Have you ever been told…
“You should enjoy it (being awake all night) – someday he’ll be all grown up and you’ll miss it.”
“Welcome to motherhood. You can forget about sleeping because it just doesn’t happen for years and years.”
Or my all-time favorite…
“Well, here’s some solidarity, mama! Because there sure as heck is nothing we can do about it!”
In response to those, here are 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 happier and healthier than before!
Myth #2: Sleep training means leaving your baby to “cry it out.”
This is simply not true. You can sleep train without doing a “cry-it-out” program. I work with families in an completely customized way. All of my programs are individually written for each unique child, to ensure that sleep comes in the fastest amount of time with the least amount of stress — no cry it out is involved while they are still learning.
In fact, you can stay in your child’s room the whole time — if that makes you feel more comfortable. That’s what I did!
The bottom line is that it’s not the crying that gets a baby sleeping through the night. The crying is simply your baby’s reaction to the change in sleep habits.
And the good news is that the confusion and adjustment to the habit change only lasts a few days. But you can remain with your child, giving your comfort and soothing presence for longer if you choose! Children adapt SO quickly that they very quickly figure out how to get themselves to sleep… and then everyone’s happier!
Myth #3: Sleep training is too stressful for babies
There is no evidence that sleep training has any short term or long term psychological effects on children.
For those who say that a few nights of crying are “too stressful?” Well, I say you’ve really got two choices:
- 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.
- 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, depression, hyperactivity, poor emotional regulation and trouble focusing – all of which are very stressful!
So what sounds more harmful: A few nights of crying… or months/years of depriving your child of a good nights’ sleep?
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 hope I’ve been able to change your mind.
And – as always – I’m here for you. Please reach out anytime with questions or to talk about your child’s unique sleep situation.
Kim Rogers, M.A., is a certified infant and child sleep consultant. She has additional training in infant mental health from the hospital for sick children and maternal mental health from postpartum support international. Kim works with families in a one-on-one, highly supportive way to help them get the sleep they need.