By Phillippa Wallis, Certified Child Sleep Consultant
There is a lot of information out there about sleep training and everyone seems to have an opinion about it (What age is best to start? Is it safe? Will my child cry – is that ok? Will it work?) but that becomes a little bit harder when you and your partner can’t quite agree on whether it’s the right thing for you and your family.
So, let’s discuss some of those reasons one of you might not feel it’s right:
What age is best to start?
You can start sleep training at any age. I have a Newborn plan with gentle steps to help your child to fall asleep peacefully, responding to their need for sleep, from 0-3 months.
Lots of research documents sleep training from 6 months of age. This is a common age as it is when most children start weaning onto solid foods (many parents believe their sleeping will improve then). It’s also a common age where sleep struggles rear their ugly heads – perhaps parents have coped OK with the lack of sleep until now or, as most babies go through a nap transition at this age, their sleep can get much worse because their sleep distribution and sleep needs are out of kilter.
Whatever their age, I would say that the best time to sleep train is when it feels right to you – that’s always my best advice for this question. When you feel ready for the transformation and for your baby to sleep better and get the health benefits from sleep. The results then tend to be much quicker too!
Is sleep training safe?
This is probably the main reason that couples may not be in agreement about sleep training. Especially as now there are lots of people online who are vocally against sleep training. What I would say is that babies who sleep well are happier, healthier and tend to eat better than babies who don’t sleep well.
In addition, babies and children need sleep – it’s a fundamental need which is important for their growth, digestive system, immune response, memory formation and social regulation (amongst other things). Read more about the safety of child sleep training here: Is Sleep Training Safe For My Baby? | Baby Sleep the Night™
It is also important to discuss with a sleep consultant the methods that they endorse. I would never use a cry-it-out, leave the room method because it’s too hard on everyone involved. A good sleep consultant will be able to discuss their methods and philosophies around crying with you before you commit to anything. (It is always your choice, but it’s always best to have an informed choice).
Will my child cry?
We are all protective about our sleep environment and we don’t like there to be any changes. Changes are often met with protests – usually in the form of crying. The same can be said for your baby and, with most methods, there is usually at least some crying. This is also because your child has convinced their subconscious that they need a feed/dummy/cuddle etc to fall asleep.
Children and babies do cry – it is how they communicate their needs and frustrations to us. By teaching your child to sleep, you are actually responding to their need – their need to sleep!
In fact, most of the families are work with already have children crying throughout the day and night – because they can’t get to sleep, or stay asleep (you know that feeling when everything is a bit more frustrating and harder work when you’re overtired? It’s exactly the same for babies!) Most families that I work with, report much less crying in the days, months and years after sleep training as they don’t constantly feel over-tired, impatient and frustrated!
Will it work?
When working with children and animals, there are never any guarantees as they aren’t robots and unfortunately we can’t programme them in to sleep 7pm-7am (I’d be a millionaire if I could!). But, my tried and tested methods do work and actually, with every family that has followed my plans and advice, their little one has had hugely improved sleep.
It’s not just the method of falling to sleep – it’s the intricate links of a chain that make up sleep and how they all affect each other and lead to your child sleeping well and taking good naps. And a good sleep consultant isn’t just working on the journey to sleep, but all of the other factors affecting this, and they will provide follow up support and tweaks based on your child.
So, what next? How can we agree?
If you and your partner still can’t agree whether it is right for you to use some sleep training methods with your child, I’d recommend speaking to a certified child sleep consultant.
I remember this well with my eldest and, funnily enough, it was me that wasn’t sure! An expert sleep consultant will give you information to help you decide whether it is right and discuss your concerns and parenting style. Most consultants offer these for free and with no obligation.
Remember that child sleep consultants are experts – and they are usually kind, caring, empathetic parents who have experience of using their tried and tested methods.
It is always your choice.
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