When did “Sleep Training” become so negative?

When did “Sleep Training” become so negative?

Parenting. Total minefield. We all do things differently. We are all convinced our way is the best way and try and tell a parent they are wrong? Total faux pas.

There will always be evidence for and against certain parenting methods. When to wean. Where your baby sleeps. Swaddle or not. The list goes on.

One thing that recently that caught my attention was the real negative associations with the phrase “sleep training”; some parents being extremely against it. Personally I think the phrase itself is a bit naff. Babies seem to sleep a lot without being “trained”.

I jest.

To be honest I wasn’t exactly sure what the phrase “sleep training” meant so had a look online. It appears there are a few methods: crying it out, which is as it sounds, the no tears approach where I believe you let your baby grizzle but provide comfort and never let them cry when trying to sleep. The other is the fading out approach which involves you sitting with your child as they fall asleep, gradually moving further away each night.

Ultimately the goal is for your children to feel safe and secure enough to fall asleep alone without tears or upset. If they wake in the night, they should be able to self settle with perhaps a little comfort from you.

I really can’t see what is wrong with that. Can you? The concept of carefully helping your little ones fall asleep alone or with a little comfort from you seems fine? Or does it?

I will put it out there. I’m not fond of the crying it out method. I tried it with both the girls for daytime cot naps and both of them were extremely upset so it didn’t last long. I can see why this gets negative press.

Perhaps the phrase itself is wrong. Sleep training does produce images of a drill sergeant blowing his whistle and demanding 20 press ups, not a comforting plan for your little ones to softly fall into the land of nod.

I think a “sleep routine” sounds better and to me this is the crux for children, and ok, yes, I’m spouting my methods now.

Years before I became a parent my Mum banged on about kids and routine. I was like blah, blah, but I tell you what? She was and IS right. Some may disagree with this but my girls thrive on routine. They know what to expect. They know when to expect it. They know what’s happening and I believe this helps them to feel safe and secure enough to fall asleep, with minimal trauma! I won’t bullshit. The gremlin likes her Daddy with her at bedtime often now but as a baby she self settled with no problems. Kids change!

We used the no tears approach. Both girls are bathed, read to and as babies were breastfed in my room. Little Piglet now can be moved to her cot when done, asleep or dozy and will stay asleep. If she wakes in the night for milk, afterwards, quite frequently she goes back to her room awake and will nod off alone. I guess I “trained” them to sleep initially by letting them shout out at bedtime. If they became upset, I would of course pick them up and cuddle, maybe feed again and repeat the cycle. The gremlin could fall asleep alone after 10 days. Piglet took a little longer, partly as I didn’t care and wanted evening snuggles with her!!

I struggle to get my head around the negativity in this concept. The babies are not left crying. They are simply being gently taught that they have a solid routine, they are safe and it is okay to fall asleep without being rocked, fed or any other method, that, let’s face it, takes up a lot of time.

I get some parents want to snuggle their kids, breathe them in and enjoy as much of them as possible BUT ultimately we are human. By 7pm on an evening we are tired and we have had enough of parenting (I know I have). I don’t want to to spend hours on end trying to get my girls to sleep. The routine can be a pain, as we have to stick at it everyday and breaking it causes some fun and games! However, on a day to day basis it works.

Because technically I have “sleep trained” my girls, most bedtimes go without a hitch. There wasn’t screaming and distress and hysteria on either side initially. If there was, I wouldn’t have gone down the same route.

Perhaps the phrasing is wrong. Perhaps sleep training encompasses a lot of different methods which really need to be classified differently. The cry it out method is very far away from what we did. If my girls wake crying in the night, we comfort them.

However, ultimately to some degree, I think helping or even “training” our little ones to fall asleep alone, safe in a routine where they know we will always come to them when distressed, is fine.

One lovely blogger Sophie from Mama Mei has some opinions on a recent Book Trust and Jo Frost campaign which endorsed sleep training. Have a listen here for a view:

Would love to know what you think too?

My Petit Canard