Do you want to know what really gets me fired up?
It’s when Moms (either online or in real life) are talking sleep, and I hear comments like this:
“You should just enjoy getting up to nurse all night – someday they’ll be all grown up and you’ll miss it.”
“You were the one who decided to have children. Did you REALLY think you’d be getting a full night’s sleep for the next few years?”
Or my all-time favorite…
“Well, you better learn to live with it!”
My fingers are starting to burn just writing about this, so I’m going to “fire back” with my top three myths about teaching your child to sleep well:
Myth #1: You will break the loving bond you have with your child.
Really? Do you really think that after just a few nights of changing your child’s sleep habits that they won’t love you anymore? Is that all it would take?
Would all the cuddles you give them, all the food you provide, all the diapers and clean clothes they wear, all the playtimes and bath times, all the kisses and laughter be for nothing because of a few nights of protest?
The truth is, making changes to anyone’s sleep habits will always be met with some resistance. So yes, it is safe to assume that your child is not going to happily accept the fact that you are no longer going to rock them 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 loving bond will endure.
In fact, most people find that once their child is sleeping well, they’re even happier and healthier than before, making their relationship with them even better!
Myth #2: Sleep training means leaving your child to “cry it out.”
First off, The Sleep Sense Program is NOT a “cry-it-out” program.
In fact, I encourage you to stay in your child’s room with them the whole time — if that makes you feel more comfortable.
The bottom line is that it’s not the crying that gets a child sleeping well. The crying is simply your child’s reaction to the change in his or her sleep habits, nothing more.
In other words, your baby isn’t crying because they’re “mad” at you… or because you’re being cruel. The only reason they are crying is because they are temporarily confused! I mean, you USED TO lay in their bed, rock or nurse them to sleep every night… and now (to promote better sleep habits) you’re not doing that anymore.
And the great news is that your child’s confusion usually only lasts a few days. Most children adapt very quickly to the changes and soon figure out how to calmly get themselves to sleep (self-soothing skills)… and then everyone’s happier!
Myth #3: Sleep training is too stressful for children
First off, there is no evidence that sleep training has any short term or long term psychological effects on children. I have loads of scientific studies if you would like to read some. So you can cross that off your list of things to worry about.
As for those who say that a few nights of crying are “too stressful?” Well, I say you’ve really got two choices:
A. 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.
B. Do nothing. In this scenario, the parent continues to nurse / rock / bounce/ etc. their child to sleep every night. The child wakes up 1 – 10 times per night, and needs to be nursed / rocked / bounced/ etc. 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. Your child will have more meltdowns because of tiredness and the lack of quality sleep may even lead to Night Terrors. If these poor sleep habits continue into the school years, there is evidence that it correlates with things like obesity and trouble focusing in class – all of this sounds pretty stressful to me!
What sounds more harmful: A few nights of crying… or months/years of depriving your child and your family of a good nights’ sleep?
So, let’s stop the Mommy Shaming! Making a parent feel selfish or bad because they want to teach their child healthy sleep and soothing skills is just bullying!
As parents, we will have to make a lot of hard, but important decisions regarding our children. 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 really hope I’ve been able to change your mind.
And – as always – I’m here for you when you’re ready to get started and will answer ANY questions you have.
Life is hard when you're not sleeping. As a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant, I teach families how to live a well-rested life.