Does this scenario sound familiar? You’ve traveled for hours (or even days) to arrive for a holiday meal with your extended family. It’s the first time your baby has met the grandparents and second cousins! Everyone is loving baby’s smiles and noting their sweet resemblances to your baby photos. Sights and sounds are comforting and relaxing, and it’s finally time to sit down for the meal. Glancing at your watch you realize it’s already nap time! “You all go ahead and eat, I’ll be back in 5 minutes!”
You quietly slip away to the makeshift nursery with your baby rubbing his eyes and you overhear, “Why can’t she just skip nap this time? I just let my baby sleep whenever and wherever they want.” Unfortunately, traveling for the Holiday season may include people who question your parenting methods.
In my years as a sleep consultant, I’ve heard my fair share of stories from clients about disagreements and scolding from family members — ranging from immediate family to second cousins twice removed — who were not on board or straight up judgemental with their decision to sleep train. In the sleep world, there are many polarizing opinions and various sleep philosophies. While this article’s purpose is not to convince you of one way or another, it’s good to have a clear understanding of what YOUR sleep philosophy is.
To help you have a less stressful family experience regarding sleep training, I’ve put together some tips and scripts to help you enjoy your family time to the fullest.1. KNOW WHY YOU DO WHAT YOU DO
Maybe you worked with a Sleep Consultant, read a certain book or took an online program. Whatever it is — Rock it!! When you have a baby who is a sleeping champ, more than likely you’ve worked hard to make that a thing. Before heading out to be with others who may disagree and even attack you, arm yourself with the reasons why you believe what you do.
It’s helpful to write down for yourself (make a note on your phone!) what things were like before you committed to your sleep plan. What was happening that led you to sleep train your baby? How did you feel when bedtime approached? Did your child only depend on you to sleep?
And then write down (and celebrate) what it’s like NOW!
Taking a few minutes to document this will help you to be on point regarding what you believe about the benefits of your plan and getting good sleep. For Lauren, mother of a 5-month-old, it’s very clear what sleep means to her …
“Coming from months of suffering from postpartum anxiety with my first baby, I now am a more confident mom and less anxious because I was able to teach my baby to sleep. And SHE is so happy all the time!”
It’s my experience that once you put this in writing, you’ll start to live and breathe your belief that good, routine sleep is actually a thing for your family! Which makes the next step more manageable.2. KNOW WHEN TO SHARE AND WHEN TO BITE YOUR TONGUE
I’m not so great at this, admittingly, but my career as a sleep consultant has helped reinforce the idea that everyone is different. There are many people out there who are dedicated to a multitude of different parent philosophies including co-sleeping, pacifier use, the CIO method… you name it. Actress, Amy Poehler says it best really …
“Good for her! Not for me.”
As moms, we’re all going to choose what is best for our families. You’ve chosen what’s best for yours, and let’s honor what others have decided. Be respectful of others’ decisions.
When others judge you, I suggest taking the high road and let the results speak for themselves.
When a family member makes a demeaning remark such as, “Oh, you’re really going to let him cry it out up there all by himself?” you can confidently reply, “I’ve actually worked really hard to implement a plan for my child, and he is a great sleeper now. When he sleeps he is happy, healthy and well-rested … and so am I.”
Once nay-sayers are exposed to more of the great results of your efforts, they may become your best supporters. If you get genuine, curious questions about your sleep training structure, by all means … answer away!
3. FIND A BUDDY
We all have that person we can freely vent to, whether that’s your spouse, a sister or close friend. Whoever that person is, tell them you’re about to head into a situation that you know will be emotionally difficult from time-to-time. Knowing you have someone to lean on is extremely important.
Remember, most people will judge you because they themselves “fly by the seat of their pants” and likely don’t know what you are doing or why you’re doing it. This is a great time to show with confidence that you have a plan, that you are seeing success, and that it is a game-changer for your family. While they might have their thoughts and opinions, you will likely have their respect because of your sleep success and the benefits that good sleep brings everyone involved.
4. FIND A PLAN
The best part about living in today’s world is how much HELP we have at our fingertips. From working with a Sleep Consultant in your own town, working through our Sleep E-Coaching Programs or reading a book that matches your sleep philosophy — we have SO many options!
5. DON’T EXPECT PERFECTION
Even the best sleepers at home can be off their game when needing to sleep in a new or different place (SlumberPod can help!) or when they’ve had a long day with more stimulation than usual. And sometimes babies and toddlers can sense anxiety from their parents and not be their regular, predictable selves.
Do your best to go with the flow while also sticking with what’s important to you and works for you.
Remember that no matter where you stand on your sleep training methods, be confident in them and know that YOU are doing what’s best for your family. Don’t give up, as the rewards are great.
[December 19, 2019 update: Little Z's podcast episode #88: Dealing with family members who disagree with your baby's sleep plan]
[January 5, 2020 update: Seven Ways to Use Your SlumberPod (blog post)]
Sweet Dreams everyone!
Little Z’s Sleep Consulting
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