up an hour later and their circumstances have changed. So then they get upset and cry.
Basically our trick didn’t work and so they try to bring mommy back. They are like “come back, come back. Do that thing that you did before when I went to sleep.”
So, mommy does the trick again.
Meanwhile, mommy is like “why won’t you just sleep”. But baby is like “this is the thing we do… I cry and mommy comes and does the sleep trick again.”
Then I wake up again to bring mommy back. Mommy and baby can play this game on repeat all night long. We can just avoid all of this with some loving, nurturing way too teach them how to fall asleep.
Create sustainable sleep habits for your little lamb so the whole family can sleep peacefully without the stress, drama, and tears.Learn More
Mother’s Who Feel Stuck Without Sleep
I want to speak to you if you’re in that place that mentally you don’t think you can do sleep training because you think it’s damaging. But on another hand, you’re also exhausted and at the place of breakdown because lack of sleep causes anxiety and depression.
This happens for many mothers, especially if they are prone to it. Why? Because lack of sleep exasperates these things.
And I’m not talking about the first few months where, of course, you have to wake up and feed that baby. Of course!
But after that…
if you’re still going though it. This is where sleep training is useful.
I have spoken with so many moms who have gone through this and then once the sleep issues are resolved… they come out of it.
This is not the exception. It’s the rule.
The real danger is…
So if you’re going through this and you’re thinking that sleep training is sooo dangerous. Know that there is no actual research support that shows that giving your little one boundaries is hurtful. This, of course, is done in a loving and nurturing way.
However, there is tons of evidence and research showing what lack of sleep does… particularly young children.
As an adult, think about how you feel if you don’t get enough sleep. You feel bed… awful, really. You feel irritable and antsy.
All. The. Things.
Lack of sleep in children is associated with:
- poor neurological development
- daytime drowsiness
- mental illness
- lack of emotional regulation
Can you relate? When you don’t sleep… you act crazy!
I don’t know why think that little ones who don’t get any sleep are perfectly fine. On the flip side, taking a few weeks to teach them how to go to sleep is damaging. Hmmmmm.
I feel like I’m gong to need a little more information from you if this is what you think.
Other issues associated with lack of sleep:
- poor coordination
- slower growth
- poor cognitive function
- and more…
The list goes on and on.
All of these things are true scientific research showing what happens when a person doesn’t get enough sleep.
Don’t Feel Bad
Now, I’m not fear mongering and you don’t have to feel bad. Sometimes it’s very difficult to get your little one to sleep.
The honest truth is – it can be very hard.
I’m actually just speaking to the mom who is desperate for some sleep and afraid to train because it may be damaging.
You can do this.
In my sleep class I talk about several different ways to sleep train little ones. You can do a fast or slow approach. There’s in room, out of room, hands on… so many ways.
This idea that I’m going to teach them to sleep train because I’m selfish is just “out of wack”.
First of all, you can be right beside them the whole time and still teach them to sleep. I have spoken with so many mom’s who didn’t know that.
One thing that really makes mom upset is when they cry. This is a big thing- they feel like they can’t do anything because baby is going to cry.
The fact it, you’re baby is very likely to protest. Especially if he/she is nine months or older and you’ve always done the same thing. Still, there’s no evidence that supports that sleep training done in a supporting and loving way is damaging.
Developing a Critical Life Skill
Sleep is a necessary and critical skill that must be developed. There’s no evidence that says that sleep training is damaging.
Now, they may protest a bit. Especially if you take a faster approach. But, if you take a more gradual one it can take about two weeks. Trust me, within a couple of nights, you will be seeing some huge strides and improvements.
Baby may benefit from sleep training if:
- Baby is confused about their going to sleep routine. Babies can become confused about all the things mom has been doing to try to get them to sleep. Some babies get confused about what mom is wanting them to do right now.
- Their daily routine is a bit wonky. Are they over tired or under tired? Are they getting the right about of nap time for their development and age?
- What about their sleep environment? Perhaps mom thinks she is setting them up for success sleep but in reality they sleep environment is preventing their body from producing the necessary hormones to get them to sleep. Maybe something is happening that is making the melatonin stop being produced in order to get them to sleep.
Conquer Without Compromise
There are a lot of little tweaks that we can make that make a big, big difference.
Essentially what I want to share with you is- you can find a way to teach your little one to sleep without compromising your parenting values.
You don’t have to do anything that makes you feel bad or do anything against your values. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want.
Although some moms can cope on a little sleep, but most moms get to a point where they can’t.
I have coached some moms on sleep training that were physically unable to pick their little one up multiple times a night. Whatever the reason is to need to sleep train, rest assured that you can find a way to accomplish this that falls into your wheelhouse of abilities and desires for your little one.
Here’s a handy dandy list of 28 things to try so baby will stop fighting sleep and sleep longer and later.
Is sleep training dangerous?
Number one, we know lack of sleep is dangerous.
Number two, we know that there are many ways to teach a baby to sleep. Many of those are literally “hands on baby.”
So, I’m going to to have to go with… it depends on how you do it.
Undoubtably, are there ways to sleep train you baby that aren’t dangerous. Absolutely!