Should I sleep train my baby? A Sleep Trainer weighs in – honestly!
Overwhelmed and underprepared. This is the sleep trainer’s guide to making the decision to sleep train… Or not!
I won’t be found on social media commenting on posts about sleep, weighing in on the debate, or offering unwanted advice for sleep. This is not an attempt to win you over; it’s simply an attempt to reach a desperate mother, who might be in search of education and answers for the questions and problem she has.
Sleep Training. UGH. I actually hate this term because it doesn’t have a positive connotation at all. No one wants to talk about sleep training because in reality none of us actually wants to do it. Right? I mean, I sure as hell didn’t.
In my quest for parenting success, I was hopeful that my baby would be a rockstar sleeper. I had hoped that I would be able to put her down to sleep anywhere, she would nap by day, and night times would be full of peace. Of course, in the early days of parenting, success was measured by how much sleep we were all getting. Nowadays, if I keep them alive I am successful. Ha! How my standards have changed since having a second baby.
In reality, I became a sleep deprived, puke-wearing, sweatpants-sporting, stressed, overwhelmed hot mess. I didn’t expect that my nipples would be sore and bleeding from nursing all night to pacify my baby, who would otherwise spend her nights waking and crying. I also wasn’t told that I would probably cry as much as the baby.
This is not everyone’s story, but maybe it is yours?
As a sleep trainer, the 4-month sleep regression is often where I see the biggest challenges. Your otherwise happy baby, who was sleeping longer stretches and waking maybe twice in the night, doesn’t sleep so great anymore.
When families are barely holding it together and sleep deprivation is having a heavy impact on emotional wellbeing, it’s all the more important that you understand what sleep training is all about. So please, let me explain. This may not be the path for you, but it might be the answer to a very dark day for a mother like me.
What is sleep training?
By my definition, sleep training is teaching your child to fall asleep without the use of external tools or “props” in the comfort of their own sleep space – whether that be a parent’s room or their own.
Components of teaching your baby to sleep
Self soothe techniques are not to be confused with crying and soothing does not mean managing crying. Think of soothing as a pre-sleep routine that you do each night.
For instance, when it’s time for me to go to bed, I shower, put my PJ’s on, climb into bed, position my pillow, leg and arm in a certain place, draw my blanket to my face and settle into sleep. This is a technique I unknowingly developed that offered me comfort to settle into sleep without complaint. No tossing, turning, frustration etc.
In children, once through sleep training, I see them develop all sorts of strategies, such as turning their head to the same side every time and drawing a lovey to their face, then dozing off. One of my client’s little girls starts to twiddle her fingers and stroke her own face. My own daughter used to lay on her back and tap her nose with her bunny’s ear until she dozed off to sleep.
This is the key component in getting to successful sleep as quickly as possible. We look at your existing schedules, timing for naps and bedtimes, and focus on age-appropriate nap and bedtimes. If your child is constantly overtired, it will be so very hard for you to get them to sleep easily and without complaint. Think about times where you have been past the point of tired – you just struggle to get to sleep and you cannot switch off. Your child is no different.
We look at your child’s sleep conditions. Is it too hot/cold? Is it too dark or too light? Are they in a play space or sleep space? Are they being over-stimulated and could there be a minor change that could impact nap duration drastically?
Here is what my sleep training is NOT
- Making your baby adhere to your schedule
- Leaving your baby to cry itself to sleep
- Getting rid of night feeds
- Falling asleep alone at bedtime and for naps
What sleep training with Strong Beginnings IS
- Listening to your baby’s needs and following their cues for sleep
- Teaching them to LOVE sleep so there are no nightly battles
- Helping you gain back control and flexibility in your parenting so you can meet the demands and needs of your baby with confidence
- Having your baby fall asleep peacefully without crying
There are many different approaches to sleep training, including parent-focused, baby-focused, and baby-lead, all of which are great if they are right for you and your family. Sleep training is EXTREMELY personal and getting the right support and the right guidance is almost as important as the training itself.
When sleep training is done correctly and consistently, no matter the method, you should see results almost immediately. That’s truly life changing for some people. It was for me. That’s not to say it will be easy; sometimes it will be hard to follow through – after all, you are tired. But remember that just because it is hard, doesn’t make it wrong. Trust your decision to do what is what is best for your family.
Why does sleep training have a bad reputation?
My opinion? The internet and mom-shaming!
People are not afraid to give their very honest and unfiltered opinion on parenting struggles when they are secure behind a keyboard. I have a hard time reading the opinions and I can’t imagine a world where people would talk to each other in this way face-to-face. Plus, without the proper use of grammar, a message can so easily be misinterpreted. I will be the first to admit that my written English can be pretty bad. A misplaced comma is all it takes!
It’s both a blessing and a curse. You can search for help and answers very quickly, only to find completely conflicting advice just moments later. Wading through this when you are sleep-deprived and doing everything with one hand, whilst a baby takes a 20-minute nap on your chest, can be disheartening. We often feel more alone than when we started.
In an effort to help you find solutions, consultants are trying to be heard through this noise to offer practical solutions that they have been educated to deliver, but we too are met with shamers and so are our mothers. It’s a huge deterrent for those who need the help the most which, as a sleep consultant, is heartbreaking. This happened to my sister.
I encourage the families I talk to not to seek sleep advice from Facebook, but instead go in search of sleep training or sleep advice that SUPPORTS what they want to do. For instance, instead of googling “how is sleep training going to fuck up my kid?” try googling “benefits of sleep training”. The reason I say this is if your choice is to sleep train, no matter if its cohabit, co-sleep or otherwise, it can be really disheartening to read articles that tell you you’re a bad mother for choosing one way or another.
The stigma of spending money on “help”
There is an added guilt that if you are paying for a service you must somehow be failing. Getting help to stay fit and healthy from a personal trainer isn’t failing, is it? Surely you are trying to ensure you meet your goals and get effective guidance to get there as soon as possible? Think of a consultant as a personal trainer. We will give you a plan, walk you through the plan, check in during the plan, motivate you on hard days, and celebrate the successes.
I am your cheer squad, your rally team, your best friend, confidant and at the end of it all, YOU have done all the hard work and take 110% of the credit for your baby’s success, because YOU taught them this essential skill. WAY TO GO, YOU!
Sleep training isn’t always easy. It’s emotional, change can be hard, and accepting or even admitting you need help can be harder. You are trusting, sometimes a complete stranger, with your biggest achievement and you probably feel a sense of selfishness for doing it. As if somehow sleep training is only beneficial to you and not your baby. This all could not be further from the truth.
So, if you think sleep training might be for you, then great, I am SO happy to help you.
If you are in the midst of sleep battles and are in need of help or advice but not sure if sleep training is for you, I really welcome you to call me or reach me by email if you prefer. I was that mom not very long ago and I can tell you there are better days and solutions that respect your parenting philosophy, but in my experience, they won’t be found in the responses of post in Facebook groups.
Want to know when the best time to sleep train is? Check out my blog here “The best age to sleep train”.