5 Things I Know About Sleep Training

Portrait of a newborn baby boy sleeping in a white round crib

Sleep Training: Do you know anyone who has done it with their children? You may have a noticeable reaction when you hear the term. For some, the term “sleep training” immediately makes them think of “cry it out” methods that involve leaving a baby unattended for hours, crying until they are purple in the face and passing out from exhaustion. That sounds scary, and indeed cruel.

For a sleep deprived parent in survival mode and at their wit’s end, it may mean something different. But sleep is surprisingly a taboo subject that often plays into our expectation of mothers in particular to be martyrs. For struggling parents, this means they may find it difficult to talk to anyone about what they are going through and their dreams for their family to happily sleep through the night and thrive during the day.

The good news is that sleep training does not equate to leaving an infant or child unattended for hours and overly stressed or distraught. As a sleep coach, here is what I know:

  1. There are many methods of sleep training out there to choose from. What works for some families may not work for you and your baby. Each family has its own rhythm, dynamic, and circumstance under which they thrive. For most if not all, getting enough sleep is necessary if they are to function and live a life of possibility and not just survival. Every family will have their own routine and arrangement that suits their ability to sleep well. This might mean sleep training isn’t needed in your family! If your family is sleeping and thriving, you most likely don’t need to change anything.
  2. The parents must be ready and committed to sleep train. Your baby may be developmentally ready, but if you are not, attempting to sleep train will only cause unnecessary stress and disruption. Sleeping arrangements are a deeply personal aspect of our day, and change can be emotionally challenging. If you are not confident in your intentions and actions, your baby can sense in your interactions that you are uneasy or distressed.
  3. Parents must be consistent in their routine. Inconsistency is confusing for babies. When a baby is learning to fall asleep on their own and fall back asleep without assistance between sleep cycles, disruption can actually make the process harder and more frustrating for them.
  4. All care givers in your baby’s life must be on board. This includes you and your partner or spouse. Just as it is important that grandparents, your nanny, or your daycare abide by your child’s dietary restrictions that you have set for them, it is important that they are able to be consistent with your choices for how and when your baby naps during the day and sleeps at night.
  5. Teaching a baby to fall asleep and go back to sleep on their own is a skill that will serve them for their entire life. It might be surprising to you that many babies actually need help learning how to fall asleep without assistance. Some simply do it, but for parents who have babies or toddlers that don’t, nights and days can quickly become taxing. If babies are not getting enough sleep, they are not only tired and cranky during the day, but they are not getting all they need for healthy brain development. When parents don’t get enough sleep, they are not only less likely to be productive and happy during the day, they are also at higher risk for postpartum mood disorders.

Have questions? Exhausted and unsure what your options are? Apply for a complimentary sleep assessment.