What’s Sleep Training All About?
I see similar posts to the one above on Instagram all the time. I decided I wanted to create my own because I feel like sleep training and prioritizing sleep gets a bad rap.
Maybe you are starting your journey to learn about helping your little one to sleep better. Maybe you are asking yourself ‘what’s sleep training all about?” Whatever brings you to this post, we’d like to provide some insight to use in making the decision about what’s right for your family.
Let’s explore some of the most popular questions we get from parents about sleep training. Then we will provide some tips to be successful working with a sleep consultant.
What is sleep training?
Sleep training is teaching children to learn to fall asleep independently and return to sleep independently unless they have a need. It is prioritizing your child’s and your need for sleep.
Children can become dependent on their parents to “help” them go to sleep. Whatever conditions children fall asleep with are the same conditions that they expect when they wake up. What works well in the newborn stage, like feeding to sleep, rocking, bouncing and holding, can start to backfire. As our children go through developmental milestones, especially the 4-month sleep regression, sleep becomes increasingly challenging.
Sleep training works to change some of those unhelpful behaviors, known as sleep associations or crutches. Sleep training gives children the chance to learn the valuable, life-long skill of putting themselves to sleep.
What other factors play into healthy sleep?
Other things that come into play are called sleep hygiene factors and include schedule, routine and sleep environment.
In many cases, the refusal to sleep has more to do with the child’s schedule and routine adjustments. Children want to sleep and once adjustments are made, sleep becomes easier.
Why is sleep training so controversial?
Cry It Out Sleep Training Method
Mostly I think sleep training gets a bad rap because many people equate sleep training with just letting your child cry until they fall asleep. This method, known as the extinction or cry it out method, is just one of many ways to go about developing healthy sleep for your child.
At Bella Luna Sleep, we look at each family individually and use a wide variety of methods. We work with parents to choose a method based on the child’s personality and temperament as well as the parent’s parenting philosophy.
Many parents fear that sleep training will decrease the attachment they have with their child. There is no scientific evidence of this. What we do know is how important sleep is for our children and their physical and emotional health. In 2016, the American Association of Sleep Medicine noted that “sleeping the number of recommended hours on a regular basis is associated with better health outcomes including improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health.” The same holds true for parents. Well-rested parents are more attuned to their child’s needs which is a key factor in developing a secure attachment.
Fear that sleep training is harmful
There is a lot of MISINFORMATION available that says sleep training is harmful to children. Many research studies have been conducted about crying and its effect on children’s stress levels and long-term health. None of these studies have found any ill effects. They show that the long-term effects of sleep deprivation far outweigh the short-term stress of sleep training. This article from Expecting Science does a great job of explaining the difference between short and long-term stress and how short-term stress shows no ill effects on babies.
Will My Child Cry?
Short answer: yes. When we are making a change, babies and children get upset. Crying is the way your little one can voice their unhappiness with the change. Once children get more rest and they develop independent sleep skills, protesting the change lessens and sleep becomes easier – for everyone. Your little one putting themselves to sleep will soon become their new norm and most kiddos learn to LOVE sleep.
Is Sleep Training Right for My Family?
It depends. Sleep training is a great tool in helping your family get more sleep. It can also to help your family to be happier and healthier because let’s be frank – sleep deprivation sucks!
In order to be successful in teaching healthy sleep habits, you’ve got to be consistent. The most important thing to determine before embarking on sleep training is to be comfortable with your decision so you can stay consistent. If you are committed to making a change, you are more likely to stay consistent, which is a key predictor of success.
But if you answer yes to the following statements, then you’re ready to sleep train.
- Are you ready to invest time and work into improving sleep?
- Will you be open to making changes and doing things differently?
- Can you commit to staying consistent once you start the process?
Ok, You Are Ready, Now What?
- You know you want to sleep train, but you are confused by all the methods available
- The thought of reading a book makes you want to fall asleep
- You are getting lost in Google and Facebook trying to figure it all out – you just need a plan and someone to tell you what to do
- Having an accountability buddy and a support system appeals to you
- You’ve tried *everything* and it just isn’t working
Whether you choose to use the Bella Luna team or decide to work with another sleep coach, here are tips for making sleep training easier.
Top Tips for Making Sleep Training With a Sleep Consultant Easier:
- Find a sleep consultant you trust and are 100% comfortable with. We are your teacher, your accountability buddy and your biggest cheerleader biggest during sleep training process. Set up an intro call with the consultant you’re thinking of hiring. This will help you make sure you’re a good fit. If you have an easy-going, confident relationship, the process will be that much smoother and less stressful.
- Pick the method that’s best for both yourself AND your child’s temperament. So much success in sleep training lies in being consistent with your approach. I always tell my families, I will make recommendations on what I feel would work best, but ultimately you know yourself and your child best. For the most part, we can work with any method and still see results, but if you’re not comfortable with the method and can’t be consistent, it won’t work.
- Communicate regularly with your consultant during the sleep training period. Our job during the sleep training period is to coach you and guide you on where adjustments still need to be made. We are also your biggest cheerleaders! Communicating regularly and updating sleep logs so we can see exactly what is going helps us to provide you with meaningful feedback and support.
- Let go of the guilt. Sleep training isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. But if sleep training is something you want to do for your family – throw away the guilt. You are making an educated decision that is right for your child and your family – regardless of other’s opinions. There’s no shame or guilt is trying to get your family better rested. And you should never let anyone tell you otherwise.
We’d love to help you on the journey if you decide it is right for you and your family. If you want to set up an intro call with one of our consultants to learn if we are a good fit, please reach out! If you’d like to learn more about what it is like to work with us, please check out our reviews.
P.S. Want to stay connected?
Sign up to receive our monthly "Scoop" email newsletter!