Your baby is not sleeping as well as you would like, but you so desperately want and need more sleep. But, you don't love the idea of 'sleep training' and all that crying...
Mama, I hear you! I see you! I was you!!!
Back when my first-born was waking every 2-3 months (for the first 8.5 years of his life), I hated my life.....but I also hated the idea of 'sleep training' and I knew there had to be a better way. I wanted my son to know that I was always going to be there to support him when he needed. So when I finally made the decision to get some sleep help, I made sure that it was with someone who understood that and would not pressure me to 'sleep train' with any kind of timed checks or cry-it-out! Nope, those were not for me!
Well, in about 2 weeks my son slept for 6-8 hours in a row, and I felt like a new human! It was AH-MAZING! And the best part was that I felt fully supported by my sleep coach and we approached the situation in a way that felt good in my heart! Sleep support changed my life, changed my night-time relationship with no only first-born, but also with my second baby when the time came, and I will forever be grateful!
Since that day I have been so interested in infant sleep and got my first sleep certification a few years back. It was life changing, not just for me as a parent, but it also really changed my perspective as a pediatric occupational therapist and how I approached each of my clients at the time.
And now, I just love supporting families worldwide to get more sleep without sleep training....
But I digress, I meant this article to be less about me and more about WHY I don't use sleep training. Here are 3 of the main reasons....
1. Babies wake because it is natural and normal to do so.
Babies wake to eat (yup, their bellies are super tiny and can only hold so much), to re-hydrate (haven't you ever needed a sip of water in the middle of the night?), because they feel safest when they are close to their parent (isn't that why you love sleeping next to your partner?), and because everyone, including adults, wake at some point throughout the night (yeah, we sleep in 'sleep cycles' and rotate between light and deep sleep all night long).
2. Sleep training doesn’t teach a baby sleep skills; it doesn’t teach them to sleep longer or better.
Sleep is not actually something that you can teach. It is the cumulation and balance of two essential biological factors that come together to create sleep - circadian rhythm and homeostatic sleep pressure. Sleeping longer chunks at night is a developmental skill, just like learning to roll, sit, crawl, & walk, talk and all the rest. It comes with time, and practice!
Sleep training teaches babies that their caregiver will not be responding to their needs, and any effort to signal for comfort will be futile. And so they stop responding (which to us seemingly seems like 'they figured out how to sleep through the night'). Nope, they still wake, but they know they won't get support so what is the point in signaling the need for help.
3. It goes against every fiber in your being as a mama. It goes against your mama instincts.
Your instinct is to rush to your baby when they cry. To soothe them when they are scared, hurt, uncomfortable, or not feeling well. To keep them alive and well by feeding them, caring for their physical needs, and most of all loving them. You are likely shaking your head 'yes' in agreement to this...right?! But 'sleep training' and letting your baby cry for any amount of time without supporting them (as happens with the timed checks/aka Ferber, or the full extinction method, and even some 'gentle sleep training' methods like the Sleep Lady Shuffle) goes against these instincts! Why wouldn't you respond to your crying baby? And why is it bad to do this? (it is not FYI).
Let me be clear here, responding to your baby is NOT creating bad habits. Nor are you creating bad habits by nursing your baby to sleep or supporting them back to sleep each time they wake during the night. No... what you are doing is loving them, nurturing them, supporting their development, and teaching them that you will always be there when you need them, day AND night! You are following what is natural and innate inside of you...your mama instincts! They are strong and if you pause long enough to listen to them, they will never guide you wrong.
So this is why I don't support 'sleep training' and never ever recommend it to any of the families that I work with.
Instead, I look at sleep (and lack thereof) from a holistic perspective. I look at what is developmentally appropriate, what is currently working for you and your baby, what parts you love and what parts you don't love (and it is totally OKAY to not love all the parts of motherhood). And then we collaborate and make changes together. Ones that are developmentally appropriate for your baby, that have taken into account any feeding or other medical issues first, ones that focus on maintaining the trust and attachment between the two of you, and that encourage you to follow your instincts during the whole process!
If this sounds like what you need in your life.... then I invite you to reach out for support - click here to see if we are a good fit.
Wishing you sleepy dreams,
P.S. Join us inside the Sleep Deprived Zombie Mamas group for a free Baby DREAMS training.