Is It Okay to Sleep Train?
Okay, my title might be misleading - so let me clear this up now. If you are looking for someone to tell you whether you should or should not sleep train - I won't be able to give you that answer. Sleep training is a family decision, but in a world full of social media influence it has started to feel like a moral decision. My goal is to help you wade through the sea of opinions (or banish them entirely) and come to the right conclusion for yourself.
My Personal Journey:
“Don’t let your child cry alone for more than 2 minutes at a time”. I read and re-read this sentence from an online blog while feeding one of my 3-month-old twins… as my other baby screamed at me from across the room. And this was one of the many moments that I felt like was failing as a Mom.
This is just one of the sentences that haunted me in my research on sleep training. I was sleep deprived, practically delirious, and suffering from postpartum depression. I knew I needed more sleep, but my online searches confused and terrified me.
How did I get here?
Before becoming a Mom I had no trouble with the idea letting my babies cry! As long as they had their needs met, it would be okay – babies cry, that’s what they do! I had even bought a sleep training book and read the whole thing before my babies arrived, I was feeling CONFIDENT – so what happened?
I started to look for other people’s approval and opinions about how to raise my family. I also felt the overwhelming pressure of raising one of my own tiny humans, which is truly something that you cannot understand until you have a baby.
The second concern was legitimate, but I wish the first concern would have never existed.
Yes, there are hard and fast rules that we must follow as parents:
“Don’t give your child honey before they turn one year old”
“Don’t let your newborn sleep with loose bedding or a blanket”
BUT so many parenting choices are treated like rules these days, that it is incredibly overwhelming if you try to make your own decisions based on someone else’s opinions.
We are living in a day and age where literately ANYONE can have a voice. On one hand, it’s great, It gives us the chance to hear multiple perspectives. On the other hand, it can be detrimental. We've never been forced into the comparison game so hard.
"Okay, I thought the point of this blog was to help me with feeling overwhelmed - not to make me feel worse" - You
(I'm getting there I promise!)
How to navigate the millions of opinions about sleep training?
This isn’t a blog post to convince you to sleep train, so if you want someone to give you that answer – you won’t find it here. That’s firmly because I believe that the decision to sleep train is not a “right” or “wrong” decision, it’s a decision that works for some families and doesn’t work for others. It’s a decision that you truly need to trust your best judgement and intuition for. The only opinion that matters is yours.
Okay I just lost half of you, Intuition – there’s that word. How on EARTH are you supposed to know if something is your intuition versus someone else’s influence... or your own anxiety speaking?
First off, breathe. You don’t have to have a yes or no answer right now...
“I don’t know how I feel about this” IS a good enough answer right now.
Heck, you are even allowed to get it wrong! Somewhere along the way we decided that Mom’s should be the perfect humans who never make the wrong decision.
To sum it up, you don’t have to have the answer right now, but you also don’t have to sit here in pure fear of making the wrong choice.
Here’s what you are going to do. If you are struggling with a big decision like this, you are going to take a social media hiatus. You heard me. Close this blog, turn off Instagram, turn off Facebook. Commit 15 to 20 minutes of just sitting and thinking about it every day with YOURSELF. Ask yourself a few questions…
(You can use this tactic with any parenting decision, but for the sake of this blog I’ll be focusing on sleep training)
1. What are my initial feelings when I hear the words sleep training
2. WHY do I feel that way?
3. Where did those feelings come from?
4. Have I always felt this way, or did something happen that changed my thought process?
For me, it was a matter or asking myself if I was making choices based on Fear or based on Knowledge. The truth was, the only reason I didn’t want to sleep train was fear. I had read too many blogs that told me I would ruin my child’s emotional well being if I sleep trained. Our attachment would be damaged, after all what kind of mother let’s their baby cry? They NEED you.
The TRUTH was, they had me, they had me all day, all night, for all feedings, for all play, for all rocking, for all comfort, they had so much of me that I didn’t have much left of me. Most of what I gave them didn’t feel authentic because of how tired I was. I felt like I was faking it to keep them happy – I wasn’t even sure if I had bonded yet. What did bonding even feel like?
I had DONE my research; I knew that legitimate studies found no concerns with sleep training. The TRUTH was, I was comfortable with sleep training before I decided to let others have opinions about my own parenting journey.
The TRUTH was, my boys and I would have a MUCH stronger bond and attachment if I wasn’t so sleep deprived that I felt like I was faking it from day to day.
I fully realize that I am just one, biased, person, and again my goal is not to convince you to sleep train, but I also don’t want to just give you my story on the matter. I asked some of my followers how they navigated the millions of opinions out there about sleep training, and here is a story from one Mama that really resonated with me (Shared anonymously with permission):
"I went down a rabbit hole of Instagram and Facebook group of people against sleep training to TRY to understand the other perspective but they are SO judgment. To the point of saying “I met a mom at the park that was great but then she told me she sleep trained and I can’t be friends with her anymore” anyway, I was always super pro sleep training before having kids. Once I had my own it was difficult to hear my baby cry and that is probably how we got to the point where we HAD to sleep train. I was having out of body experiences and just not myself with 4 months of NO sleep. My daughter was waking up every hour at night so we couldn’t get any decent sleep. I know they would suggest bed-sharing since that was all over the Facebook group, but I would still get no sleep. My anxiety about bed-sharing was high and I know I would be so concerned all the time at such a young age. As a new mom my biggest learning is that each child and each parent is unique and different. There should be absolutely no judgement from anyone."
You do have the ability to come to your own conclusion on sleep training. If you are at a complete loss for where to start, then begin by asking yourself these questions:
1. Are our current sleep practices safe?
2. Are your current sleep practices working for our baby
3. Are our current sleep practices working for the caregivers in our home?
I'm not here to say that sleep training will be a piece of cake - I know it's challenging. If you feel confident that you want to sleep train but you don't want to do it alone, then let's set up a time to chat.
You’ve got this Mama <3