I often hear comments like…
“You should just enjoy getting up to nurse all night – someday he’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?”
“Well, you’d better learn to live with it!”
In answer to this; here’s my top three myths about teaching your baby to sleep well:
Myth #1: Your baby will not love you in the morning.
Really? Do you think that after just one night of changing your baby’s sleep habits she won’t love you anymore? Is that all it would take? Would all the cuddles you give her, all the food you provide, all the nappies and clean clothes she wears, all the playtimes and bath times, all the kisses and laughter be for nothing because of a few nights of protest?
The truth is that making changes to anyone’s sleep habits will always be met with some resistance. So yes, it is safe to assume that your baby is not going to happily accept the fact that you are no longer going to rock her 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 love will endure. To the contrary, most people find that once their baby is sleeping well, she’s even happier and healthier than before!
Myth #2: Sleep training means leaving your baby to “cry it out.”
I do not teach a “cry-it-out” method. In fact, I recommend you 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 baby sleeping well. The crying is simply your baby’s reaction to the change in his or her sleep habits, nothing more. In other words, your baby isn’t crying because she’s “angry” with you… or because you’re being cruel. The only reason she’s crying is because she’s temporarily confused! I mean, you USED TO rock or nurse her to sleep every night… and now (for her own health) you’re not doing that anymore.
Your child’s confusion is very short term and usually only lasts a few days. Children adapt SO quickly that she’ll soon figure out how to calmly get herself to sleep… making for a happier and healthier child!
Myth #3: Sleep training is too stressful for babies
First off, there is no evidence that sleep training has any short term or long term psychological effects on children. 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 their child to sleep every night. The child wakes up 1 – 10 times per night and needs to be nursed / rocked / bounced 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. 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 – both of which sound pretty stressful to me!
So what sounds more harmful: A few nights of crying… or months/years of depriving your child of a good nights’ sleep?
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!