To sleep train or not to sleep train? Should I let my child cry it out or not? These are the biggest and baddest questions flooding parents around the globe. The internal struggle of emotions that goes on regarding sleep training is one of the hardest things new parents experience. You know that you are only trying to do what’s best for your baby, but for some reason the fear of tears gets in the way! Rest assured that you’re not alone. Each and every client that I work with comes to me with the same concern – “is it really okay to let my baby cry?” I can tell you with confidence that the answer to this question is yes!
Let’s get down to basics for a minute: I want to reference an analogy that Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions uses. She says to ask yourself, “if your child wanted to play with matches, would you let them?” I’m fairly certain that 100% of you would say “NO!” I am also fairly certain that your answer would remain “NO,” even if your child was throwing the world’s largest tantrum. There is no way that any amount of tears would change your mind. So, now back to sleeping. Are your baby’s tears any different at night then in the day? Again, the answer is NO! Tears are tears are tears. So, to get over our fear of nighttime tears, I am going to give you some pointers and tips on how to put your emotional turmoil around this subject at ease. Then, you will be able to have a more positive outlook on the amazing gift of YOU teaching your child to become a competent sleeper! This will be one of the best things you will ever teach your child and one of the best things you will do for your entire family, YOU included!
The abundant amount of available information regarding sleep training can make this subject all the more confusing and heart wrenching. In order to make this work for you and your family, you need to find the method you feel most comfortable with and stick to it! I know that it won’t be easy and you will be over-loaded with feelings of sadness, guilt, pain and doubt. But, know that you are doing the right thing by teaching your child how to sleep soundly.
Do I mean that you leave your child for hours on end to feel alone and insecure? NO. Do I mean that you neglect your child when they truly need you? Again, NO! What I do mean is that you love and nurture your child during all the waking hours. Then, you love and nurture your child more by teaching them to become an independent and confident sleeper. While you do the teaching, you are giving reassurance during gradual and progressively increased intervals which allows them to learn how to self-soothe. By doing this, you are giving them the opportunity to rid of negative sleep associations, such as being rocked to sleep, co-sleeping, being held, being fed until they sleep, etc. Intead, you are giving them the chance to create positive sleep associations that they will be capable of reproducing without you. Sleep associations that soothe them when they are alone. This way when they wake in the night or during a nap they are capable, competent and comfortable going back to sleep on their own.
The rocking, feeding and co-sleeping associations are all sleep associations they have formed, but none they can reproduce successfully without you. If you really think about that…it’s really not fair. What would you do if you needed someone to hold your hand to sleep? What if you needed someone in order for you to rest your head on your pillow and feel comfortable and confident to sleep? You would feel helpless and lack personal confidence. Needless to say, you would also be tired and cranky. This is where you see more tantrums and melt-downs in your little ones.
I’m here to tell you that sleep training is just another skill that you, as parents, need to teach your child to help them grow to the best of their ability. To give them the opportunity to be happiest during the day and develop at their optimal level. When you think about your child and whether or not you think they are sleeping properly, ask yourself these questions:
Is my child hard to wake each morning?
Is he/she crabby, irritable and the days are full of tantrums and melt-downs?
Does my child fall asleep in the car most of the time?
If some or all of your answers to these questions are yes, then chances are your child isn’t getting the recommended hours of sleep per night according to the National Sleep Foundation. Today, get over your fear of tears and remember that tears happen! Day or night, tears happen! Don’t be afraid of them, but conquer them. Teach your child to become a competent sleeper and trust me when I say the tears will go out the door! Happy, well-rested kids are kids who are well-behaved, and therefore your entire family will benefit!