Dealing With Criticism When Sleep Training
Opinions on parenting practices are endless and when you become a parent, you suddenly open yourself up to all sorts of advice – whether you asked for it or not!
It is totally normal for people to approach parenting differently. That’s the beauty of our world; we can all have different opinions and ways of parenting but still be united in wanting to raise happy, healthy children.
Where this becomes not okay is when parents are judged.
In my line of work, I obviously see this issue arise again and again when it comes to how parents choose to handle their child’s sleep. So, what do you do when that seemingly well-meaning advice and opinions from friends, family, (and strangers) make you question your parenting decisions? How can you politely and graciously tell those people “thanks but no thanks” when it comes to your position on sleep?
I’m no stranger to the criticisms that accompany sleep training. And I truly don’t believe that it is the right choice for every family. But for the families that intentionally choose to make a change to their sleep situation, it is aboslutely the best choice for them.
And ultimately, that’ what it comes down to: remembering why you’re doing it/why you did it.
Take some time to think about the low points of exhaustion; the impact it had/has on your family; why the old way wasn’t working anymore.
Then think about how sleep training allowed you to take matters into your own hands and change your lives for the better. How has everyone’s lives improved now that you’re all well-rested?
Hold onto those “whys” – those are your ammunition.
HOW TO RESPOND:
Like all parenting decisions, you have to make the choice that feels best for you and your family. Others don’t necessarily have to agree, but they most definitely have to respect it. When confronted with criticism about your decision to sleep train, you might say something like,
“Thank you for sharing your insight with me. However, [spouse/partner/family member] and I have carefully made this decision for the sake of our baby’s health & happiness, the quality of our relationship, and the betterment of our family unit. While you may not agree with our decision, we would appreciate your support.”
For those very passionate about the topic, you can also add,
“I understand your point of view and am so glad that [their way of doing things] is working for your family. I will most definitely circle back if I have any questions.
I know this is much easier said than done, but it helps if you and your partner/spouse present as a united front.
But what happens if your partner is the one who’s not on board?
The Hesitant Spouse:
This is a more difficult path to navigate because making sleep changess is hard in and of itself, and can be that much harder when you don’t have the support of your partner (not to mention the confusion and inconsistencies that can accompany two different sleep philosophies).
In my experience, the majority of the time there is a skeptical or hesitant partner, it is the father. I’ve boiled this down to 3 main reasons:
Please Note: Though most of the time it’s dads who are less inclined to seek out sleep support, Oh Baby has had the privilege to work with many different types of family units and we know that family dynamics are as unique as your child’s sleep struggles are.
1. They think that sleep is just something they should be able to “figure out” on their own.
While I wish that sleep came as naturally as many think it should, if sleep were simple, I wouldn’t have a job! Sleep is an incredibly complex phenomenon and with more and more new information about the science of pediatric sleep uncovered every day, it can be hard to keep up. Trying to navigate the complex world of baby sleep while also trying to parent, work, be a present and loving partner, and take care of your own needs can feel overwhelming. Add in the fact that you’re probably running on fumes from being so exhausted and it can be a recipe for many, many months (even years) of sleepless nights.
Parenting is your job.
Many employees take professional development courses to continue their education at work; why not do the same in your job as a parent? It is my job to help guide and support you through these changes as easily and as stress-free as possible. Let me do my job so you can get back to doing yours to the very best of your ability.
2. Mom & baby are up several times throughout the night while Dad continues to sleep peacefully.
If you’ve ever had a sleep evaluation call with me, you’ll know that one thing I frequently ask is whether or not your partner is as impacted by sleep deprivation as you are. Most of the time I’m met with a laugh and a, “Nope, he sleeps right through it.”
With permission, I’m going to share a story from a former Oh Baby Sleep Grad. When I initially spoke with this family on the phone, we chatted about how their 8-month old needed to be rocked for almost an hour to fall asleep at bedtime, woke 3-4 times during the night (and struggled to go back down), and took micro-short naps. Mom was excited when I shared with her that I could help get her child sleeping all night long and taking predictable daytime naps. Dad, however, was skeptical that their situation warranted outside help, and they ultimately decided to keep trying to fix things on their own. About 6 weeks later, I received an email from this family. Mom shared that she had left for a long weekend to celebrate her sister’s upcoming wedding, and within 10 hours of leaving, Dad had texted her saying that the minute she got back, she needed to “email the sleep lady.”
As frustrating as it is, you may have to expose your partner to the reality of your nighttime situation if he is too far removed from it. Every time he complains that he is tired or that he has work in the morning, calmly remind him that you have a solution to the problem. (And if all else fails, plan a girl’s weekend and leave baby & dad to fend for themselves!)
3. They don’t think a stranger can fix their problem.
I totally understand the skepticism that some random lady potentially across the country can help your baby sleep. It sounds like a promise too good to be true.
But it’s not.
I’m very up front that there are no secrets to sleep. But there are various puzzle pieces that need to be put together correctly in order to find something that works. It’s those puzzle pieces that are different for every family, and with my background in pediatric sleep and child development, I can help synthesize, organize, and disseminate relevant information to your situation.
We’re going to solve your sleep struggles together. I am just one piece of the equation. You know your baby the best, I know a heck of a lot about sleep, and together we are going to find a path forward that gives your family the sleep you deserve!
HOW TO RESPOND:
I am not here to convince anyone that they need to make sleep changes let alone work with me, but if you are having a hard time convincing your partner that your sleep sitution needs to change, try this:
“Our child is waking up 4 times a night and it’s taking me over an hour to get him down at bedtime. I’m feeling [state how you’re feeling: exhausted, overwhelmed, frustrated, resentful]. I would like to try sleep training but it is important to me that you are on board. Can we talk about some next steps?
What happens next depends on how your partner responds so be prepared:
If he’s action-oriented: Make sure to have options for plans/courses/coaches to share.
If he’s data-driven: Come equipped with research on the benefits and safety of sleep training.
If he’s a thinker: Assure him that you don’t expect an overnight fix and plan to pick back up the conversation the next day.
If he’s a skeptic: Share success stories or book an evaluation call with me so he can get his specific worries addressed.
If he’s resistant to change: Ask him to take a walk in your shoes for a few nights and then reassess.
So whether you’re getting heated with extended family members or the battle is raging inside your own home, remember that well-rested babies lead to well-rested parents and that as your child’s parent, it is up to you to make the best decisions for them. And remember, whenever you need someone in your corner, I’m your girl!
If you’re exhausted, totally overwhelmed by your child’s sleep habits, or looking for answers to the sleep questions that keep you up at night (literally), then you’ve come to the right place. I’m Jamie, founder of Oh Baby Consulting, and my goal is to help your family get the sleep you need to not just survive, but thrive!