As a new parent you will receive so much advice once your baby arrives. And while that advice is coming from a good place, advice from your well-meaning friends can create confusion or doubt. Your own parents may insist that THIS is the only way to do it creating pressure and even guilt. The reality is, every baby and every family is completely unique and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to parenting. If there was, we’d have one (and only one) parenting book that everyone would read and follow.
One of the most talked about topics for you as a new parent happens to be a topic that we specialize in: baby sleep. People are so dang curious about your baby’s sleep.
“Is your baby getting enough sleep?”
“Is your baby sleeping through the night yet?”
“How many naps does your baby take?”
“Is your baby a good sleeper?”
And of course, “Do you plan to sleep train?”
That last one is a doozy too because there are so many misconceptions about sleep training. What one parent considers “sleep training” may be completely different than what another person considers “sleep training” so we’re going to take some time to clear up those misconceptions.
Sleep Training – What Every New Parent Needs To Know
“Sleeping through the night” isn’t what you think
The concept of “sleeping through the night” is one of great controversy and a hot topic in the parenting community. And in our experience the term “sleeping through the night” is actually quite confusing to many. No one actually sleeps through the night, including adults. Our bodies are designed to wake at varying degrees throughout the night. Often you may not be aware of it, especially if you’ve been well conditioned to put yourself back to sleep easily - which most adults have been.
So instead of expecting that having a baby that “sleeps through the night” means a baby that sleeps 10-12 hours without waking, we’d like to redefine what “sleeping through the night” means in the world of sleep coaches & specialists. What this actually means is that your baby can fall asleep and can put him or herself back to sleep during night wakings, independently. This means that your baby is able to fall asleep without being rocked or nursed to sleep and that your baby is able to transition between sleep cycles without needing your assistance. Reframing the concept of “sleeping through the night” helps provide more realistic expectations for new families and even takes the pressure off you when your baby does wake.
Incidentally this is the most common mistake we see when parents are sleep training their babies. They consistently condition the baby to fall asleep unassisted, but intervene during night wakings. This is confusing for the baby and can prolong night wakings further.
Sleep training methods don’t matter
Earlier we mentioned the uniqueness of babies and families and this is a strong component when we work with our clients. Being that there is no one parenting book, there also isn’t one method of sleep training that works for everyone. People generally equate sleep training in two categories: a cry it out method or a no cry method. In our experience there is so much more to the process then the method used. We personalize each and every sleep plan for the individual baby and family. We consider factors such as your baby’s age, development and readiness, your baby’s sleep environment, what your baby’s daytime sleep looks like, your baby’s health, your family’s routine and more.
Having all of this information helps us to create a plan that ultimately can combine multiple methods of sleep training to make it the most effective and the easiest transition for your baby.
There aren’t negative effects to sleep training when done at the right time
You’ve probably read the articles that talk about brain damage for babies who are sleep trained. We have read them inside and out. And we want to point out a few glaring problems with the statistics. First, these studies were done on newborns, meaning babies who are under 12 weeks of age. This is problematic because newborns are very dependent on healthy attachment in order to achieve healthy sleep. They are also biologically designed to wake to feed every 2-3 hours. Sleep training a newborn is not realistic and is not something we do. It makes sense to us that the studies done on newborns show negative effects because newborns generally cannot sleep on their own.
The other problem with one of these studies is that it was performed on children in orphanages. Children that didn’t have anyone to advocate for them. Children that already had attachment disorders and where the ratio of caretaker to child is so skewed that these babies weren’t given the proper attention during the sleep training process. To us, this is highly unethical and clearly provides skewed results that cannot be taken seriously or taken into account when talking about sleep training for healthy babies.
In our experience one of the biggest fears about sleep training is that parents assume that they will have to stop responding to their baby’s needs or ignore their baby for it to work. That is not what we do. What many people don’t realize is that ignoring your child’s sleep requirements is, in fact, overlooking a very important need that supports both mental and physical development. And just like you don’t want to ignore your baby’s need for food or a clean diaper, you don’t want to ignore your baby’s biological need for GOOD sleep. A baby that has healthy attachment and is a part of a loving family will still thrive even after being taught how to sleep. We’ve seen it time and again where babies wake up happy, enjoy independent play, and overall have a more balanced demeanor because they are no longer stressed and getting lots of healthy sleep. Proper restorative sleep will only add to the overall health and wellness of your entire family unit.
So, are you ready?
Sleep training is a decision that many modern family’s face. Sleep training may not be right for you or your baby and that’s okay. Or maybe you’re simply not ready right now. Ultimately, you have to decide what’s best for your baby, your life and your family.
For those of you that are chronically overtired, whose relationships are suffering, whose babies are overly fussy, and in general you’re finding it hard to function as a healthy unit, it may be time to make some changes. That is why we are here. As Pediatric Sleep Coaches we are trained to meet the needs of the entire family unit. We will get to know you and your baby and compile a plan that meets you where you are at. We will support you in your home through the first 3 nights & 3 days of this process and continue to support you virtually for another 4 weeks. If you’re ready for your life to change, contact us to schedule a complimentary sleep assessment and learn more about our program.