Sleep training is a hotly debated subject among parents nowadays. For some, the “cry-it-out” method is cruel to their kids and can result in long-term issues. Meanwhile, sleep training advocates, such as Little Z’s Sleep, argue that it is not harmful and is actually great for children and their families. Sadly, much of the debate is influenced by misinformation.
So, what does science say? Here, let us separate the facts from myths to help wary parents understand the impacts of sleep training on their children.
Myth #1: The “Cry-It-Out” Technique is Cruel, Leading to Long-term Problems
Fact: Allowing a baby to cry to sleep was seen by some parents as unkind or harmful due to fears it may increase the baby’s stress levels or provoke a behavioral problem in the future.
The researchers observed 43 babies between the ages of six to 16 months. They divided the team into three, based on the three sleep training approaches: fading or camping out, gradual extinctions or crying with checks, and a control group (whose caretakers kept doing their usual bedtime routine). They determined that the first two groups (fading and crying with checks) were effective and did not show signs of emotional problems one year after the survey.
Furthermore, their stress hormone levels were lower than measurements taken in babies in the study’s control group.
On top of these, the infants who were left crying to sleep fell asleep 15 minutes faster. This result showed three months into the study, but better sleep happened within the first week.
Myth #2: Sleep Training is for the Benefit of the Parents, Not the Child
Fact: Though parents tend to sleep longer and better when their kids are sleep trained, it is for their child’s sake, not the parents’. It must be frustrating for your child to wake up several times every night and cry to get back to sleep. Furthermore, they will always need your intervention to go back to sleep if they’re not sleep trained. This is not easy on the child. That’s why learning how to self-soothe is an essential skill for babies to avoid crying nightly.
What professional sleep coaches do is help you during these frustrating periods. You may want to check out gifts available at Little Z’s Sleep for your friends, family, or colleagues who just became parents or are going to become parents. They also have newborn sleep course options.
Myth #3: Once My baby is Sleep Trained, I Can Expect Her to Sleep Through the Night, Everynight
Fact: Sleep training isn’t a miracle!
Even if one strategy worked for one child, the effect could wear off after some time, and you need to go back to square one, redoing the training. In a recent study, experts found out that two sleep training methods helped infants sleep only for a few months. The data suggested that these techniques lessened the time it takes for a baby to sleep and the number of times they wake up at night. However, the data also showed that the babies were still waking, usually one to two times each night, after three months.
So the bottom line is, it’s hard to say how much improvement is expected.
Myth #4: Sleep Training Means I can not Share a Room With My Child and Do Things with Her
Fact: Sleep training does not necessarily mean giving up the activities you love to do with your baby. You can still hold and sing to them as a part of your nighttime routine. Sleep training only prevents you from doing these activities during the period of transition from wake to sleep.
Also, it’s totally fine to sleep with your baby in the same room during sleep training. As a matter of fact, this is more convenient for breastfeeding while reassuring you that your child is well. If you want to keep them in the same room as you, you can provide a separate sleep place like a bassinet or crib.
Ensuring Successful Sleep
Regardless of what strategy you use to sleep train your child, it’s always best to consult your pediatrician about good sleep habits. Certified sleep coaches can also help you when it comes to sleep issues. They are knowledgeable about baby, newborn & toddler sleep training.
For starters, don’t let your babies fall asleep while feeding, whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding or when being held. They should be put down while they’re “drowsy” but awake to encourage independent rest. But you can sing or stroke their head to calm them.
Essentially, consistency is the key.