I’m always one to join in the fun on the internet, and since I’ve been seeing myth-busting being a trend lately, I thought I’d jump on this bandwagon for this blog post. These myths are common-held beliefs by many new(er) parents, simply because there’s a lot of misinformation out there that isn’t supported by evidence-based research or backed by science. To add to that, many of the people who share this misinformation also do it in a way that makes parents feel guilty, selfish, or shameful – not cool! How about instead of telling a new(er) mom she’s doing it all wrong, we instead SUPPORT her, equip her with evidence-based research, and allow her to make the best decision for HER BABY.
All right, rant over.
Let’s get into these 3 big myths.
1. Sleep training is leaving your baby to cry-it-out.
No. No, no. NO, NO, NO! Just…NO!
Cry-it-out is ONE method of sleep training. There are a bunch of options you can choose from. And not only does the method matter when sleep training, but in order to be successful, you must couple the method with an appropriate schedule and routines along with the right environment.
There are also other nuances to consider as you’re going through the process of sleep training…this is why it’s important to do your research, pick a method you can be comfortable and consistent with, and set your child up for success with the proper schedule, routines, and environment. There’s a lot that goes into it. And, don’t hesitate to reach out for support from an expert if you need it or know you will need or want it! There’s no shame in asking for help; parenting is hard. It takes a village, right?
A quick rundown of the most popular methods for you:
- Extinction/Cry-it-Out/CIO – parents complete the bedtime routine, lay their baby down in the crib awake, and leave the room, giving the baby the time and space to put themselves to sleep on their own. It’s not for everyone, but it works. It’s also the most researched method of sleep training, and research shows that it does improve a child’s sleep with no long-term effects.
- Timed Intervals/Leave & Check/Ferber – parents complete the bedtime routine, lay their baby down in the crib awake, and leave the room for a set amount of time. After the time is up, parents return and offer some quick comfort and support while leaving the baby in the crib. They repeat check-ins at the predetermined interval until the baby falls asleep. Intervals can vary based on the child’s age, what the parents are comfortable with, and can increase over time. This is one of the moderate methods I utilize with my clients.
- Pick-Up-Put-Down – Parents complete the bedtime routine, lay their baby down in the crib awake. When the baby cries and needs to be soothed, the parents pick them up, calm them, and lay them back down awake. This can also be used with timed intervals. This is another moderate method I utilize with my clients, often dependent on the baby’s age. Be leary of using this method with older babies, as it will likely make them more upset!
- Chair Method/Stay-in-the-Room/Sleep Lady Shuffle – Parents complete the bedtime routine, and lay their baby down in the crib awake. They sit in a chair in the room, and gradually move closer to and out the door over the course of a few weeks, gradually releasing the responsibility of sleep to the child. This is another moderate method I utilize with my clients.
- Soothing Ladder – This is a method you can use from day one with your newborn. Basically, it’s giving your baby more than one way to fall asleep, so they don’t become dependent on only one way. There are steps that you start with that are less involved and gradually include more parental involvement as it’s needed.
- No-Cry/Gentle – Solutions that present themselves as “no cry” or “gentle” can be misleading and do involve some crying because that’s the only way babies can express their discomfort of learning a new skill. Your baby is unlikely to change their habits without a little bit of protest. It all just varies in the level of comfort or soothing that we’re able to provide them with, and I always advocate for the method that is most gentle and allows the parent to be present.
Using sleep training to help your child learn the skill of healthy sleep will only help them (and you) in both the short- and long-term, as demonstrated by Price et al. (2012) in their randomized trial of a five-year follow-up of the harms and benefits of behavioral infant sleep intervention. They conclude that, “Behavioral sleep techniques did not cause long-lasting harms or benefits to child, child-parent, or maternal outcomes. Parents and health professionals can feel comfortable about using these techniques to reduce the population burden of infant sleep problems and maternal depression.”
To me, it’s a no brainer.
2. Sleep training is going to ruin my child’s attachment to me.
PLEASE refer to another blog post of mine, Attachment Parenting and Sleep Training, that outlines where this notion came from.
There are four currently identified types of attachment: secure, insecure-avoidant, insecure-resistant, and insecure-disorganized. You should attempt to build a securely attached relationship with your child. Children with a secure attachment to their primary caregiver feel safe expressing distress or discomfort, and will explore unfamiliar areas around them confidently so long as the caregiver is nearby. They tend to become distressed when the caregiver leaves the vicinity, but responds positively when they return.
Allan Schore, a developmental neuroscientist in the Department of Psychiatry at UCLA states that “Insecure attachments aren’t just created by a caregiver’s inattention or missteps. They also come from a failure to repair ruptures. Maybe the caregiver is coming in too fast and needs to back off, or maybe the caregiver hasn’t responded and needs to show the baby that she’s there. Either way, repair is possible, and it works. Stress is a part of life, and what we’re trying to do here is to set up a system by which the baby can learn to cope with stress.”
So in that sense, I truly believe the moderate methods of sleep training that I utilize with my clients (as noted above), actually promote the building or strengthening of a secure attachment. This isn’t something we are leaving your child to figure out on their own, nor are we going to do it for them anymore. We are going to support them along the way, encouraging them as they learn this new skill.
That brings us to our final myth…
3. All crying is bad and should be fixed.
CRYING IS HOW YOUR BABY COMMUNICATES WITH YOU!!!
Why on earth would you want to suppress their communication?
Let’s say your child is no longer a baby. Let’s say they’re 3.5-years-old, and tell you, “Mommy, I don’t like my carseat.” You wouldn’t immediately shush them for communicating that to you, right? Instead, you would validate their feelings about their carseat, and communicate back to them why they need to be in their carseat.
It’s the same way with a baby who is crying. Crying can mean so many different things: “I’m hungry.” “I’m wet.” “I’m bored.” “I miss you.” The key is tuning into your baby’s cries and learning to respond in an appropriate way. For example, if you know it’s the hunger cry, you would offer a feeding. If it wasn’t a hunger cry, you wouldn’t offer a feeding.
In regards to crying during sleep training, we make sure your baby is healthy and has a full tummy before laying them down in their crib. Because you know they aren’t ill and aren’t hungry, you can likely rule these reasons out (at least at bedtime), and that they’re crying because this is new for them. It’s something they’ve never done before. Change is hard! Heck, even I protest change! You can be sure that they are crying because they don’t know what to do about this new opportunity you’re presenting them with – and that’s okay. You are there to guide and support them through it as they learn the skill of independent sleep!
There you have it. 3 BIG myths, BUSTED! Share this post with a friend who might need some encouragement when it comes to parenting and sleep.
And, if your child’s sleep is something you want help navigating, because, well, parenting is hard, sleep can be hard, and you don’t have to do it alone. Check out what I’ve got to offer you here. Sleep is coming!