Do you want to know something that really gets me fired up?
It’s when Moms (either online or in real life) are talking about sleep, and I hear comments like this:
“You should just enjoy getting up to nurse all night – someday he’ll be all grown up and you’ll miss it.”
“It's all part of having children. Going without sleep is par for the course!”
Or my all-time favorite…
“Well, you’ll just have to figure out how to deal with it!”
My fingers are starting to burn just writing about this, so I’m going to “fire back” with my top three myths about teaching your baby to sleep well:
Myth #1: Your baby will not love you in the morning.
Really? Do you think that after just one night of changing your baby’s sleep habits she won’t love you anymore? Is that all it would take?
Would all the cuddles you give her, all the food you provide, all the diapers and clean clothes she wears, all the playtimes and bath times, all the kisses and laughter be for nothing because of a few nights of protest?
The truth is that making changes to anyone’s sleep habits will always be met with some resistance. So yes, it is safe to assume that your baby is not going to happily accept the fact that you are no longer going to rock her on the exercise ball for an hour each and every night, but as long as you are a loving and attentive parent in the first place, the love will endure.
In fact, most people find that once their baby is sleeping well, she’s even happier and healthier than before, and the bond between you and your child is even stronger!
Myth #2: Sleep training means leaving your baby to “cry it out.”
First off, what I do with families is NOT a “cry-it-out” program.
In fact, you can stay in your child’s room with them the whole time — if that makes you feel more comfortable.
The bottom line is that it’s not the crying that gets a baby sleeping well. The crying is simply your baby’s reaction to the change in his or her sleep habits, nothing more.
In other words, your baby isn’t crying because she’s “mad” at you… or because you’re being cruel. The only reason she’s crying is because she’s temporarily confused! I mean, you used to rock or nurse her to sleep every night… and now (for her own health) you’re not doing that anymore. To a baby that isn't able to rationalize change in this manner, it is going to be a confusing time, and confidence is going to feel low.
And the great news is that your child’s confusion usually only lasts a few days. Children adapt SO quickly that she’ll soon figure out how to calmly and confidently get herself to sleep… and then everyone’s happier!
Myth #3: Sleep training is too stressful for babies
Recent studies have proven that there is no evidence that sleep training has any short term or long term psychological effects on children. So you can cross that off your list of things to worry about.
As for those who say that a few nights of crying are “too stressful?” Well, I say you’ve really got two choices:
A. Make some changes. This usually involves a few nights of your child crying for 10 – 40 minutes at bedtime. After a few nights, most children start to learn how to fall asleep independently and the crying stops completely shortly thereafter.
In this scenario, the total amount of “stress” felt by your child amounts to a few minutes of crying for a few nights.
B. Do nothing. In this scenario, the parent continues to nurse / rock / bounce their child to sleep every night. The child wakes up 1 – 10 times per night, and needs to be nursed / rocked / bounced back to sleep each time.
In this scenario, both parent and child are subjected to months (or even years) of systematic sleep deprivation where neither ever gets enough consolidated sleep to wake up and feel rested or refreshed. If these poor sleep habits continue into the school years, there is evidence that it correlates with things like obesity and trouble focusing in class – both of which sound pretty stressful to me!
So what sounds more harmful: A few nights of crying… or months/years of depriving your child of a good nights’ sleep?
Where To Go From Here?
If one or more of these three myths have been holding you back from taking the simple steps needed to create long term, positive change for your child’s sleep, I really hope I’ve been able to change your mind. Or at least, put you at ease for making the choice to change what's happening at bedtime so that you and your child can both start sleeping better.
Let's make this year the year where your child is taught how to sleep well on their own and you can go back to having well-rested nights with your family. Win-win for everyone involved.
And – as always – I’m here for you when you’re ready to get started. Just click here if you're ready to start and we'll chat.
I am a Pediatric Sleep Consultant who works with families to help them resolve their littles' sleep issues. As a mom of two littles herself, Katie has walked in the shoes of her clients and is passionate about helping them re-discover peaceful sleeps in their own homes.