There’s a lot of uncertainty that comes with being a parent.
But there are three things that are pretty much guaranteed. Firstly – you are likely to feel tired and overwhelmed a lot of the time. Secondly, you are going to agonise over some decisions. And thirdly – everyone is going to have an opinion on your parenting style no matter how well meaning it is.
Sleep training is one of them and a particularly emotive and contentious subject at that.
Everyone has different ideas on what you should do, and it’s hard to know if you are making the right decision or not.
So, if you are considering sleep training your baby or toddler, this blog has all you need to know.
Modern Sleep Training Isn’t About 'Cry It Out'
The biggest misconception about sleep training is that it’s all about the outdated 'cry it out', 'Extinction' or 'Ferber' method. Training your baby to sleep shouldn't be about shutting the door, walking away and ignoring them until they fall asleep, exhausted and confused. It’s about looking at your child's 24-hour routine as a whole and tweaking or adapting it as needed to encourage better sleeping habits.
It can be as simple as learning a bit more about your baby’s sleep needs or changing up nap routines and sleep environments to enable them to fall asleep quicker and optimise their sleep potential. Priming your baby for sleep will ensure they are receptive and ready to follow your cues.
Imagine trying to sleep train a baby who is either overtired or undertired. Your chances of success are going to be greatly reduced and your baby is less likely to respond to any changes you try to implement.
Times Have Changed
Perhaps your grandparents or parents didn’t 'need' to sleep train their children. But within a few generations, the world has changed dramatically - and our culture right along with it.
These days, many parents don’t have the luxury of a close family support network nearby to share the load of raising young children. More women are going back to work after giving birth, and many parents are now trying to work from home.
Trying to juggle a baby or toddler that doesn't sleep well with a busy lifestyle is exhausting and can have a considerable impact on both mental health and wellbeing.
When To Sleep Train
Yes, being tired and stressed is expected as a parent (sometimes). But, if you feel your mental health is suffering and life has become unbearable due to a lack of sleep, it's time to take action.
Here are some of the reasons my clients have sought my help with sleep training:
● Everyone is constantly stressed, and it's not helping the relationship with our three-year-old: we're always snapping at him because we're so tired.
● I’m exhausted and sick of sleeping in a different bed to my husband.
● My baby is often grumpy and emotional, which I think is a result of him being tired.
● I'm going back to work soon, and I would like my baby to be well-rested and be less tired myself.
● I can’t function properly in the day for my older children. We are unable to plan our lives because the sleep situation in our home is so chaotic and unpredictable.
● I'm exhausted, which makes me more irritable and grumpy. I am so quick to yell and have zero child-free time day or night. I want my evenings and my bed back!
● My partner and I are shattered and fighting. We need help as it’s just the two of us without any family help as they are overseas.
● I want to start doing a bit of part-time work, and my brain is not working because of sleep deprivation.
● I’ve been feeling depressed for a while now. I’m exhausted from not being able to sleep and have no alone time. I need to be able to feel sane and sit down to eat my meals for a change.
● We are at our wit's end and need her sleep to be more consistent before she goes into daycare, so I know she'll nap well at daycare.
If it sounds like you are channelling some of these thoughts, then I’d love to see if I can help you come up with a sleep solution that works for your style of parenting.
As I mentioned above, sleep training does not have to mean Cry it out. Often, it is a few simple tweaks in your routine and building different sleep habits.
When Not To Sleep Train
If your system works well for you and your family, there’s no need to change it!
There is no “normal” routine – only what makes sense for you and your family. If you are co-sleeping and feeding overnight but still getting enough sleep and are happy with your child’s current sleeping arrangements, then there's no need to fix it.
No parent should feel they 'ought to' sleep train their child just to satisfy the wants and demands of well meaning friends and family. The decision should be yours and one that doesn't go against your own beliefs.
There’s no shame in feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed as a parent of little ones. But, there are things you can to do make life a little easier and sleep training might be one of them.
If you can relate to any of the sentiments expressed here, sleep training may be the right decision for your family. Reach out to me today for a chat about your sleep situation and I can help shed some light on what changes need to be made and support you on your journey to achieve better sleep.