Some folks claim that children can't be well-attached to their parents if the parents choose to sleep train.
This is wrong.
The happiest families are those that are getting their biological needs met. Just like being fed when you're hungry, you need good sleep to be feel your best.
An exhausted child and parent are not at their best. A tired mom or dad who feels guilty about their low energy, propped up on too much cafffeine, definitely isn't getting the most enjoyment out of their parenting experience. And if you're anything like me, odds are you are more short-tempered with your child when you are exhausted.
And the poor exhausted child who is waking up multiple times a night to nurse or cuddle back to sleep? Her body is on overdrive, pumping out stress hormone in a desperate attempt to stay awake during the day. Unfortunately, this strategy backfires and keeps her awake during the night, too.
Toddlers who don't sleep well become preschoolers who don't sleep well become adults who don't sleep well.
Here's a few not-so-fun medical facts to further convince you that sleep deprivation is a real issue:
Clearly getting enough sleep is a biological need, just like being fed. But parents still worry that sleep training will damage their children. This is a great article demonstrating that crying associated with short-term sleep training is safe.
Even beyond being safe, after sleep training, parents enjoy their children because their children aren't alternatively wound up and acting like the Energizer Bunny or cranky, irritable, weepy, and defiant from exhaustion. Parents have more to give and are more relaxed when their own cups are full after a good night's sleep.
Here's a lovely quote from a client that exemplifies the changes I see in families after sleep training, "before Abby’s help, it was taking my daughter 2 or more hours to fall asleep every night. We had hours of fighting and screaming before we got to that point, and she ended up in my bed every single night, where we both tossed and turned and kept waking each other up for the rest of the night. She was chronically exhausted and so was I! Now my daughter sleeps in her own bed, falls asleep in as little as an hour (we’re still working on that!), stays in her room all night long until her ok to wake comes on, and we rarely have tantrums at night or in the morning!" Cyndi, mom of C, age 3
Meeting the biological needs of a child and his parents makes everyone happier and more able to enjoy each other. It actually strengthens family bonds. Sleep training is a gift to the entire family.
If you'd love to give this gift to your own beautiful family, let's schedule a free chat and get you on your way to sweet, sweet dreams.
"Oh, my baby just started sleeping through the night at six weeks old. We didn't really do anything." Nonchalant shrug.
Don't you just hate people like that?
Okay, maybe hate is a strong word. But resent their smug satisfaction just a tiny bit?
The truth is that the awfulness of sleep deprivation, rather like childbirth, is hard to remember once you're safely out of it. Rest assured, you'll be there one day soon.
Everyone has been there. There's no way to have a newborn and not be exhuasted. It's part of the journey.
But once the early stages of the newborn period are over -- roughly the first six weeks, by adjusted age -- there are things you can do to tweak your baby's sleep to help yourself -- and your baby -- get better and longer rest. Even during the first six weeks, when you will likely need to feed your baby at least every 3-4 hours during the night, there are things you can do to help make the feedings go quickly so you can get back to sleep as soon as possible.
But when you are in the trenches of sleep deprivation, it can be hard to have the time and energy to figure out just how to do that. And if you have twin babies or older children -- or both! -- it is darn near impossible.
Enter sleep consultants.
It may seem crazy to pay someone to help you teach your child to sleep. After all, sleep is natural, right? Just like breastfeeding. And we've all seen how easy (not!) that is!
Getting help with sleep isn't cheating. It isn't lazy. It's knowing that you can't figure out everything by yourself when you are exhausted. It's accepting help in one of the most vulnerable times in your life. With great sleep on your side, you will be able to achieve so much more in your life. You'll be able to be the parent, partner, friend, employee and self-actualizing person you want to be. No one can be her best when she is exhausted.
Think about it this way: what would you pay to have one single night of great sleep? What if you could pay just a bit more to know that you could have a great night [nearly] every night? Isn't your health and sanity worth that investment? What is more important to your life than feeling rested? What can't you achieve when you are well-rested?
Even more importantly, your baby is suffering when he is sleep deprived. He may enjoy nursing every hour or two throughout the night, but after those first 6-12 weeks or so, it isn't serving him, either. He's probably wired and fussy and unable to focus well on his play -- the way he learns about the world -- when he's not getting the sleep he needs.
(And this is all true whether your baby is a young infant or a boisterous preschooler! You still need rest and so does your child.)
I see so much conflicting advice on Facebook and other parenting groups. This is so confusing to a tired parent. It's hard to know who to trust. And it's easy to feel guilty for wishing it would end. And it's normal to feel miserable when you read that it's normal for a child to wake up multiple times at night for years to come. (This is not true, by the way.)
Sleep consultants -- at least those trained and certified by the Family Sleep Institute -- have months of training in evidence-based approaches to sleep training. There is no fear mongering about how your child will be harmed in learning to self-soothe. Indeed, we discuss studies that show there is zero harm in short-term crying with sleep training older babies and children.
There is a strong emphasis, however, on how much your child needs great sleep to thrive. We talk about the many benefits to both parent and child in getting great sleep. FSI sleep consultants are taught how to coach families with a variety of parenting styles, recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sleep training. Safety is always paramount. We know tired, vulnerable parents need lots of reassurance and positive reinforcement of their hard work to change their lives for the better.
If you and your child are struggling to get the sleep you need, please get help so that you can thrive.
I have years of experience as a pediatric nurse practitioner and now am working as a pediatric sleep consultant. I'd love the opportunity to bring the joy of great sleep to your family. Let's set up a free chat to get you all the rest you deserve so you can get back to enjoying your time together.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and former NICU nurse. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.