When it comes to sleep training, everybody has their opinion on what works, what doesn’t work, what is safe and affective and what is damaging or cruel but so often this mix of ideas gets misconstrued and fails to help anybody who is actually suffering from a lack of sleep!
If you know anything about me, you will know that I only use gentle, proven techniques to help babies, toddlers and preschoolers to become excellent sleepers. I advocate responding to your child when he cries and maintaining a secure attachment.
Unfortunately, too many people still think that sleep training must mean leaving a baby to cry – It does not. People believe they have just two choices:
‘Ride it out, put up with it, it’s just part of parenting’.
‘Embark upon a sleep training plan which will mean lots of crying and upset and I don’t think I could do that to my child’.
Well how about option 3
Embark upon the most suitable sleep training plan for your child that meets his unique personality and temperament and feels right for the whole family, includes responding to your child, reassuring and comforting him as you gently teach him the essential life skill of being able to sleep independently. Thus enabling him to thrive with his development and the whole family being able to function properly, be healthier, safer and enjoy these tender years!
Part of the problem that causes people to fear sleep training is the confusion about the meaning of ‘Cry It Out’. Firstly let me clarify what ‘Cry It Out’ actually means… In sleep terms it is called extinction and involves putting a child to bed and leaving the room and not returning until morning. Largely confused with the Controlled Crying approach (also known as spaced soothing) which has many variants for implementing but always responding to the child and offering comfort and reassurance. Cry It Out and Controlled Crying are very different.
There are articles out there that suggest leaving a child to cry will cause long term damage or unhealthy stress levels in babies and reading this kind of thing can be quite frightening. What is not always made clear however, is that this is only evident when leaving a baby under the age of 18 weeks to cry it out or cry for extended periods of time (hours) on a regular basis. Studies have shown no evidence of long lasting or negative affects from sleep training a baby over the age of 18 weeks.
No-one wants their baby to cry and, as parents, we do whatever we can to ensure a happy, healthy child whose needs we always meet. You can still do all of this while also giving them the gift of becoming a great sleeper and a life skill that is so valuable to them (and you right now). Click here to read more about crying.
So research has shown that a sleep training is not harmful and sleep deprivation is harmful. I have parents come to me for help because they made a critical error at work, nearly crashed their car or marriage is in tatters. It saddens me that people wait until things are this bad, until their health, safety, finances or happiness are at breaking point when it doesn’t have to be that way. Parenting should not involve any suffering but should be the most joyful experience and time of your life.
I want to reassure all those parents who have been feeling guilty that they may have done something wrong. I want to give hope and confidence to all those who thought there were only two options. I want to broaden minds and ask that we don’t judge others’ choices. The right solution is different for everyone but there is always a solution.