Sleep training. It’s all the rage. If you are a parent or soon to be a parent, I am sure you have heard the phrase. Everyone suggests different ways to sleep train a baby. Most everyone says it is necessary. I am here to tell you it is not! I do not and will not sleep train my babies. Why not, you ask? Because, eventually, they will learn to sleep on their own. Eventually?! You mean, by the time they leave for college right? Yes! Hopefully by then 🙂 Seriously though, when Bunny, now 3 years old, was an infant I remember everyone asking me how she is sleeping. And I remember asking all the mothers I knew, when did your baby or child start sleeping through the night? 99% of the time their answer was laughter and a variation of, my child is such and such age and STILL doesn’t sleep through the night! Wait, WHAT?! Your 8 year old STILL doesn’t sleep through the night? Then why is my tiny 6 week old baby expected to sleep through the night?
Every parent asks, “When will my baby sleep through the night?” It is NORMAL for a baby to NOT sleep through the night. Multiple studies have been done, there is all this information letting us know babies often don’t sleep through the night. We should not expect this. But so often we do. And often times parents are told to sleep train their babies by letting them cry it out. I am passionately against this. Not only does letting a baby cry it out go against every mothering instinct I have, I cant imagine it does anything good for the baby.
Say you are spending the night at your parents house. It is time for bed, your parents say goodnight and go to their room. A few minutes later your Dad comes back out and sits on the sofa and watches T.V. You hear your Mom crying in her bedroom. Dad doesn’t seem phased at all. In fact, he turns up the volume so he can’t hear your Mom crying. I am sure 99% of us would immediately ask our Dad why our Mom is crying. I highly doubt any of us would be okay with the response of, “She is falling asleep. She doesn’t think she’s tired, but she is. Don’t worry, she’ll wear herself out eventually.”
We wouldn’t do this to an adult, why is it okay to do this to an infant? An infant who can not get out of their bed, get some food if they are hungry, turn on a light if they are scared of the dark, ask for a hug if they are lonely. Instead we are told to put our infants drowsy, but not asleep, fed, but not nursed to sleep, in a dark room by themselves and let them figure it out, or cry themselves to sleep. Don’t worry, they’ll wear themselves out eventually. Well of course they will! We all would give up if we were crying in our room for minutes to hours at a time and NOBODY RESPONDED! Can you imagine? Being sad, lonely, scared, hungry, tired, crying in your room all alone knowing, and maybe hearing, your family right outside your room not paying attention to your cries, not even caring that you are crying. I can’t imagine how that would make me feel, why would I want my baby to go through that? I get upset when my husband ignores me when I’m talking. I would be livid if I was crying and he didn’t try to comfort me. Yet we, as a society, think this is an acceptable way to treat our babies.
Babies wake up at night for a variety of reasons. They are too hot, too cold, had a bad dream, are teething and in pain, are hungry. If they are sick, going through a growth spurt, learning a new skill, these are all reasons babies could wake at night. Maybe they just need a little cuddle and reassurance that Mom and Dad are still there.
I know it is hard to tend to a baby 24/7. It’s rough. I get it. I’ve been there, I am still there! But babies grow up. Bunny, my first baby who is now 3 years old, would nurse to sleep every night and nap time. It was the easiest and fastest way to get her to sleep. It was annoying some nights, sure. She woke often at night to nurse. Every 2-4 hours most nights. At 18 months old Bunny started sleeping through the night. All on her own. 12 hours at a time! I did not sleep train her, I did not do a single thing to make this happen. Bunny reached a milestone all on her own. She was ready to sleep through the night without needing comfort from me. And guess what, she still sleeps through the night most nights!
Baby Sister is 16 months old. I bounce her to sleep every night and for every nap. Annoying? Sometimes. But 90% of the time I rather enjoy seeing her fall asleep, looking at her beautiful, peaceful face. Bunny taught me that babies grow up way to fast. I try to take this time with Baby Sister to snuggle her and enjoy her babyhood. (Try. Some days it is hard and I want to get back to “my” stuff instead of helping her fall asleep.) Baby Sister wakes up every 2-3 hours at night to nurse, sometimes more often. I know that, eventually, she will stop waking as often. Eventually Baby Sister will sleep through the night. On her time line, not mine. It takes her 5-10 minutes to fall asleep, if that.
Each and every baby is different. Bunny could fall asleep anywhere at anytime as long as she was on me and nursing. I wore her daily and had the freedom to go anywhere and do anything no matter the time of day for I knew she would fall asleep in my baby carrier nursing and would sleep for an hour or two. Baby Sister will only fall asleep in our room while bouncing. She will NOT fall asleep anywhere else. Sigh.
Trust me, your baby WILL learn how to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own. When we make sleep a happy, comfortable activity, babies and children will learn to love it. I don’t know a single teenager who says, “Man, I wish I didn’t have to sleep so much!” In fact, I often hear adults complain they don’t sleep enough!
Instead of sleep training my babies I prefer to give them a comfortable, safe place to fall asleep. That is different for each baby. For Bunny she needed the assurance that I was there. So I would lay with her and she would nurse to sleep. Baby Sister needs the bouncing to help her fall asleep. So I give that to her. I bounce her until she is asleep then lay her down. I do what works for each of my babies and it works for me as well. I am absolutely not saying you shouldn’t sleep train, I have heard some amazing stories about how things like the Ferber method has worked for babies, however, what works for one baby wont work for them all. What works for one Mom or Dad wont work for them all. Find what works for you and your baby. Find what makes you and your baby feel safe, loved and comfortable.
Here is a study on infant sleep where they looked at four age groups, 3 months old, 6 months old, 9 months old and 12 months old and found that “even in the 12-month-old group, 50% of infants typically required parental intervention to get back to sleep after waking. Results emphasize the individual and contextual factors that effect the development of self-soothing behavior during the first year of life.”
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