As a child sleep expert, I chat with so many parents who are completely exhausted and want to solve their child’s sleep habits. Some parents are ready to make changes; however, some fears or uncertainties about sleep training tend to get in the way, and one reason is in the name itself “sleep training.” Sleep training in simple terms means “Teaching your child healthy sleep habits.”
As a parent, you want to ensure that you are making the best decision for your child, but let’s face it, there is so much contradicting information out there about how sleep training works, and it causes parents to worry! Let’s dive into some of those most common sleep training concerns and how they affect your ability to teach your child those healthy sleep habits they need to develop and thrive.
Can we be successful, even if we have already tried to sleep train before?
Most families I have worked with have already tried some form of sleep training before reaching out to me. Of course, you want to try and fix the issue yourself before even thinking of hiring a professional. My job as a sleep consultant is to fish out all of the possibilities of why your child is not getting the appropriate amount of sleep for their age. This involves putting together multiple pieces of the puzzle and determining what works for your family. It can be very difficult for parents to do this on their own.
Do I have to leave my child to cry?
Sleep training and cry it out is not the same thing. Cry it out is just one method of sleep training. Anyways, who wants to leave their baby to cry? Sleep training can involve checking on your baby and comforting them during the changes they are going through. The goal with sleep training is to slowly wean away from rocking, holding, patting (etc.), to sleep, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot provide physical and emotional support to your baby/child along the way.
Do I have to follow harsh rules during the sleep training process?
Although every sleep consultant is different, no professional should “make you” follow harsh rules. My job is to let you know what needs to be done to allow your child to get the sleep they need while also ensuring that you are comfortable and empowered through the process. If a parent expresses their discomfort through the process, it is my job to make adjustments according to what works best for the family.
Is sleep training a long process?
Depending on the ‘method’ you choose, it could take anywhere from 2 nights to 2 weeks, sometimes even a bit more, which is often a rare case. Different methods are used depending on a parent’s philosophy about crying and how often they want to comfort their child through the process. In the grand scheme of things, two nights or two weeks is nothing compared to what could be years of sleep struggles. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is worth the work that goes into it.
Can I sleep train my baby and still live a flexible lifestyle?
Babies and children thrive on consistency and predictability. During the sleep training period, it is recommended that we keep 100% consistency, which will make the process go quicker. The more consistent you are, the faster the sleep training process will be over.
After the process is finished, you can allow for some more flexibility in your schedule. I often recommend the 80/20 rule. If you are consistent 80% of the time, you can allow for 20% flexibility. Well-rested children tend to be more adaptable; therefore, when it comes time to go off schedule a bit by implementing a later bedtime or on-the-go naps, your child will be ok.
Is sleep training harmful to my baby?
Of course, you want to know if sleep training will affect your child’s well-being in any shape or form. The truth is, there is no data or concrete evidence that sleep training negatively impacts children. In fact, sleep training has proven to improve a baby’s sleep habits, mood, behavior, and overall well-being. It does not lead to any long-term problems. It is easy to get caught up in the research; however, through my extensive training in sleep science, I discovered that those articles that claim that sleep training is dangerous don’t have any concrete evidence about their claims.
Am I selfish by wanting to sleep train?
Although sleep training is beneficial for any parent, when sleep training is done right, it can benefit your baby/child the most. Engaging in the process of teaching your little one to regulate their sleep patterns, self-soothe, and fall asleep independently, does not mean you are ignoring your baby. These are skills that are needed for the years to come.
Can I sleep train if my child is in daycare?
The majority of my clients are parents who have their children in daycare. As a sleep consultant, my job is to ensure that your child’s daycare is educated on how to best support the process. After all, daycares want children to be well-rested because it makes it easier on them too!
If I sleep train, do I have to end all nighttime feedings?
No sleep consultant should ever tell a parent that they need to end night feedings if their baby is waking hungry, although it can often be recommended. Typically, sleep consultants will ask you to get the OK from your pediatrician to drop night feedings. This ensures that the child is healthy and thriving, and they do not need to eat in the middle of the night. However, it is ultimately your decision, and this applies to both breastfed and formula-fed babies.
My job as a sleep consultant is to ensure that the wakings are not due to hunger, and then my plan for you will depend on the answer to this. Even if the child is waking from hunger, you can still manage to teach your child healthy sleep habits. The child will eat and go right back to sleep when they have the skill to do so.
Isn’t it too late to sleep train?
Chronic sleep deprivation in children can lead to obesity, behavior problems, depression, and learning issues. Sleep deprivation for adults can also lead to various health issues and mental problems. If your little one is a horrible sleeper, whether eight months or five years old, know that it is never too late to get on that path to healthy sleep.
Can I sleep train without waking my other children?
Parents overestimate how disruptive the sleep training process is on siblings. You might want to consider adding a sound machine in the sibling’s room and a fan to the hallway to block out all sounds. If siblings happen to share a room, I would often recommend that the good sleeper is temporarily moved out of the room (to give space for the other child to learn), and then they can come back together once everyone is sleeping a little better. However, there are a few ways to go about this. My job as a sleep consultant is to help prepare siblings so that they know what to expect while their brother or sister is going through the process of sleep training.
Jenna is a child sleep and behavior specialist and owner of Little You Consulting. She has been in the child and family services field for over 10 years, caring for children and helping parents through their challenges. She provides coaching with those common parenting challenges such as; how to deal with picky eaters, aggressive behavior, eliminating night feedings, achieving quality naps and night sleep for your little one, and many more. Jenna believes that every family is unique, and providing quality support is all about understanding each family’s parenting style and specific goals.
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.