Perhaps the hardest lesson to learn as a new parent is how to function on little to no sleep. While it’s true some parents get blessed with newborns who are content to sleep around the clock, many parents (like me) are not so lucky. Some infants come into this world unable to sleep unless they are rocked, bounced and/or fed to sleep. For some infants this phase of no sleep is short-lived and for others it will continue until they are taught some independent sleep skills. This is where gentle sleep training comes in.
The topic of sleep training often comes with many differing opinions and unfortunately competing information. Sleep training is not necessary for every family, and it is up to you and your family to make the best and most informed choice!
Keep reading to find out some myths around sleep training and information on the different ways sleep training can be implemented.
Myth 1: Sleep training is a one size fits all method
The idea that sleep training requires a parent to put their baby in their crib and not enter the room again until morning, has given sleep training a bad reputation. The truth is sleep training simply means teaching infants and toddlers how to sleep independently without the help of a sleep prop or an adult. There are plenty of well-researched and proven methods that allow parents to offer comfort and love to their child while also teaching them to sleep. In fact, studies have shown that gentle sleep interventions help reduce sleep problems in the future.
Implementing a solid bedtime routine, sleep schedule, and optimal sleep environment are some of the “gentle sleep interventions” available. Other methods may involve parents slowly backing off their sleep support over a period of days or weeks. A certified sleep consultant can tailor a sleep plan best suited to your child and family, while ensuring that their basic needs for nutrition, comfort, and love are met.
Myth 2: Sleep training will damage the bond between parents and infants.
Parent and infant attachment are created when loving parents are attune to their child’s needs. When parents can regularly tune into their child’s feelings, figure out what they need and provide that, a healthy and secure attachment is formed. So, how does this relate to sleep training? It has been argued that sleep training will negatively affect parent-infant attachment if parents sleep train their children. However, several studies have shown that temporarily implementing sleep interventions does not have any negative long-term effects on parental attachment.
In fact, parents and children who are well-rested report being happier, calmer and more patient, which then leads to more positive relationships. It’s important to remember that attachment does not just happen at nighttime. Providing love and attention to your infant is a non-negotiable, even to those who decide to implement sleep training methods.
Myth 3: Sleep deprivation is just part of parenthood.
While it’s true that new parents will experience a lack of sleep during the first few months of their baby’s life, long-term sleep deprivation does not need to be the reality. In fact, parents can start implementing healthy sleep habits into their newborn’s everyday lives and start official sleep interventions around the 4-month mark. The importance of sleep should not be overlooked.
Lack of consistent sleep has shown to be associated with mental and physical health issues in parents and can lead to social-emotional issues in infants and toddlers if they persist.
Myth 4: Children will eventually learn to sleep independently all by themselves.
Something I hear often from parents is, “If I just wait, will my child eventually become a good sleeper?” The answer is, MAYBE! However, even some adults cannot sleep without the help of a sleep aid such as medication, TVs, partners, etc. What is important to consider is whether your infant or child depends on an outside sleep aid to put themselves back to sleep between sleep cycles. If the answer is yes, it’s likely that these aids will be needed for a long period of time.
Myth 5: Sleep-trained infants will never wake during the night.
The truth is that everyone (including you!) wakes during the night. However, a strong sleeper can wake, reposition themselves; perhaps get a sip of water, and fall back asleep relatively quickly. Sleep training also doesn’t mean that a sleep-trained infant won’t cry out in the event they are hungry, wet, ill, and so on. In fact, deciphering what your child needs can be easier when you’re certain they are not calling out simply to be aided back to sleep.
It’s important to know that sleep training is not for everyone and not every infant “requires” sleep training. Some babies are naturally better sleepers than others. Some parents are comfortable aiding their child’s sleep until they can cognitively tell them they are ready to do it independently. There is no one size fits all approach to any aspect of parenting, including sleep.
Parents should feel empowered to make decisions that feel right for their family and what works for some will most definitely not work for others. If you or your infant are suffering from exhaustion, anxiety or any medical issues resulting from sleep deprivation, then sleep training (in any of its’ forms) may be right for you. Trust your parental gut and do what you feel is best for your family!
As a certified infant and toddler sleep consultant, Nickie would love to work with you to build a personalized sleep plan to get your family the sleep you all need and deserve! Sleep is vital for every member of your family and together we can achieve that through loving and gentle methods that are proven to work. Book your free consultation here.
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