Should I Sleep Train?
I’ve spent a lot of time knee-deep in the field of pediatric sleep. I’ve dedicated my professional (and personal) life to helping parents teach their children sustainable, long-lasting, healthy sleep habits so that every family member can get the rest they need. Implementing healthy sleep habits – whether it’s laying a strong foundation for a newborn or helping a 10-month-old sleep through the night – is a no brainer for me, and obviously I am a huge proponent of it. That being said, sometimes I forget that many other parents struggle with the decision of whether or not they need to sleep train in the first place.
I’m going to insert a little caveat here: the phrase “sleep training” gets a very bad rap. Whether this stems from older, more extreme methods, or the plethora of misinformation discoverable with a few clicks of your mouse, sleep training IS NOT leaving your baby in the crib to cry for hours, ignoring your baby’s hunger cues, or any type of one-size-fits-all behavior modification. Want to know more about what sleep training (with Oh Baby) actually means?
The question of whether or not to sleep train really only comes up when parents are struggling with sleep to begin with. Perhaps their newborn is fighting sleep in the late afternoons, or their previously wonderful sleeper is suddenly taking hours to go down at bedtime and waking up several times during the night. Occasionally, I will work with families who have heard sleep horror stories from loved-ones and want to start off on the right foot. Regardless of what brings families to me, the common theme is that they are tired of being tired!
When deciding whether or not sleep training is worth it, consider the impact you’ll be making…
1. It Helps Your Baby
Overall, the number one reason to sleep train is because it is the most beneficial for your baby. Babies who are sleep deprived are fussier, more irritable, less motivated to learn about their environment, and generally do not thrive as much as they would if they got an appropriate amount of sleep.
Once babies have developed the skills needed for independent sleep, they are able to easily fall asleep at bedtime (and naps), connect their sleep cycles throughout the night, and only wake up when their body is fully rejuvenated and ready to be awake. A baby who has not yet developed these critical skills will struggle to fall asleep without significant assistance, wake up between sleep cycles for more assistance, and have trouble sleeping for long stretches of time. Think about how you feel the morning after you’re up every hour or two. Probably pretty fuzzy and out of it. Now multiply that by every night your baby has not been sleeping well. That’s a long time to be so tired (and I bet you are right there with them!)
2. It’s Good for Mom (and Dad & The Whole Family)
If baby isn’t sleeping, mom (and dad and/or other caretakers) are probably not sleeping either. While it’s hard to admit – especially in our current culture – lack of sleep is incredibly harmful to caregivers, especially mothers. Lack of sleep dramatically increases the chances of post-partum disorders such as anxiety and depression, not to mention the impacts that sleep deprivation can have on daily tasks such as driving a car, succeeding at work, or caring for other children. When you are sleep deprived, it is near impossible to perform at peak levels in all areas of life.
3. It Evokes Confidence & Predictability
Aside from better sleep (and all its health and emotional benefits), one of my favorite things about sleep training is that it empowers parents to feel confident about their child’s sleep situation. Most of the time, families come to me because they are spending hours trying to get their little ones to sleep only to be awoken soon after to do it all over again. After sleep training, families have a predictable bedtime, their little ones fall asleep on their own within minutes, and they know that they have 11-12 hours of peace ahead of them. During the day, parents can plan activities and run errands with less stress because they know exactly when their little one is going to need a nap and about how long they will sleep. Even for the most go-with-the-flow families, this predictability can go a long way in helping ease the parenting journey.
And even better than predictability is the confidence parents have in keeping sleep on track. After working together, many parents of Oh Baby Graduates tell me that they feel as though they’ve become the “sleep expert” and can effectively troubleshoot whenever an issue arises. Whether they’re navigating travel and time-zone changes, teething and seasonal illnesses, or schedule shifts stemming from dropping a nap, these parents are pros. (But of course, I’m never far away if they want someone else to do the thinking for them!)
There are so many more advantages to sleep training, and the most enjoyed benefits will be different for each family. But one thing’s for sure: there’s really no downside to getting better sleep!
If you think your family is ready to sleep train, please know that you don’t have to do this alone! Let’s work together to come up with a customized plan of action that meets your baby where he or she is at developmentally and aligns with your family’s lifestyle and values. I’d love to support you on your sleep journey.
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!